From the editor

I found this amazing local project called Our Barn while looking for some local events. I have asked them for some information about their programme and they sent the following article along which gives a little history and some news about a new plan to help with a garden at Osterley House. Please help if you can.

our barn outside

They started because they knew things were tough and going to get tougher for young people with learning difficulties.

“I’ve spent a significant part of my son’s life advocating, campaigning and sometimes begging for services that can meet his needs” says Our Barn co-founder Karen Adams, whose 20 year old son, Zack, has autism and severe learning difficulties. “We received a sympathetic ear and a place at a great special school, but after his 19th birthday there was going to be nothing” she continued.

Alarmed by the prospect she got together with parents Lesley Beck and Judith Sheppard who shared a similar dilemma for their children, Barnaby and Stuart.

“Lesley introduced me to David [Roughan] and Kelly [Meadows] who provided some part-time care for Barnaby, and their amazing energy sparked an idea” Karen adds. “We call them Tigger and Tigger!” laughs Lesley.

Having persuaded their local authority to use the Redlees Play Centre in Isleworth on Sunday afternoons and provide the first bit of funding, Our Barn Youth Club was born. The name came later, chosen by the young people because of the log cabin where the sessions are held.

Lead by David and Kelly the sessions focus on the skills young people with quite significant learning difficulties need to move from the structure and routine of full time education to an adult life.

“One of the early role-play sessions was how to order a drink in a coffee shop” says Our Barn co-founder Judith. “It’s not something that will form part of the national curriculum, but it needs to be taught” she continues.

ourbarn garden flyer2015

Three years later they are ready to take their next steps: a gardening project in partnership with the National Trust at Osterley House and Park.

The project involves young people working in the Tudor style kitchen garden under the guidance of Osterley’s Head Gardener. A trainee horticultural therapist is also part of their team. “This is a huge step for us” says Karen “We’re expanding services at a time when there is a commitment from national and local government to reduce social care budgets. That means we have to be innovative but we get to be creative too.”

Our Barn @Osterley starts in March and there are plans for the gardeners to form a social enterprise, amongst other things. Further details from the website: