Monday, September 25, 2017

Eilish King shows us an innovative idea for recording, keeping and showing your treasured life experiences in electronic form…

  • We need to remember the important stories and memories of our lives.
  • You can collect pictures.
  • You can collect important things in a box to store your memories.
  • You can also use software to create a Life Story Book.
  • If you have an iPad, you can use some apps to help you create your Life Story Book.

Have you ever noticed that as we grow older it becomes harder to remember important stories and information about our lives? These memories hold lots of information about ourselves, and the way we like to live our lives. Life stories can be a good way of gathering up the stories and information about ourselves, so that we can make sure we continue to live our lives as we would like.

Life stories can be made in lots of different ways. One way is to make a collection of pictures, or collage, by gathering your favourite pictures of special events in your life. Another enjoyable way is to make a life story book.   Examples of a life story book, and a template for making your own, are available from the dementia UK website at Memory boxes are another good way of collecting important things that relate to special events in your life and store what is important to you in a special box.

You can also use an iPad to record your life story in lots of different ways, using photos, pictures, videos, music and voice recordings. Our team works with older people to help them create life stories using iPads, and we found a few apps that are easy to use and helpful, even for people who have never used iPads before.

This is how you do it:

Firstly, you may need someone to help you if you are new to working on an iPad. It can be very enjoyable to work with someone on making your life story, and share your life story with others.

  1. Gather together important and favourite photos, videos, and music. If the photos are not digital you can use the iPad to take pictures of them. You may have to edit them using the iPad so that they won’t be shiny.
  2. Download these free apps from the app store:
    1. “Our Story” app by the Open University (Free)
    2. “Niki Music” app by Alessandro La Rocca (approx. €0-88)
  3. The Life story book template has lots of headings and you can choose the ones you want to include in your life story. Examples of headings could be: About Me, My Home, Working Life, Important People, Special Events, Likes and Dislikes.
  4. Add whatever headings you like to your life story on the “Our Story” app.
  5. You can add photographs, words, videos and voice recordings to each heading. The app gives you more instructions on how to do this.
  6. Niki music app is easy to use, and instead of using the album title you can choose a picture for each song so that you can easily find your favourite music.

What I discovered when I worked with people who were working on their life story was that they really enjoyed doing it, and found that it increased their confidence in what they could do. They told me that it was a fun way to look back over important events in their lives, and that they enjoyed sharing them with others. For staff working with people with intellectual disabilities, it is a great way to get to know one another, and helps to make sure that in time staff will have a record, made by the person, of the important things in their lives.


The author would like to acknowledge all the advice, support and opportunities for learning on this topic provided by Dr Carolyn Shivers, Pamela Dunne, Stephanie Lynch, Ferrilyth Louw, Evelyn Reilly, Prof. Mary McCarron and Dr. Siobhan MacCobb.

Author Bio

Eilish King is a graduate of the Discipline of Occupational Therapy at Trinity College Dublin. She has worked with older people with intellectual disabilities to create life stories using iPads, as part of an interdisciplinary team project investigating the use of iPads to create life stories.

Lucy Blake and Darragh’s excellent adventure comes to a thrilling climax at Waterford’s dance spectacular…

Lucy and Darragh dancing
After weeks and weeks of hard training and worn out dance shoes, Darragh and Lucy enter the competition Strictly Let’s Dance. The night was a blur of great music and an even better atmosphere as they won the trophy for most improved dance couple.

Well, the big day had arrived, after 8 weeks of intensive dance training Darragh and I were ready.  The Strictly Let’s Dance Waterford in aid of The Solas Centre, South-East Cancer Foundation, was finally here. We had our routines practiced to perfection, our costumes bought and altered, our props sorted and the hair and make-up professionally done (well for me, not Darragh obviously!)

The lights went up, the music began and we made our grand entrance, the atmosphere in the hall was electric, the cheers and shouts from family and friends gave us a real boost! There were approximately 700 people in the audience that night, which was fantastic.

Darragh is a huge sports fan, so for our entrance routine we wore hurling jerseys, Darragh in Waterford colours and myself in Galway colours (borrowed from my husband Paul), Waterford had just beaten Galway in the league quarter finals that very afternoon so Darragh was pretending to beat me with a giant inflatable hammer, which went down very well with our Waterford audience!

The opening dance was great fun and really got the crowd going, we all danced to ‘I’m Sexy & I know it’ the audience got a great kick out of it with us all shaking our stuff and wiggling our backsides around!

Our own individual dance was to “You ain’t never had a friend like me” from Aladdin, for which we were dressed as Aladdin and Princess Jasmine. Our routine went really well, the audience and the judges loved it. We got very positive feedback from the judges and scored 9-9-10, so we were over the moon with that and thrilled that all our hard work had paid off. We then performed in our group dance to Glenn Miller “In The Mood” which we really enjoyed too, although there was a slight blip as the music started before we were all on stage, but that didn’t phase Darragh one bit, like a true professional he just took my hand and kept on dancing.

The night went by in a blur of dancing, music, spotlights, costume changes and fun and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We didn’t win unfortunately, but we were awarded with the trophy for The Most Improved Couple which we were delighted with.  The winning couple were brilliant; they were Sean Connolly and Ciara Grant who performed a fantastic high energy country routine.

We have really enjoyed the experience of Strictly Let’s Dance, hosted by Vesper Events and I have to say that I feel very lucky to have been partnered with Darragh; he is an absolute gentleman, a lovely person who is kind, genuine, and generous, he has a great sense of humour and is always the life and soul of the group. It goes without saying that he is a fantastic dancer and I am delighted that I got to dance with such an amazing partner. He said he found it tiring at times but that didn’t stop him giving it his all and keeping up with the rigorous training schedule and complicated steps. I will miss training with Darragh as I feel we have become great friends over the past few weeks and I know that we will definitely stay in contact, as we will with many of the new friends that we have made during Strictly. In fact we’re meeting up with all the dancers for a meal this Saturday night. We had great support from Darragh’s family who helped us out with props, costumes, fundraising and also the use of their sitting room for dance practice!

Overall participating in Strictly was a great and unforgettable experience and we are delighted to say that the event has raised over €62,000 for The Solas Centre, a fantastic facility open to all cancer patients and their families free of charge in the South-East. Many of the Solas staff and volunteers gave up not only their whole weekend, but many days and nights previously preparing for and working towards the event and their support was greatly appreciated by us and all the dancers.

The Solas Centre is the finest cancer support building in the country and the people of the South East can be proud in the knowledge that this is due to their support and generosity. Without them, the Solas Centre would not be here.

We aim to provide the best possible cancer support services to the people of the South East of Ireland. With the counselling, relaxation therapies and group support services on offer at the Solas Centre we endeavour to provide cancer patients, their families and carers with a safe place; a place to talk things over, to relax and express emotions.

Mei Lin Yap’s first piece for Frontline reflects on a full, vibrant and dynamic life lived with Down Syndrome.

Mei Lin Yap’s very first article for Frontline. Here, she discusses coming to terms with disability as a young person and the importance of supports and services. She also talks about some amazing achievements she has made over the years.

What is the craziest thing you have done? The craziest thing I have done is a parachute jump, for charity. The chosen charity that I did it for is The Irish Down Syndrome Sporting Organisation.

Hi nice to meet you, my name is Mei Lin, I am a young woman and I have Down Syndrome. I will be revealing in this column a bit about my life and living with Down Syndrome.  I will try my best to keep my column updated and keep you interested and I will share my happy experiences and my difficulties as well, in the hope that by sharing it will help others to understand. I hope you enjoy reading this blog.

Mei Lin’s First Piece

My motivation in life is the desire to succeed -the urge to reach my full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence. I found out I have Down Syndrome when I was in my teens, up to then although I knew people who have Intellectual disabilities it never occurred to me that I have one too. When my mother explained to me it took me a while to come to terms with it.  Once I came to terms with it I was determined to live as full and independent a life as is possible. I don’t think of myself as any different to anyone else. I have the same hopes, dreams, and expectations as any young woman of my age. I understand that having Down Syndrome affects some aspects of my life. But with some help and support I feel there is no reason why I can’t achieve what I want to achieve. My mother is really supportive of me, and has given me the support and freedom to live the life I choose.

Some things that we may have in common are sports, music, and meeting friends. I love going to concerts, shows, and much more. I am also into cinema and other fun and crazy things. But more of this in future blogs.

I have been involved with The Irish Down Syndrome Sporting Organisation for about 12 years now this has given me wonderful opportunities to travel, meet new friends and have fun. The organisation selects and trains teams to compete in national, international and World Down Syndrome swimming competitions. Team Ireland has been very successful at these events. I have competed in Portugal, South Africa, Taiwan and Ireland. I brought back a world record in butterfly from Taiwan, South Africa. That was great because I got to be mentioned in newspapers and be interviewed on radio.

Overall I think that supports are really important for people with all disabilities. Some of us need support in different aspects of our lives in order to live our lives fully.  I have achieved so many wonderful things over the years. As I said, recently I did a parachute jump and I hope there will be many more exciting adventures. It is my wish that all people with disability are supported to do what they want to.

Until next time… take care and above all have fun!!!

Author Bio

Mei Lin YapMei Lin Yap lives in Dublin, and is a Reception Greeting Co-ordinator. She was formerly Rollout Support Officer/Ambassador for the Certificate in Contemporary Living at The National Institute for Intellectual Disability, Trinity College Dublin. Her passions include Special Olympics and inclusion for everyone.

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Peter Walsh, Senior Psychologist, Kilcornan Centre, Galway; Silke Harsch, Student, University of Constanz & Orlagh Hunt, Student, University of Ulster


This article reports the results of a survey conducted on the leisure activities of 38 adults with mild to severe learning disabilities attending a day centre in the west of Ireland. Information was collected on the activities individuals engaged in, with particular emphasis being placed on the participation of individuals in ordinary community-based activities, involving individuals without learning disabilities.

The study also examined whether individuals were more integrated into their local community in terms of leisure activities than they had been ten years previously (when the community-based service had only recently been established). A retrospective, longitudinal study compared eighteen individuals’ leisure activities at the current time with those of ten years previously, based on earlier research carried out by Healy (1985). The earlier study had indicated that although the individuals participated in a wide variety of ordinary activities within the local community, they tended to do so in groups of others with a learning disability, making few new social contacts.


Thirty-eight adults with learning disability (18 men and 20 women) participated in the study. Ages ranged from 18 to 63 years, with an average of 39 years. Twenty-four individuals lived in group homes, located in two towns (populations of around 1300) and the remainder lived at home with their families. Four had been assessed as having a severe learning disability, fifteen as having a moderate learning disability and nineteen as having a mild learning disability. Seven individuals had been diagnosed as having an additional physical disability.

Information was collected employing an amended version of the ‘Residential Lifestyle Inventory’ (RLI) (Newton et al. 1987; Wilcox and Bellamy 1987). This is a 17-page interview instrument consisting of 144 leisure and personal management activities. The original questionnaire was shortened somewhat, as some items were not deemed relevant to a rural Irish population (e.g. ice-skating and baseball). The amended version consisted of 64 items covering the following main categories of activity: use of media, exercise, games/crafts and hobbies, events, visits/accompanying others.

The study was conducted in a day centre for adults with learning disability in the west of Ireland. The centre opened in 1982 and caters for 40 people. A variety of work is carried out in the centre, but an increasing number of individuals had recently obtained part-time work outside the centre and a supported employment project had recently been established.

The individuals themselves, the staff of the centre, houseparents and family members provided the information necessary to complete the inventory by means of face-to-face interviews.

The purpose of the survey was explained to the informants and it was emphasised to all participants that they were free to take part in the study or not, as they wished. Two clients declined to participate.

Employing the amended version of the RLI, participants were asked to identify those activities they had engaged in during the previous four weeks. The number of times the activity had been performed, the degree of assistance required and the participant’s preference for the activity were also recorded. The level of community integration was evaluated by taking into account the location in which activities took place. A scoring system was designed to measure the degree of involvement each activity entails with people who were neither staff nor other individuals with a learning disability.


Under the heading ‘use of media’, results indicated that all participants watched television and listened to the radio on a regular basis; listening to tapes and reading books were the next most common activities. Eighty-four per cent of participants went walking regularly and half went swimming. Few (three) participants reported taking part in outdoor exercise, apart from going for walks, but twelve regularly participated in some form of indoor activities. With regard to ‘games, crafts and hobbies’, almost one-third took part in drawing and painting. In the category of ‘events’, all but one individual attended church on a regular basis, and 84% of participants went to parties or on outings, mostly on an occasional basis and organised by service providers.

In the category ‘visits/accompanies others’, 61% made or received phonecalls regularly and over half visited friends or relatives on a regular basis.

Of those taking part, 68 per cent reported going to the pub, 61 per cent eating in restaurants, 53 per cent buying groceries or personal items, and 45 per cent going to the bank as activities they engaged in relatively frequently.

A number of variables were examined that it was felt might influence an individual’s participation in various activities, including age, sex, distance from nearest town and having work outside the centre. None of these variables was found to have any significant influence on the individual’s degree of participation or the type of activities engaged in.

Follow-up comparison

Eighteen of the 38 participants (eight men and ten women) had taken part in the 1985 survey. At that time, their average age was 28.9 years; at the time of the present survey this had risen to 40-6 years. Ten individuals were classed as having a mild learning disability, and the remaining eight were classed as having a moderate disability. Table 1 lists the activities engaged in by these clients.

Percentage of people engaged in activities: follow-up comparison

Goes for walk7289
Goes to dance/disco/party/pub5694
Goes to pictures/plays/shows7861
Goes to shops/buys groceries7882
Goes to match3922
Visits friends/relatives8383
Engages in job out of centre1122
Goes for drive/cycle/park/outings3994
Goes away for weekend5067

The results indicate that in 1995 most participants were participating in more activities than had been the case ten years previously, and in some cases the increase in participation was dramatic.

Information was also sought regarding the number of people with whom participants engaged in activities, and whether the other people participating were affiliated to learning disability services or not. The tendency reported by Healy (1985) for people to participate in activities in groups, generally in the presence of others with learning disability, was less noticeable in the present survey. More individuals were now going to social activities such as dances, discos, pubs, etc. with only one companion or on their own. Likewise, individuals were more likely to go to matches, pictures, shows, etc. on their own or in the company of one other person.


The results of the survey indicated that individuals with learning disability engaged in a wide variety of social activities within the community. The activities engaged in most frequently were watching television, listening to the radio, going for a walk or swim, playing table games, drawing, bowling, going to parties/cinema/pub and using restaurants. There was no marked tendency to participate in ‘extraordinary activities’ (i.e. those requiring a lot of organisation, finance, time). Clients were not observed to be participating in activities that were age-inappropriate.

Whether one had a job outside of the centre or not was not found to have a bearing on one’s social activities. This was somewhat surprising, as it would be expected that people who spend more time in ‘ordinary’ employment settings would have a greater opportunity for and likelihood of increased social integration with their workmates. It would be hoped that as individuals spend more of their working day in the company of non-disabled peers, more of their social life would be passed in the company of these peers. This does not, however, mean that the value of participating in activities with friends and acquaintances from the centre is in any way diminished.

Perhaps the most significant finding of the present study was the change in activity patterns of eighteen individuals over a period of ten years. Thus, in comparison, participants were found to be less likely to engage in social activities in large groups, or in the company of other service users, indicating a greater degree of social integration. The results also indicate that participants were, on the whole, leading active social lives and engaging in many activities in the company of non-disabled peers. This would be in contrast to some previous studies which indicated that presence in community locations does not necessarily lead to greater participation or integration. That fact that the individuals involved in the present study have achieved the level of participation and integration exhibited may be linked to the size (reasonably small) and location (within reasonable travelling distance from Galway city) of their communities.

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Brightbill and Mobley (1977) define real leisure not as enforced free time but rather as the opportunity to choose freely those activities of greatest preference and interest from a variety of options. Choice is the essence of leisure, and it is this element of choice that differentiates leisure from what might be considered therapy, although many leisure activities have therapeutic benefits.

For persons with profound and multiple disabilities, the constraints on their lives may limit their leisure resources and affect their informed choice of preference, and their indication of that preference. Systems must therefore be developed and adopted to enhance their participation and autonomy.

Carey et al. (1996) report that a systematic assessment procedure should be implemented to present reliable information about individual preference, when identifying preferred activities for people with severe and multiple disabilities.

Hawkins (1993) observes that caregivers and professionals can assume prescriptive attitudes, taking on the role of deciding what free-time activities will be pursued, especially in the case of persons with profound and multiple disabilities who are reliant on interventions or assistance in meeting their needs. Above all else, these people have a right to the opportunity to experience and sample a range of leisure pursuits; carers must be responsive to their wishes, allowing them to ‘opt out’, and adapting an activity or pursuit to best suit the individual.

Wade and Hoover (1985) identify external and internal factors among the constraints on leisure opportunities for people with learning difficulties. External constraints include institutionalisation and societal attitudes, while internal constraints are deficits in motor skills, cognitive skills or physical fitness.

Rose and Massey (1993) investigated an expedition to the French Alps undertaken by seven people with severe learning disabilities, with fourteen non-disabled people. The positive benefits of the experience, elicited through interviews, were seen as: sense of achievement, development of cooperation, enhancement of self-esteem, fitness, trust and role-reversal experience.

There are some leisure environments which are designed with the particular needs of people with profound and multiple disabilities in mind. One such specialised environment is ‘snoezelen’, as described by Cavet and Mount (1995). The term (composed of two Dutch words for sniffing and dozing) has been used variously to indicate specialised environments and equipment, as well as an overall approach to service users which emphasises relaxation and pleasure. Multisensory environments are, in essence, a collection of devices and equipment which offer sensory experiences in a specialised environment. Some critics, such as supporters of the social role valorisation philosophy of Wolfensberger (1983), may find this a ‘segregationist’ environment. However, Hutchinson and Haggar (1991) evaluated a snoezelen leisure resource at Whittington Hall, where staff expressed the view that it widened residents’ leisure options.

Lambe (1995) reports an awareness by the National Federation of Gateway Clubs (Britain) that they did not provide adequately for potential club members with profound and multiple disabilities. The Mencap Profound Retardation and Multiple Handicap Project (PRMH) Leisure Resource Training Pact has been produced, with the participation of Gateway and the Hestor Adrian Research Centre (HARC). Over three years, materials and activities were researched which would contribute to high-quality leisure provision for people with profound and multiple disabilities. Although the pack was designed for individual use, it has potential as a resource manual, particularly in training volunteers working in leisure services.

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Eva Carey has found a ‘Great Hunger’ among a group of people keen to learn more about history and literature.

The fact that a person may lack literacy and numeracy skills should not deprive them from learning about literature or drama.

Every Sunday at the Writers’ Museum, a group of people with learning difficulties meet and learn about the great writers. They love getting to know about poetry and plays, but above all they love getting to know the writers, why they wrote, and what they have written. They have even developed an interest in stagecraft.

The way poetry was introduced to most of us in school was sometimes enough to put us off it for life. When information is given in a pleasurable atmosphere and without stress, the results are very rewarding. I think we are succeeding with this new method of learning through inclusion and association.

History is sometimes considered a daunting task—trying to remember dates, etc. When I proposed the idea of developing communication skills to help people in supported employment, history was one of the ideas suggested for the discussion groups I was to lead. Cecile Woodham Smith’s The Great Hunger went down so well with the groups that further readings were introduced.

I used the method of visualisation, and in fact we started with all the senses, and so many other things, that we have in common. When we examined the idea that none of us in Ireland would be here only for those who had survived the Famine, their own association with the past excited the group and that encouraged me to continue. One group has been studying the one-act play ‘Cathleen Ní Houlihan’ by Yeats. With the help of the Ballyfermot Senior College, we hope soon to make a video, which we intend to call ‘Thank you, Mr Yeats’.

People with learning disabilities have so much to offer. Nowadays the educational system is supported by advanced technology, which helps to make it more accessible to wider sections of the community. The unfortunate thing is that we feel we are protecting people when we deprive them of a higher education. We have seen great successes in physical development and participation in sport through the Special Olympics movement; I think the time is right for taking education for people with a learning disability a step further in the fields of history and the arts.

As we met for one session recently, one of my group asked me if I’d seen ‘The Rebellion’ on TV during the week. I admitted that, unfortunately, I had missed it. She said: ‘That’s alright, Eva, I taped it for you.’

Additional Information

Developing Alternative Values was set up to explore innovative ways of helping to expand interests and cultural horizons for persons with learning disability. For more information, contact Eva Carey, tel: 01-821 2638 (between 7.00 and 9.00 pm)

Caroline O’Brien, Chairperson, Special Olympics Families

‘I’m doing very well, aren’t I?’ In the middle of her first big race in Special Olympics, way out in front, Aisling stopped to ask us, at the sideline, how she was doing! We had been training hard for this day, Aisling looked so smart in her running gear, and now finally the finishing line was in sight—what could we do except laugh and tell her ‘yes’, she was doing very well, and that as usual we were very proud of her. Aisling did go on to win a medal, and her collection has grown quite considerably since then. It is this story, however, that I always recount to other parents when I speak to them about the benefits of Special Olympics for the athlete and also for the family. It is an important story, because it was the first time that Aisling won a medal in her own right, competing against athletes who have a similar ability to her, and in this case she deserved to win.

My husband and I first heard of Special Olympics about four years ago. A group of parents were getting together to form a club—were we interested? The group was small to begin with and we knew many of the parents already. Aisling was shy, naturally enough. However, our two coaches, Jo and Dervila, made her feel so welcome that she soon forgot to check if we were still in the hall. Warm-up exercises became games of fun and laughter, and by the end of her first session we were all ready for what Special Olympics had to offer.

Over these four years, Aisling’s involvement with Special Olympics has brought about many positive changes in all our lives. She has gained greater self-esteem and courage on the athletics track. She is now aware of her capabilities and what she can achieve. Her coaches have built on the skills she had and improved her competitive ability, so that ultimately she can participate in Special Olympics local, regional and national games, with pride. At home, we too have been encouraged to continue this training. Aisling has shown us that she is like any other athlete—she has the ability to achieve anything, once she sets her mind to it. Her sense of fair play has extended to other areas of her life and includes respect for others who may not be as capable as she is. Her skills have helped her to integrate more fully into the sports programme in her school, and her achievements have been an incentive to other young people to become involved and to join Special Olympics. As a family, we have joined Special Olympics Families committees and now promote the organisation to parent and school associations. Although Aisling is only eleven, she sometimes joins us at these presentations, and in her own way she is perhaps the most effective resource in helping other parents to see the immense possibilities that exist for their son or daughter. We help to run family centres at games, to provide information, refreshments and a place to rest and relax.

As parents, our sense of joy and pride in Aisling’s achievements is second to none. We no longer worry when she is in a competitive situation and may not win. Her own sense of pride in her participation in any games means that she will always be a winner!

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In October 1976, ten volunteers set up a social club for ten other people who happened to have a learning disability. The club was in Dundrum (the one in Dublin), and its founders consciously founded the club to be the first of a network of similar clubs to provide a much-needed social ‘scene’ for young people and adults with learning disabilities. The first club very soon linked with similar clubs in Dundalk and Tallaght, and by 1981, there were eight thriving Arch clubs in the country. Dundrum Arch club, which now has 85 members, recently celebrated its 21st birthday with the congratulations of its 40 brother/sister clubs now in the National Federation of ARCH Clubs. The number of clubs is still growing—Bray and Waterford/Tramore clubs opened last year. Nationally, over 1500 members are assisted by some 600 volunteers.

Most clubs meet for one evening session each week. A few clubs which have their own premises can meet more often; the Kilmore West Club in Dublin has four sessions a week, including a junior section, a video night, and cookery classes. The Tallaght Club has a Saturday midday club-time. Members pay a nominal entrance fee per session (primarily as an insurance requirement), and clubs engage in fundraising in order to pay for their more ambitious activities.

Leisure activities in each club depend, as far as possible, on members’ wishes, and on the skills and contacts of the volunteers. Very few of the clubs limit themselves to running discos, although disco dancing is a popular passtime in many clubs! At the Dundrum Club’s 21st party, Jim Bartley (aka Bella Doyle of Fair City) presented the St Raphael’s Celbridge perpetual shieldthe disco dancing competition trophy to the winning team from St Raphael’s. Bingo and other games are popular, and arts and crafts, hobbies and celebrations take up a lot of club time. Members are assisted to produce plays in several clubs; other may have public speaking, cookery, make-up demonstrations, or a variety of sports. The Northeast region has inter-club friendly matches in football and basketball. They held a Sports Day in Gormanstown in May. The Federation holds annual competitions in essay-writing, art, craftwork and photography; entries are exhibited at the autumn AGM. Members take part in a number of sports.

An increasing number of Arch Clubs plan short breaks, camping trips and longer holidays for their members. This year, and next spring, the Archers Club in Tipperary is engaged in a three-way holiday exchange with groups in Coventry and Portugal. Their leader is Ann Ryan, who last year attended a study visit in Germany on youth exchanges and travel groups for people with learning disabilities. She had organised an earlier exchange between the Tipperary club and a group from Provence in France, with the assistance of Léargas/Youth for Europe.

Arch Clubs are a federation; each club committee decides on local programmes and activities. As the editor wrote in the April-June 1996 issue of Keystone: ‘This issue focuses on widely differing Arch club experiences, from urban concerns, including the provision of self-defence courses for members, to life in the Midlands, to the transportation problems of rural areas. A mixed bag. ARCH is proud to be a mixed bag, with each club having its own preferences and unique style of being. Being comfortable with ourselves and enjoying opportunties to share are part of the Arch code.’

Member representatives take part in the organising committees of a growing number of Arch clubs. There is a national advisory council of eight persons, and two part time staff, Geraldine Birthistle and Bernie Wallace, who facilitate the member clubs. Clubs are also linked by the federation’s quarterly newsletter, Keystone, edited by Edward Gleeson (who is also Chairman of the Federation). In the very early days, Arch clubs sought advice from Gateway Clubs in the UK, and some border-county clubs in the Republic have continuing social ties with their northern neighbours in Gateway, but the two organisations are totally independent of each other.

The Arch Federation received funding from the Peace and Reconciliation Fund last year, and has engaged a research study of five border-county Arch clubs. The study will involve a survey of members, helpers, committee members and parents, to assist the Federation to support clubs and to provide future planning objectives.

Additional Information

More information on the National Federation of ARCH Clubs is available from Geraldine Birthistle, General Secretary, 74, Meadow Grove, Dublin 16 (tel: 01-295 1081).