Autistic learners enjoy trips sailing the Solent

There was no shortage of excitement to get back to school at LVS Hassocks last month, as two sailing trips took place to launch the new academic year.

The trips are just one of the ways that the school in Sayers Common successfully develops the prospects of young adults on the autism spectrum, by providing them with life skills experience outside the classroom.

The trip was far from just a great escape for the learners, giving a valuable practical introduction to independent living where they prepared and cooked their own meals and planned their days.

It also encouraged communication and interaction in a new environment, with Lucy commenting: “The sailing trip was good because we all worked as a team.”

One group sailed the Solent with the Rona Sailing Project, courtesy of generous support from Beds And Bars’ Keith Knowles who sponsored the trip. The five learners visited the Isle of Wight – where they stopped for the night in Yarmouth – and Portsmouth. Whilst there they saw HMS Warrior and walked around Gunwharf Quays. The trip also provided an interesting backdrop to listening and following instructions, with learners putting sails up and steering to ensure it was a fully interactive experience that helped them thrive.

Rhys said: “I had great fun. I enjoyed my time with my friends and I was given independence which I feel made me work harder.”

Two other learners made a five day trip on the ‘Thunderbolt’ yacht from Southampton thanks to support from Paul Stringer at Adventures At Sea. It was an ideal opportunity for them to practice their life skills with shopping and money exercises on the agenda for a trip into East Cowes, and getting involved with cooking and clearing up as well as the excitement of sailing the yacht themselves without the help of an engine.

Higher level teaching assistant Corinne Gould said: “Our learners were impeccably behaved and learned so much. One of them had never even spent a night away from home before, and yet coped brilliantly with four nights in a shared cabin – testimony to how important trips like these are to developing independence and life skills.”

Learners from both trips returned to LVS Hassocks with lots of great memories, added confidence and equipped with many new skills to help them in the future.

Head of Centre at LVS Hassocks Kira Brabenec said: “These activities are so important as they give learners the opportunity to practice things they have learned at LVS Hassocks in an outside environment.

“One of our aims is to encourage learners to develop skills that will allow them to be independent when they leave us, and these trips provided a really interesting experience in a pressured environment for them to practice in. At the same time they enjoyed a memorable adventure with their friends which really helps improve their social and emotional wellbeing.”

Report and picture contributed by LVS Hassocks.