The Castle Climbing Centre has been offering inclusive rock climbing sessions for the past four years to children and adults with physical and/or learning difficulties with reduced rates for block bookings to encourage weekly attendance. The sessions are delivered as part of the centres desire to offer climbing to anyone, regardless of whether they have a disability.
The inclusive sessions are either one to one or in group settings and the climbing centre works with schools and other organisations to provide opportunities for those who may not otherwise have access to the sport of climbing. The emphasis on their climbing sessions is on learned repetitive behaviour and the effects it has on the body and mind. Using existing technology in a creative way they can encourage people with vision and hearing impairments, as well as those suffering with autism, to take part and enjoy the physical, cognitive and social benefits that climbing can provide. Laser pointers and hands-free earpieces help climbers know which hold they should move to next and means that they are able to progress their climbing alongside able body climbers and reach greater heights. They also use digital equipment to help reduce anxiety for climbers with autism. Countdown timers and laptops used as visual aids help provide structure to the climb and satisfy the need to know what is going to happen next and when, which then allows the climber to relax and enjoy the activity.
As part of the same programme ‘Fun and Therapy’ sessions are provided for people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) resulting in physical disability. The activity of climbing is broken down into its basics; transference of weight, hand to eye co-ordination, muscle strength, balance and problem solving. The Centre is also proactive about educating people on the benefits of climbing and regularly works with people who have suffered a TBI by using climbing as a form of physical therapy with specially designed walls so that climbing can help encourage neuroplasticity and recovery.
Future plans for the programme include running sessions for other groups, in particular individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds in London. The Centre is working with partners to design a programme of climbing to help young people with learning difficulties find employment. The programme would provide opportunities for the young people to develop their skills, enjoy regular exercise and build their confidence, all with the goal of improving the economic and social prospects of participants.
Amy Yates commented that “Winning this award is a great way of promoting our activities and celebrating the achievements of all of those involved with the programme. We are so pleased to demonstrate that there are no limits and through climbing anyone can reach new heights. We will use the money to offer group climbing sessions to a local school for students with cerebral palsy and to develop other solutions for climbers with physical or mental needs".
Since winning the award, Castle Climbing Centre have been spending their prize money on funding 3 sessions for a 40+ man with cerebral palsy who is now hooked and attending fortnightly with the aim to get strong enough to be able to ditch his stick and walk unaided.
They have also hosted another 5 climbing sessions for a child with athetoid cerebral palsy who is using the climbing as a way to strengthen her basic motor skills and whose parents were finding it hard to find funding from the council.