How AYF fosters inclusion

AYF's Youth Work Project Manager, Graeme Johnston, was asked to speak to Shiskine Guild about how Arran Youth Foundations has fostered inclusivity for young people with additional support needs. See his report from this, and a video of the talk, below:

I went along with one of our young members, Jodie, and her dad. Jodie has Down's Syndrome and has attended AYF for more than 5 years, so there was no one better poised to help me talk about this.

As a passion of mine, I was more than happy to do this and while I often speak from a written script at public engagements, I needed nothing but a few notes to waffle on for nearly 40 minutes, as this is something close to my heart.

Unfortunately, the camera I took along had a 20 minute maximum length for videos, so it wasn't all captured! Jodie was on good form throughout and at the end of my talk she made a point of saying 'Thank you' for AYF being so fun. The video below captures one 10 minute segment, but there were lots of other important points made:

Seeing Jodie is often the highlight of our week. She has various catchphrases and habits that tickle us - giving it the "Loser" signal when she wins at games, complaining of being "Too tired" before bouncing back seconds later, celebrating her many "birthdays" throughout the year, and my personal favourite, answering "How are you today?" with her trademark "Fantastic!"
She often gets very excited to see us and there's usually a big cuddle, especially if she hasn't seen you in a while.

The result of Jodie coming along has been nothing but positive for AYF. She has focused us on being more welcoming, more inclusive, our young people and staff have grown through spending time with her, and as a result of this, AYF has a very strong reputation for being inclusive and working with those who have additional support needs or might otherwise be marginalised.

The culture of AYF is all about making sure we are there for everyone. Through lunchtime dropin, where young people get a chance to socialise where before they might have been isolated; through art psychotherapy and our weekly 'Chance to Share' chat, where young people can open up about how they're feeling and what they might be struggling with; and through fun weekly activities including guitar, cooking and Friday night youth club.

Thanks to Shiskine Guild for having me along, thanks to Jodie's dad for giving up his time, and a huge thanks to Jodie for so much fun over the last five years!

Posted 23/09/2021