Resources | Include.org

How has life changed for people with learning disabilities?

This month, between the Platinum Jubilee and Learning Disability Week 2022, our Champions Group has been reflecting on how life has changed for people with learning disabilities during the Queen’s reign.

We also talked about what was going on for the royal family in each decade, memorable moments like when people walked on the moon – and chose a favourite song from each decade (like Don’t Stop Me Now from the 1970s). So, we hope this Easy Read will inspire you in many ways.

Here is the link to our audio version https://soundcloud.com/user-683393051-385203358/platinum-jubilee-special?utm_source=clipboard&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=social_sharing

But it might shock you too.

It’s hard to believe that in the 1950s, when Queen Elizabeth II first came to the throne it was common for children with learning disabilities to leave their families to live in ‘long-stay hospitals’ and attending school was not an option.

The Include Champions believe that access to education for all is important. Philip said that it was down to going to school that he has been able to get a job. David said he learned to speak French at college and Hannah cooks her own meals having learned in education. Three great examples.

People Making Change Happen

We celebrated some of the people who really helped to turn the tide and change the way society looks at disability.

Some of the first research into what is actually best for children with Learning Disabilities didn’t happen until 1950s! Joss rightly found this surprising “Are you joking?! That was the first piece of research ever to have been done?!”

In 1958 Professor Jack Tizard published his findings – the headline – children with Learning Disabilities should not be taken away from their families and would live better lives in the community.  

Then in 1964, the Jean Vanier invited two men with learning disabilities to live in his home rather than in a hospital – the first L’Arche Community home was set up in France. This paved the way for many more people with learning disabilities to return to the heart of their communities. Of Jean Vanier, Joss said “What a great bloke!”

Everyone Can Make A Change

We also talked about how in day-to-day life it’s sadly not just the people who do good things that we remember – we also often remember bad things that people say to us. The Champions Group started talking about how important it is to try to use words that are kind and respectful when talking about people, especially in the context of disability.

All that matters is that we are here and we are thinking about each other and we care.

Hannah summed the conversation up so well… “All people have different abilities anyway. We are all different. It doesn’t matter what we are, it doesn’t have to be perfect or anything, all that matters is that we are here and we are thinking about each other and we care and, plus we need to think about this really carefully.”

And that my friends, is inspiration for a future Easy Read about why words matter.

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Inclusive Communications Manager

Bumper Easter Easy Read

Our Include Champions were so inspired by spring and Easter, that the group’s ideas and have resulted in a whole pack of Free Easy Read resources, including a quiz!

Download the Easy Reads below and find the audio versions too. If you want to really test yourself look at the quiz first and the other things after!

Click to listen to the Quiz Questions and Answers

Click to listen to the Easter Story

Click to listen to the Fun Facts

From hot cross buns and the clocks changing, to Jesus’ disciples and daffodils…Ellie, Simon, Philip and Josh cover lots of themes that are relevant at this time of year!

Plus, our first ever Easy Read resource, which launched our free series last year, is all about Ramadan – so also very relevant this month.

Our Champions have plans to share these resources with their own networks, from support staff and friends, to arts and social groups.

Who could you share these Free Easy Read resources with?

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Inclusive Communications Manager

Internet Safety

While being online can be a great source of connection and fun – especially during Covid19 – it’s more complicated than just being able to access things online.

Once you’re online, how do you stay safe and protect your rights, especially if it is hard to understand the risks?

The organisers of Safer Internet Day have some resources for young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) https://saferinternet.org.uk/safer-internet-day/safer-internet-day-2022/send .

FREE Easy Read

Here at Include, our Include Champions group shared their own experiences and top tips to create a FREE Easy Read about Internet Safety for anyone of any age.

Our Internet Safety information is also available in audio format on soundcloud

Quiz

Of all the social media channels our Include members tend to use Facebook the most at the moment. Some of our members have experienced problems online. “I have been hacked on Facebook, scams and things asking me to do stuff,” said Sarah. And she is not the only one. So, the Champion’s Easy Read includes a quiz about how to stay safe when using Facebook.

Song

Of course, when we feel passionate about something, The Include Choir usually writes a song about it! You can watch us signing and Makaton signing about staying safe on the Internet on YouTube.

The main message from the Include Champions is stop and think before you do anything online.

Anti-bullying

Hannah, one of our Champions, filmed some helpful guidance for the Anti-Bullying Alliance. In this short interview, Hannah answers questions like “What do you use social media sites to do” and “Do you have and advice for young people when using social media?”

We have included some of Hannah’s wise words in our Easy Read about Internet Safety.

We Recommend

We would like to recommend some other great online resources too (correct at the time of publication):

How to Stay Safe Online – Guidance for Adults and Young People with Learning Disabilities – Digital Safeguarding – Ann Craft Trust

Keeping-Safe-Online-Easy-Read-Guide-Small-File-Size.pdf (changepeople.org)

SafeSurfing Project – What We Do | Mencap

MORE: SAFETY CARDS – Our Safety Centre

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Inclusive Communications Manager

Mindfulness

January can feel like a long month for many reasons.

January 2021 was a lockdown month, and so for some people, it felt even longer. When we were in lockdown, Include produced extra newsletters and ran more Zoom sessions. We tried to make the content helpful – things to help keep people included and happy – one of those things was mindfulness. Protecting our mental wellbeing is still very important.

This January, in our first Champions session of 2022, we talked about mindfulness again.

Our Champions sessions are where Include members get together on Zoom to discuss and share ideas about important topics like The Mental Capacity Act, or in this case Mindfulness.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is about taking the time to notice how you are. To connect your body, mind and senses. Sarah sums it up well;

“It’s ideas about how to help your moods. What to do if you feel low, stressed, or if you have anxiety or depression”.

Sarah also pointed out that the information that she has found about mindfulness is not always very easy to read. So that made it clear that a FREE Easy Read about Mindfulness is a good idea.

Do I need to try mindfulness?

We talked about how to tell if you might be stressed and need to take a bit of time to practice some mindfulness. When we are busy with life, we might not notice that we have become tense. The Champions came up with a list of indicators that may mean you need to slow down:

  • Muscles tight
  • Headache
  • Feeling anxious
  • Tummy ache
  • Panic attack
  • Shoulders up by your ears

Hannah said;

“Take time and listen to your body. You can do mindfulness every day, wherever you are. And it can help you to get a good night’s sleep.”

Ways to be mindful

In our session the Champions tried out a few mindfulness techniques such as taking a big yawn and stretch. And we were all silent of 30 seconds and took care to notice any sounds around us.

Philip and Simon noticed the sound of a plane flying nearby and their washing machine going. Josh noticed a train going past and Ellie heard her tap.

But practicing mindfulness doesn’t mean you have to be still and quiet – doing things like colouring, sewing, blowing bubbles or Lego are also good ways to be calm and focussed.

Listening to music can be good too – you might like to see our B is for bubbles song on YouTube combining music and bubbles!?

Our Champions have some brilliant suggestion for apps that can also help with mindfulness – Headspace was recommended by Sarah, and Happy Colours by Philip. There is more information inside the FREE Easy Read resource.

FREE Audio version

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Inclusive Communications Manager

Feeling Thankful

To help express our gratitude for the Big Give Christmas Challenge 2021 donations to include.org we’ve dedicated our next Free Easy Read resource to the theme of festive thankfulness.

A Big, Big Give Thank you

We’re celebrating the fantastic response to our Big Give Christmas Challenge fundraiser! We managed to raise over £20,000! What an incredible act of collective kindness this is, despite the ongoing challenges of Covid, and other pressures at this time of year.

SO much kindness. We’re blown away! This funding will enable Include to do so much more. Wishes can come true!

Free Easy Read

To help express our gratitude we’ve dedicated our next Free Easy Read resource to the theme of thankfulness.

An audio / sensory version will be shared here too very soon (sorry for the slight delay)

The download includes interesting facts, ideas and templates to create a thankfulness themed Christmas tree (or decorated plant!).

Did you know that research says that people who show gratitude are often healthier – both physically and mentally? And they even sleep better!

Things we’re thankful for

We asked some of our Include members, staff and volunteers what they are thankful for. Here is a taster of what we found…

Simon said he is thankful for his new baby nephew, friends and family. He and Philip also shared something they are both thankful for – the enjoyment of singing and dance. You can see them perform together here: https://youtu.be/hnv6rFGLsDw

Philip said that being thankful makes you feel happy; “it feels good in your mind”. Philip also said “I am grateful for my best friends and Include – the whole group – it means a lot to me and Simon”…”and I am also thankful for the birth of Jesus”.

Ellie said that she is thankful for her nephew, her family and another of her groups – Bloomin’ Arts https://bloominarts.org.uk/ where she performs in various shows.

She is grateful for her Complete Shakespeare book. Ellie also loves birthdays and her advent calendar!

The whole group had a shared thankfulness for good food. Penny is happy she has found some really good gluten-free mince pies.

Simon loves a roast. Ellie is looking forward to treating herself to some nice foods on her birthday.

Alix said that she is thankful for friends – old and new, as well as enjoying books and seeing festive lights.

Alix and Penny agreed they are both very thankful to all the wonderful volunteers who help Include all year round.

Jen said that she is grateful for friends, Include Choir, her parents and her plants. She has even decorated some of her plants!

We were all thankful for our Christmas decorations too. Josh did a great paper tree…

We talked about the fact that not everyone finds it easy to feel positive at Christmas time. Some people might miss loved ones or may not have a home. We are grateful if we can see loved ones and have a place to call home.

No matter who we are, or how we communicate we are often grateful for similar things.

Once again, from all of us here at Include, we want to say a great BIG thank you to everyone who supports us. The Big Give Christmas Challenge success in particular, will help us continue to build a more inclusive community in 2022.

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Inclusive Communications Manager

Welcome to our World

For World Kindness Day 2021 (13th November) we’re doing 5 things!

1)   Thanking our amazingly kind volunteers and supporters.

2)  Giving away a FREE Easy Read resource that explains how to be a Kind (Inclusive) Communicator:

3)   Showcasing The Include Choir’s special song In My World, and telling the touching story behind it (below).

4)   Streaming songs with messages about Kind Communication at #KindFest2021 – the world’s largest online festival of kindness.

5)   Sharing the first of Include’s organisational values – decided through coproduction workshops earlier this year… Can you guess what it is?!

In My World…

From the depths of lockdown came a beautifully unifying and uplifting song. It will be showcased at KindFest2021 on World Kindness Day.

We spoke to the three main creators…

“I actually love the song. It makes me feel good and calm. I like singing it and it’s good when the choir sing it,” says Louise.

“My Mum taught me how to play piano and at college I had singing and piano lessons. I have done (Makaton) signing all my lifetime since nursery and school – it helped me lots with learning and communication”.

All of these skills come together when Louise helps The Include Choir.

The inspiration for her song started when the Makaton sign of the week word was Colours. At this time, Include was delivering many services online (not just singing) and offering self-care tips to help people feel okay during lockdown. Louise shared her top tip, which was that coloring helps her to calm. And she has a special book called Keep Calm and Color Unicorns!

But Louise’s all-time favorite phenomenon is the rainbow.

And this is at the heart of the song. She says; “I love colours – they make me feel good – all except black and grey – even though I’m wearing a black T-shirt today! Ha!”

Sue, Include’s resident accompanist (and Louise’s Mum) helped write the song and compose the music.

Sue says; “I asked Louise to think of beautiful things to do with colour. Her input is there throughout; sunsets over a calming sea and the hazy blue of the sky.”

Sue credits her then fiancé, (now husband) Paul, with one of the lyrics “the blushing pink of the roses” because he bought and named a rose for her “The blushing pink”. But says Sue; “Without Louise, there would probably be no song – she is the true inspiration.”

Sue is keen to point out that the song can still feel relevant to people with visual impairments “that’s what colour mean to me” can refer to how people imagine colour.

A stunning animated video featuring The Include Choir and many members of the community singing and signing the song was created by fabulous volunteer Xinning.

“I was living with my boyfriend in a flat in Manchester when I joined this project. Because of the lockdown, we spent all day in the living room working together. But I didn’t meet anyone or make any friends during the lockdown.

I sense the message from the song is that no matter how many difficulties we are facing, always remember to find the existence of beautiful things in our world. I really enjoy the song because gives me the power to get over a hard time and find people who are caring for each other.

I use the simplest way of making animation, which is to draw frame by frame on a computer I believe this is the strongest way to express emotion. I choose to use simple shapes to animate. It is concise and lets people easily understand the meaning which the song wants to convey.

Louise suggested a great idea which was to add butterflies in the animation. She also provided illustrations of butterflies from members of the choir.

I animated it in a rigging animation software.

It makes the video lively.

It feels great to hear people’s feedback on my animation. Sometimes I feel doubtful of my animation but once people told me that my animation is good, I feel everything is worth doing.”

In My World highlights the benefits of being willing to join other people “in their world”. That’s what we mean by Inclusive or Kind Communication. Being willing to adjust ourselves in order to properly connect with someone else.

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Inclusive Communications Manager

What is Racism?

Our volunteers Hannah (below) and Sofia worked together to create an Easy Read resource about racism.

Earlier this month we were able to share this Easy Read resource about racism with John Barnes! “Wow!” says Hannah, “Who knew at the beginning of making this resource that John Barnes would be holding it?”

John Barnes is also keen to ensure that this important topic is made accessible to all. His new book The Uncomfortable Truth about Racism is available as an audio book here: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/The-Uncomfortable-Truth-About-Racism-Audiobook/1472290410

Our own FREE resource about racism is also available here in audio format via the include.org soundcloud

We asked Hannah to share some more of her thoughts:

Why did you decide to create the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Easy Read Resource?

“George Floyd’s brutal murder last year led to this huge international conversation being had about race relations. As a result, lots of information and resources were shared in the mainstream media and online about the variety of ways people can get involved and engaged with the movement for racial equality. However…

…I had noticed this information was not being conveyed in an accessible format and with the assumption that everyone has pre-existing knowledge on the origins of the BLM movement.

Therefore, in line with our principles as inclusive communicators, we wanted to create a resource breaking down key concepts related to the BLM movement which everybody could understand.”

Why should people with communication needs have access to information about the Black Lives Matter movement and Black history in general?

“There are many parallels in the daily experiences of the Black community and people with communication disabilities.

These two groups face significant prejudice in today’s society, which has led to both groups facing similar educational, employment and mental health outcomes. We also know that a significant number of people are disabled and from the Black community.

For example, “In the year to March 2020, almost 4,200 people per 100,000 in the population of England used secondary mental health, learning disabilities and autism services and out of all 16 ethnic groups (excluding groups labelled ‘Other’), Black Caribbean people were most likely to use the services”.

(source: https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/health/mental-health/adults-using-nhs-funded-mental-health-and-learning-disability-services/latest)

It is important that people with communication needs can become more informed about their rights and the rights of others, and share their own experiences and insights.

They are part of the community and part of belonging is having ways to unite and engage with topics like Black Lives Matter.  

By providing access to alternative formats like easy read and audio information, we can empower people to be part of the BLM movement and work towards reversing these current outcomes.”

How we can improve and promote Diversity and Inclusion at Include.org?

“It is important that we listen to existing BAME members and give them the space and time to talk about their experiences of existing within the intersection of being a person of colour with a communication disability.

In addition, I think that it is important that when it comes to engaging in conversation with people of colour, Include.org does not assume that everybody shares a similar experience.

Listening to individual experiences is key. This is the same standard that is applied in terms of people with communication needs – don’t assume someone’s abilities – take the time to get to know them.

Overall, all Include.org members regardless of race and disability should be encouraged to be aware of the Equality Act 2010 which protects everyone and was designed to empower those most vulnerable and marginalised in society.”

Helpful Resources

Easy Read Equality Act: https://www.mencap.org.uk/sites/default/files/2018-02/Equality%20Act%20-%20Easy%20Read.pdf

Black Lives Matter resources, including activists telling their stories: https://blacklivesmatter.com/resources/

An article on the experience of being black and having a learning disability: https://www.mencap.org.uk/blog/black-history-month-chriss-story

John Barnes’ book The Uncomfortable Truth about Racism is also available as an audio book here: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/The-Uncomfortable-Truth-About-Racism-Audiobook/1472290410

And of course Hannah and Sofia’s Include Easy Read about Racism: https://include.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/What-is-Racism-Include.org-Easy-Read.pdf also available as audio here: on the include.org soundcloud

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Inclusive Communications Manager

Award-winning volunteer – Sofia

What does it take to be recognised as The Mayor’s Young Volunteer of the year?

Please meet one of our most generous, energetic and versatile volunteers…

Sofia first got in touch with Include aged 13, to ask if she could do her Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Award volunteering section with the charity.

For some young people, volunteering as part of DofE may a bit of a “tick the box” exercise to get the award. But not for Sofia.

She says, “I wanted to work with people. All my friends were going, ‘I just want to get this bit over with so I’ll just go to the public library for a few weeks and quietly help out there.’  But I didn’t want to go to the library! (I thought) ‘I don’t think I can cope with that! So, I’ll find something else that will be more fun’.”

What she didn’t have in experience she made up for in enthusiasm, empathy, humour and versatility. Include’s volunteering experience is a great fit for Sofia.

“Include is for everyone that wants to learn and wants to have fun and meet new people that they wouldn’t necessarily meet.”

Sofia’s talents and willingness to learn new things – mean she has helped Include in a wide variety of ways. She famously understates her contribution as “I just do a little bit of everything!” But really, she is an essential part of the charity – keeping important things like AV technology running smoothly during rehearsals, helping people to feel welcome and calm, and creating accessible Easy Read resources.

This last year has uncovered even more of what Sofia has to offer. She helps Include to rise to the challenges of Covid19 – adapting to new platforms like Zoom, piloting a covid-safe roadshow and doing more than ever on our social media channels to help raise awareness of what we do to break down barriers for people with communication needs.

Follow the Include Instagram account that Sofia manages here

When asked how volunteering for Include has benefitted her, she says, “I got to do so many things that I wouldn’t have. I’ve been responsible for things and I’ve learnt how to be responsible for other people and, you know, build trust with others. Obviously being the youngest, you don’t know if people are going to trust you that much. But I’ve been trusted with big things. And taken them forward and have kind of shown that I can do it.

“So yeah, it’s fantastic to have a charity that have just gone, ‘Yep, Sofia can do this. She’s our girl.'”

A few years down the line, working with people with additional needs is something Sofia is embracing in her working life too. She landed a teaching assistant role in a local school, working with a young boy who has autism.  Being able to help calm and distract him are skills she has used in choir rehearsals. She remembers one rehearsal: “A member of The Include Choir was having a hard time because there were lots of upcoming event date announcements and then it was break time, when people go to get a cup of tea and chat. I noticed that he got a bit stressed. I took him to the side and was like, ‘Do you want me to get you your biscuit and a drink?’ And I told him, ‘I’ll get the dates printed out for you.’”

Sofia also works behind the counter in Boots and her Include experience has been helpful there too.  As an Include volunteer she has learnt Makaton signing to support people with a range of communication needs, and this has given her the confidence to also learn some British Sign Language.

“I see a lot of deaf customers in Boots. My colleague was struggling to help a deaf couple once, and was just shouting. So, I went over and I signed, “Do you want to buy with cash or card?” and ”Can I take my mask down so you can lip read?” Now if deaf people come to Boots, they seem to navigate in my direction!”

“I try to do my bit in the community to make everyone feel included and I just love seeing people who join Include connect. It’s like a big family. Seeing the support workers get involved as well as the members, when everyone is joining in, is fantastic!”

“I remember watching two Include Choir members with different levels of communication adapting to each other. He was signing to her using Makaton signs that he just learned from a song – really trying hard to sign and talk to her. She is limited verbally and does use a lot of Makaton.  He had an idea – and went to get an iPad with a supported communication app on it – and then those two were having like a conversation on the iPad and it was so sweet. And it’s in moments like those that all our team’s hard work is so very worth it.”

Everyone at Include is proud of our girl Sofia for the wonderful achievement of receiving this award and for all the creativity, energy and warmth she brings to everything she does.

See Sofia and find out more about volunteering with Include here

https://youtu.be/HEjBa1A6i0A
Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Inclusive Communications Manager

Improve your listening skills…

Include is well know for Makaton signing and singing – another important skill that we try to teach and enhance is listening.

Our FREE Easy Read resource this month is about how to be a good listener. You can download it here:

It is so important to make sure people feel listened to and understood, especially if communication is not easy for that person.

Really listening to someone can make them feel good. It can really turn someone’s day around.

We spoke to one of our members Josh about why listening skills are so important.

We asked Josh because we have seen what a careful and patient listener he is in person and via Zoom, one to one, in a big group and as an interviewer. Josh’s top tip is:

“Don’t interrupt – it’s annoying – just listen.” He says “If you are in a big group wait your turn to speak, if you are on Zoom you can go on mute. When they have finished speaking you can reply.”

Josh thinks it is a good idea to make sure you have understood correctly – either by asking someone to repeat what they said, asking questions or saying back what you’ve heard.

We talked about how important it is to pay attention to non-verbal communication. And if you are talking to someone who is blind you need to remember that your own body language, smile, nod or Makaton won’t easily let them know that you are listening – you need to say something.

As well as listening to people speak, Josh loves listening to people singing in choirs – which is one reason he is a member of The Include Choir. One of the commitments all our choir members make is to “be good at listening” – these are lyrics in our Include Choir Agreement song, which is a code of conduct written by members.

Please let us know what you think of our resource – we’re ready to listen to your feedback.

Our guide is based partly on Samaritans’ SHUSH listening tips. You can learn more on their website at samaritans.org/shush

Our thanks also to www.changepeople.org for their Easy Read guide called What is Safeguarding.

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Inclusive Communications Manager

Sometimes we have cake…but we try to be healthy

When The Include Choir meets virtually or in person we often talk about food!

Last week we voted on whether we thought it was good to have pineapple on pizza – or not.

Quite a controversial topic!

Good nutrition matters

When we can meet up in-person we have snacks available, ranging from the very healthy like carrots and seaweed to treats like biscuits, and we’ll admit it…sometimes we have cake!

We take care to offer a range of food options. While food can be fun, we know that being healthy can be a challenge for people. We also know that sometimes it can become a serious issue for people with learning disabilities or autism.

“Good nutrition is vital to the health and wellbeing of people with learning disabilities, but they are more likely than the general population to be underweight or overweight/obese, in most cases due to lifestyle factors and not to causes inherent to their learning disabilities.”

LeDeR Programme Fact Sheet 28, 2019

Free Resource about being Healthy

During Healthy Eating Week this June we know quite a few of our members have been paying special attention to what they eat. Well done everyone.

Our Choir Rep Hannah has worked alongside our volunteer Sofia to produce a free Easy Read resource about being healthy. We hope this will be useful to other people too.

We are producing one free Easy Read resource each month for a year as we explained in our blog last month.

A bit about our role model

Hannah is a very active member of The Include Choir.

She works hard to get the balance right between having fun and enjoying food and being healthy.

During lockdown she has been exercising at home and sometimes shows us what she has been baking.

Hannah keeps track of all her activities on a weekly planner.

One way she keeps fit while having fun is doing Bolly X, a fitness class inspired by Bollywood dance.

Hannah works in a supermarket where she can get free recipe cards and she also subscribed to Easy Cook magazine. One of her favourite recent bakes was Cinnamon Bun Muffins – don’t they sound delicious?! Her favourite healthy snack is melon.

Hannah says; “It’s ok to have some unhealthy stuff but not every day. It’s a good idea to look at the back, at the ingredients, to see how much sugar is in it.”

Hannah knows that what she drinks is important too. She likes cranberry juice (cranberry light) and also drinks about 6 cups of water a day.

We hope our free Easy Read resource inspires you to try one of Hannah’s ideas…

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Inclusive Communications Manager
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