It’s important to evaluate each session, to make sure you’re meeting the needs of your participants, and that they’re getting all the benefits of sensory sports.
We recommend doing this immediately after each session, whilst it is fresh in your mind. There are two different areas to consider when conducting your evaluation:
What have the participants’ experiences been like?
A person-centred evaluation involves considering the experiences of each participant. It’s useful to involve the support staff, as they will have been working closely with the participants during the session and can give a more detailed account of the individual’s engagement.
Consider the following:
- Skill Development – Are participants demonstrating new or improved skills which they have not done previously?
- Strength, flexibility and movement – Are the participants able to stretch further, hold or grip objects better, or move more quickly?
- Social interactions – Are participants making more contact with their peers and others around them? This could be in a number of ways including verbally, through sign or touch.
- Sharing a group environment – Do participants appear more comfortable, calm and relaxed in a group and a sports-based environment?
- Independence – Are participants able to complete tasks or movements more independently, regardless of how small or subtle, that they were not able to before?
- Recall and anticipation – Do participants remember the activities from week to week, and recognise intuitively what it is they will be doing next?
Compare each participant over a period of weeks, and notice how they develop week by week in relation to these points.
How was the session delivered by the leader or coach?
Think about how the session was delivered by the session leader or coach.
- How was communication used? Did the coach give the staff and participants clear information, using a variety of methods?
- How was mobility supported? Did the coach help the staff and participants to understand and negotiate the environment?
- Was enough time given? Was there sufficient time for the activities? Did the coach follow the pace of the participants and respect their choices? Were participants in control of each situation?
- How did the coach maximise the experience for the participants? Did they allow participants to try new things for themselves? Did they adapt the activities based on the needs of those taking part?
Some more key points to consider
1. Empower support staff
Support staff will know the participants best, and will be working with them closely throughout the session.
Try to empower them to adapt the activities to support or develop the participants as they see fit. Encourage them to be creative!
2. Be patient
Don’t worry if things take longer than expected to deliver, or it takes participants longer than expected to move through the activities.
Focus on getting good quality engagement and outcomes from the session, even if this means moving through the activities more slowly, or focusing only on one part of the session.
3. Acknowledge all achievements
Due to the complex disabilities of the participants involved, developments may not be apparent straight away. Try to focus on the outcomes listed earlier in this resource, not just on participants’ “skills” .
For example, some people find being in a group with others challenging. If this was to improve over a number of sessions, this is a huge achievement that should be acknowledged.
4. Recognise independence
After a period of time, participants may begin to recognise and complete tasks more independently. Be ready to support them to gradually take more of a lead of the activities
5. Recognise behaviour changes
Behaviour change may be very subtle, so work with staff, carers or family members who know the participant well to identify small, positive changes.
6. Consider observation techniques
A weekly observation of a participant may be influenced by who is making the observation. Having the same person working with and evaluating a participant’s progress each week helps provide consistency and a more reliable comparison.
7. Maintain consistency
Repeating the same activities over a number of weeks, with progression where possible, is key to the learning process for many individuals with complex disabilities.
Try to maintain a routine, with weekly sessions at the same time and place if possible, to enhance the learning process.
8. Be flexible
There are many factors outside of your control which may impact the delivery of a sensory sports session, such as unforeseen disruptions or challenging behaviour. Remember it is ok to repeat activities, scale them back or move through them slowly if required.
Sense is leading the way in making sports inclusive and accessible to people with impairments. Learn more about our range of guides and workshops for different sports, or contact [email protected] to speak with our team.