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Christmas at Catrine Bank residential service

In this article, Frank Slokan, Senior Behaviour Coordinator at Catrine Bank residential service talks about Christmas in the service, covering preparation planning and the day itself.

Author: Frank Slokan

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Christmas at Catrine Bank residential service

Catrine Bank is a National Autistic Society residential service for autistic people based in Ayrshire. As Christmas approaches, a number of different activities take place. Preparation usually start in mid-November, with the service establishing what each individual will be doing over the Christmas period. 

It is at this point that staff and individuals will start making Christmas items in special workshops, these are then sold in local shops to fundraise for the Catrine Bank Christmas party. There are a number of activities within the workshops including:

•    making snowmen from white socks and rice
•    making Christmas cards 
•    joining in horticulture sessions to make wooden reindeer decorations and other items.

The service is careful to ensure that every individual is able to participate in some of these activities. 

During December, decorations will be made and put up in the different houses. The level of this can differ, depending on how well each individual copes with the sensory aspects of the decorations. Some houses will have Christmas trees and a number of other decorations, while one house may only have some minor decorations. The communal kitchen and activity room, located within the Day opportunities building, will usually have a Christmas tree, with all individuals and staff being encouraged to write a message to each other on a decoration.

Christmas outings

Staff organise a number of charity nights in the local community and hold raffles within the service itself. Money raised goes towards the individuals being able to visit a Christmas pantomime as a group outing. 

When it comes to the pantomime, staff work closely with the venue to ensure that this is an enjoyable experience for all involved. The pantomime will often be one of the first Christmas activities for the individuals to enjoy, and remains popular with all at Catrine Bank. 

Two individuals at Catrine Bank also take part in a Christmas show with a local drama group. Their show is very popular with staff and parents alike. 

Christmas party

Money raised from the arts and crafts activities will go towards buying small gifts for the individuals supported, which will be handed to them at the Christmas party. The party is usually held at Catrine Bank Bowling Club, with staff and individuals spending time making decorations and setting-up the room. Food is provided and festive games played. 

The location of the Bowling club to the service allows individuals to dip in and out of the party, depending on how they cope. All individuals are prepared for the party using social stories, and have a ‘Stop’ card available to let staff know when they want to leave.

Christmas Day

On Christmas day, the service will usually only have a limited number of individuals that are there. Each individual has a set-routine and they will usually follow their morning routine as usual. Most individuals will then enjoy opening their presents with staff and talking to family on the phone. 

As there are only small number of individuals, they will all join up for a communal Christmas lunch, with each house taking responsibility for one course. They will all meet within the refectory, sharing their lunch and sometimes being joined by parents of the individuals.

Preparing for Christmas

Christmas does require a large amount of preparation, as mentioned above, including:

•    staff rotas to ensure each individual has a familiar staff member on Christmas day
•    social stories preparing the person for the Christmas period and each individual event
•    Christmas sleep charts, which give individuals a number of events that they will engage in prior to Christmas. 
•    home social story for those going home
•    creating a number of festive activities for personal involvement, fundraising and celebration.

Christmas tends to be a quiet time within the service with most individuals reporting that they enjoy the time with their peers, families and staff.

Date added: 16 December 2015

Image courtesy of freedigitalphots.net