Adapting icebreaking activities to suit people with cognitive challenges

20150226_105209This week we had our first organising meeting with support workers.  All of us had doubts, I think, about what was going to happen during the course proper, but thanks to B’s insistence, we now have firm blow-by-blow plan for the first three weeks.

One of the best things we did in our organising session, in my opinion, was trying out some of our fun ice-breaking activities. Ice-breaking games will be important tools for increasing trust and rapport in our group.  We are aware that this demographic have a high incidence of past trauma, so trust-building is essential.  We want our group to feel connected, safe and confident.  This is the best environment conducive to learning and cooperation. We decided to use a modified version of the ‘Hand Prints’ game, where you use the parts of your hand to tell something about yourself (pictured).

I use the resources compiled by The Change Agency.  Because we are working with people with cognitive challenges, our organising team were able to adapt some of TCA’s activities to suit, simplifying the process and instructions and tailoring them to the needs of groups members.  For instance we have at least one group member who is vision-impaired, so it is important to include activities that don’t rely entirely on sight or movement.

One of the best, and most likely to result in hilarity (IMO) is an adaptation of ‘Machine’ from the Alternatives to Violence Project:

One person begins with any mechanical noise and motion, repeated in machine-like fashion.  Others connect themselves when they see a place in the machine where they would like to fit in.

To make it easier to understand we thought we might direct the noises by choosing a topic (eg, kitchen noises, park noises, shopping noises or similar).

We’ve also come up with a few of our own.  As we are learning about radio production, one’s powers of hearing are pretty important.  We are going to play a version of ‘guess that noise’ (such as used on commercial radio for competitions) using household noises.  We are also going to compare samples of various radio announcers and program intros and outros and critique them.  I’ve found useful for this purpose too.

We had a fun and got to know each other a little during this organising session.  I can only hope that the games will be as successful during our group proper in a few weeks time.

By the way – to my co-conspirators B, K and G:SeriouslyAwesomeThank you for your help and cooperation!

Check this out for some more great group-work ideas:  Especially the section, “Designing group activities that work: Is there a best model for group work?”

wwild-cover-imageYou can’t go past “How To Hear Me” for a good guide on the challenges and opportunities of working with people with ID who have experienced trauma.  “One of the biggest challenges in counselling people with intellectual disability is how to make abstract concepts (like relationships and emotions) concrete. The exercises in this section can be used to build a concrete understanding with your client. Each exercise may involve many sessions of working together with the client.”  Published online by WWILD-SVP


Author: kim4zzz

Social Worker, Radio Producer and Researcher. Sometimes all three at once.

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