Staying in touch and making new friends

At the start of the first lockdown Dimensions Council wanted to create a way to connect people who otherwise might be stuck at home with no activities to do. They came up with the idea of running online activities and groups, the project was named Staying In Touch. A survey was sent out to discover what activities would be popular and the project launched in May 2020.

From Arts to Bingo, Friendship to TV and Film, Soccer to Music there is something for everyone. The programme has gone from strength to strength and reaches hundreds of people a month.

People sign up for the clubs.  Each session is hosted by a person with learning disability and/or autism, who is supported or employed by Dimensions. Clubs are facilitated by the Involvement and Engagement team and volunteers from business support staff building stronger relationships.

Jane hosts the Art club

Jane hosts the Art club

“Art club was my idea and I’m surprised how popular has become. It’s made me feel really good and has made other people happy. If we didn’t have it I would feel down. Staff have helped me get through and support me to get online. I tried Friendship club in a local pub but I could not get my wheelchair in there, plus we did the same things all the time.

“I find it difficult when lots of people speak at once so the Involvement Team guide us and help with the technical side. Talking is a lot of physical effort for me so I love that we all draw together and I can talk if I want to. Lots of people are chatty so it’s nice to take a step back and listen. We choose the picture we are going to draw and then we display it on the screen for everyone to draw. We also learn facts about the objects we are drawing or play music. We have drawn Formula 1 cars, flying squirrels, birds, famous landmarks and lots of seasonal themed things. After we have finished we take a photo of our drawings for our gallery. We also sometimes play hangman or Pictionary on screen.

“The same people come every time and we have become friends. Martin’s drawings are my favourite. He does a lot with colour and he sees a lot of detail. He’s a really gentle person and easy to talk to. Even though Elliott doesn’t speak you can tell that he is having a great time. We also love learning Makaton with him. David is really lovely and bubbly and loves art club a lot. I want to thank them for how happy they have made me. Normally I cannot travel very far but through art club I’ve made friends all over the country. They are like family.”

Elliott does not use words to communicate. To help him to participate Michelle, the facilitator, types in the conversations and Beth, his staff, interprets this into signs. She helps the group to understand what he wants to say too. Elliott likes art club. Normal activities are cancelled so this is the only opportunity to see other people. The staff only has to show him the laptop and he stops what he’s doing and gets his art materials ready.

If you think your loved one would like to get involved then please speak to their support team or contact