Tag Archives: rda

CAS Reflection: Service (RDA) – Reflection 4

CAS Reflection: Service

Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA)

Reflection 4

Learning Outcome(s):

  1. Demonstrate engagement with issues of global significance.

 

My time volunteering at this service has honestly taught me a lot. I’ve learned not only about ASD and cerebral palsy, but also a method of therapy which never really occurred to me before. RDA focuses on using riding as a way to offer physiotherapy to children who have physical disabilities, and it also offers a way for children with cognitive disorders to interact with people and horses and give them a change of pace.

I think a service working for a cause like this is highly significant as it offers children new experiences that they may not have gotten elsewhere, and there’s many social benefits to it for the child as well as physical and psychological benefits. Often times it can be difficult for these children to achieve this, so organisations like RDA can really help in making a difference and I think that’s really amazing.

Being a sidewalker allowed me to really interact with the children and learn about them as learners/riders as well as just who they were and though at times it was tough, it was really rewarding seeing their progress as the sessions passed and seeing them learn new skills. I actually received some minor leader training where I helped lead the horse of my rider rather than act as a sidewalker, but I chose not to continue the training as I felt like I was making a greater impact on the kids as a sidewalker. I think this experience of volunteering at RDA has made me a lot more aware of different physical disorders too, and it allowed me to get first-hand experience with working with children with ASD and I’ve definitely learned a lot along the way.

 

CAS Reflection: Service (RDA) – Reflection 3

CAS Reflection: Service

Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA)

Reflection 3

Learning Outcome(s):

  1. Recognise and consider the ethics implications of choices and actions.

 

Working with different riders throughout my time volunteering at RDA has been a really interesting experience. All of my riders so far have had ASD but the way I’ve had to help them differs. There are times where working with certain riders can be really difficult and there are times where it can get frustrating if they do not want to listen or do the activities they have to do. In times like these I try to stay as patient as I can and not let my frustration show as I don’t want to upset the child and make them dislike riding. Additionally, there’s a possibility that getting frustrated will cause the child to become uncomfortable with working with me and/or others which isn’t desirable, so I try to keep my cool and be patient and understanding.

I’ve never been in any conflict with the riders or the staff, though with the rider I’ve just begun working with it can be a little stressful for my friend and I. The rider often throws tantrums as he doesn’t want to do the stretches and he only wants to get on the horse, but what was uncomfortable for us was that we weren’t sure where to ask for help. The staff members are usually busy helping get the arena and the horses ready and sometimes the parents, as in this case, are not as willing to help out. I think in situations like this was where I really needed to consider my actions so we could avoid any extreme conflicts. We chose not to force the child into doing the stretches, and at the end of the session during our reporting, we mentioned it to the staff then as it is a more confidential issue and out of respect for the boy and his father as they may not appreciate it. From mentioning it, the staff could offer us some advice that could help for our next session.

Essentially, I didn’t want to put stress on both the child and his father as they both seemed quite unhappy with the situation. In situations like this, I think it’s important to maintain our composure and push through with a smile so as to not make the child any more uncomfortable. At the same time, discussing it privately is more respectful than discussing it with the parent in cases like this where we might end up risking the child not showing up for sessions anymore.

 

CAS Reflection: Service (RDA) – Reflection 2

CAS Reflection: Service

Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA)

Reflection 2

 

Learning Outcome(s):

  1. Demonstrate the skills and recognise the benefits of working collaboratively.

 

As we concluded the first term of working with riders, I found it amazing to see the progress the child that I was helping made. Personally, I feel as though if it were just me alone who was monitoring this child, or just my friend, it would have been a lot more difficult to help him make the progress he did. Both of us keep on the lookout for his safety and help each other support him whether it’s keeping his back straight or helping him engage in activities, and I think both of us constantly working to try and talk to him made him quite comfortable with us. Unlike at the start, he would listen to us and started putting in more effort.

 

Aside from just his riding skills, we also saw an improvement in his acknowledgement of other people and he was much more willing to respond when someone else would talk to him. Additionally, he always used to ask us and the teacher if we could go for a walk in the garden (the jungle path) with everybody. Initially when we would tell him “no” or “maybe” he would get very upset as it didn’t go according to his own plans. However, towards the end of his term, when we told him “no”, he would be okay with it and accept it, yet he would still work hard during his sessions. Both my friend and I were quite sad when this term came to an end because we really enjoyed seeing him make progress.

 

We have recently started the next term with a new set of riders and I have another kid who has ASD, however he is a few years younger than the previous rider I worked with. He is completely different though, despite having the same condition so I realised quickly that there were certain things I would have to do differently with him than I did with my previous rider. This time though, we have been split up and put into new pairs. For the first session, I was working with this new volunteer. Unlike last time, I didn’t have any connection to this person and I had some experience unlike him, so this time I had to take on the role of a sort of mentor instead and help him by teaching him skills I learned from working with my previous rider as well as reassuring him in areas where he was unsure of what to do.

 

My partner ended up switching though every session until about the 4th one, so each time I had to help my new partner learn about how to assist the kid we were working with. I feel like without working together with your partner sidewalker, it can be really difficult helping kids as you can be very unsure of what to do, therefore I always tried to help new partners and also accept whatever they would suggest to me so we could make sure the rider was having the best experience they could.

CAS Reflection: Service (RDA) – Reflection 1

CAS Reflection: Service

Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA)

Reflection 1

Learning Outcome(s):

  1. Demonstrate that challenges have been undertaken, developing new skills in the process.

 

Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) is an organisation that provides equine therapy for those with disabilities, be in cognitive, physical, or sometimes even both. In our service, we work with young children who have disabilities such as cerebral palsy (CP), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), down syndrome, or those who display issues with the movement of/ control over certain body parts and motor skills. Our group is partnered up and then assigned one of these children and we have to assess their riding ability and how they’re improving as the weeks pass by. As of right now, all of us have taken the role as side walker regardless of whether any of us have had experiences with horses or not. We have to walk on the sides of the horse and interact with our rider to make sure they have proper posture and are able to follow commands said by the instructor efficiently.

The child that my friend and I were assigned is a young boy with ASD. When we first flicked through the paperwork to get a general consensus as to what he was like as a rider, I wasn’t too worried. I thought I had an idea of what autism was like so I didn’t anticipate that the sessions would be too stressful. Turns out, that idea wasn’t as clear as it should have been. Our first session with our rider seemed to be a little distressing, for both the child and myself honestly. Without the proper training or briefing on his condition, I wasn’t able to work well with him. This could be seen as he wouldn’t listen to me or my partner when we tried to help him sit straight while riding the horse (which is something he tends to not do as proficiently) or even when we were trying to help him with his stretches. He seemed to be slightly agitated as well which made it even more difficult to communicate effectively with him.

In between this session and the next, I knew that I had to learn how to work effectively with him in order for him to feel more at ease during each session. Since I take HL Psychology, I went to my teacher to ask her for a general summary of what the cognitive disability really was as well as how I could go about approaching the rider. I also looked up ASD online as well as talked to my mother (who studied child psychology in university) about my struggle. All of that put together led me to a better understanding as to why our rider seemed to be so on edge for our first session. I learned that people with autism tend to want to do things a certain way, and any little change can cause them to become agitated, which would explain why our rider was uncomfortable during our first session as he had never worked with us before. My psychology teacher told me to continue approaching him the same way so it becomes routine and it will, therefore, lead him to become more comfortable as each session goes by.

Using this advice, our next session ended up being a lot more fun for my partner and I as well as our rider. He was a lot calmer and he began listening to us a lot better. By the third session, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all established a good relationship as he always double checks with us to see if we’ll be there the following week and he seems so much more comfortable with us. He has also been able to keep his back straight for longer periods of time which is a major improvement from the beginning. I feel really proud of him as well as myself for being able to get through to him in such a short amount of time, but I do know that there’s still a lot more to do in that sense due to his ASD, but I’m really happy with the fact that we’ve been able to become comfortable with each other.

(His face has been blurred for privacy)