Learning disabled adults ‘Moving On Up’ in Limavady

A new organisation aiming to help adults with learning disabilities who have been left behind in terms of care provision is soon to launch in Limavady.

Angela McDonald from Coleraine and Jennie Bell from Eglinton are spearheading the launch of ‘Moving On Up’, a new organisation which hopes to help out adults with learning disabilities in and around Limavady.

Staff members Jennie Bell, Claire Feeny, and Leah Bell with some of the group currently attending Moving On Up at Aghanloo. INLV3614-024KDR

Staff members Jennie Bell, Claire Feeny, and Leah Bell with some of the group currently attending Moving On Up at Aghanloo. INLV3614-024KDR

“A lot of learning disabled adults find that when they leave school, there is nothing for them. That is the case for some of them, even years later. That’s where are hoping to come in - to pick up from there and continue to help them, their parents and their carers”, said training and personal development coordinator Jennie Bell.

The basic aim of the new organisation is to help adults, of all ages from 18 and up, develop new skills and become more independent and accepted in society.

“There isn’t really anything like this for them in Limavady. There is a real need for it”, Angela McDonald, Moving On Up Director said. “You have large numbers of parents and carers as well who have to dedicate a lot of time to caring for learning disabled adults. Sometimes what you can get in that situation is that people become isolated, which is not good for the person with learning disabilities and is not good for that person’s carer either. We are hoping that they will be able to come to us and we can provide both respite for the carer and we can help the learning disabled person in a variety of ways as well.”

Moving On Up will provide what they call ‘training and personal development activities’ geared towards improving personal and social skills of those coming along. As Angela and Jennie explan, that includes everything from basic cookery, photography, gardening and arts and crafts to community inclusion, social awareness and employment skills.

The new organisation has yet to officially launch, although that hasn’t stopped them hitting the ground running with a weekly ‘social evening’ at their spacious premises in Aghanloo.

Angela McDonald explained: “We’re new to Limavady and this is us, now, just trying to get the thing off the ground. We’ve been doing our social evening for around four weeks now on a Wednesday night. We have the learning disabled adults in here during the evening time and they do a variety of things. We have a DVD night, they do arts and crafts, we have a pool table, we have a disco and karaoke - things like that.”

Jennie Bell added: “The Wednesday evening is more of a social thing. It is like their night out. It’s fun. It’s for them to enjoy it. It’s not necessarily always going to be an action-packed night. Sometimes they are quite happy to sit in there with a cup of tea on the sofa, chatting away. It’s somewhere for them to go to meet with their friends. The response we have had from them has been amazing already and that gives us a real boost when you hear things like that. For a lot of them they might not even have the chance to meet with other people and have a bit of a chat that often.”

The Sentinel was invited for a tour of the new Moving On Up premises which, despite being located in an industrial estate, are surprisingly comfortable and homely. Large windows reveal spectacular views of the picturesque Roe Valley landscape to one side of the building, while to the other is a secluded garden space. “We even have our own apple tree out there”, Angela said.

She explained how the organisation is aiming to help those attending: “In the Limavady area we think there is a shortfall in terms of things for learning disabled young people and adults. We are trying to look at social inclusion in every aspect of what we do. Moving on Up will be trying to give them the skills, from age 18-plus. We will always work on their social skills, their independence skills, to make them feel more socially comfortable - and on the other side of the coin, more socially accepted in the rest of society. Coming in here, on a Wednesday night, is really helping them develop their confidence, their self-esteem and how to mix with other people. They do it during the day but sometimes in the evenings they are left sitting by themselves. It is for them to have a wee bit of fun and relax, that’s what it is about really, but they will gain those skills from it. They will be able to go out into society and talk to people. They talk to the volunteers in here and they talk to each other.

Jennie continued: “It is all about their independence skills as well. You will give them a task at the end of the night - even something quite simple like doing the dishes or helping to hoover up, and that is going to really help them as well.”

Angela said: “That is the whole idea of this organisation - it is to improve their skills in all of those areas. Whenever we are up and running in the daytime we intend to work on very basic cooking skills for them. We hope that whenever we come in here in the morning there will be a group task for creating a lunch for everyone. Depending on their ability they might set the tables, they might write the menu, they might peel the potatoes. It will all be ability led and by lunch time we will have a meal for everyone and each of them will be able to say they helped out making it.

“It’s right at the grass roots, the very basic level. To stay with the cooking example, some might not know how to make a cup of tea so we will do that with them ten to fifteen times, or as long as it takes for it to sink in. For some of them it might never sink in but we will continue trying to help them anyway.

Jennie said: “There is a safety aspect to it as well and there are so many components to that. That’s what we are about - trying to encourage them to use the skills that they do have and to become as independent as possible - and to do that in a safe way.”

Angela continued: “We encourage them whenever they go home to do it as well. We intend to work, and we are working very closely already, with the parents and carers. That is what we are all about.”