Including all for a Hawaiian hullabaloo

Guiding is for all girls. Lindy tells us how 1st Barham Guides included her daughter Tabitha to go camping for the first time

My daughter Tabitha, who has Down's syndrome, took part in every aspect of the camp and absolutely loved it.

Tabitha is 12 and a member of 1st Barnham Guides. Tabitha enjoys music (very loud!), chocolate (a lot!), everything to do with ponies and she has Down's syndrome. She had never been to Brownies, but through a scheme run by children's services group Core Assets, Tabitha was paired with a fully-trained 'buddy' to enable her to go to a club of her choice with full one-to-one support.

How to get Tabitha to the camp

When the letter came home earlier this year saying there was going to be a Hawaiian-themed camp weekend with 1st Yapton Guides, we put on our thinking caps to see if we could somehow get Tabitha to the camp. Luckily we have never been met with anything other than inclusiveness from Guides. Any worries the Leaders had were purely practical — we just had to come up with the right answers.

Applying to the fund

Parents and Leaders may or may not know that there is a  nationally-held Girlguiding fund to help make events accessible to girls with disabilities. We applied to this to help fund Tabitha's buddy and contacted our county care alarm service to borrow a pressure-mat alarm that would go off if Tabitha wandered out of the tent during the night.

Up until this point, not only had Tabitha never spent a night away from the family - she had never camped either (I may not have shared this fact with the Guide Leaders!). Still, this felt like the right thing to do.

Children with additional needs often get anxious when things around them change or routines are broken. We'd convinced everyone that it was a good idea to let Tabitha attend the camp but now we had to convince Tabitha that she would have fun staying away from home! But thanks to some contraband snacks for a midnight feast and Tabitha's buddy taking a piece of tech for her to watch something on come bedtime, Tabitha was asleep in her tent by midnight. Even though reliable sources tell me some of the other girls were still awake at 2am.

Tabitha absolutely loved it

Tabitha took part in every aspect of the camp and absolutely loved it. I got regular updates at home on how it was going and the happy, beaming, confident girl that came home on Sunday afternoon was a joy to behold. I heard stories of marshmallows round the campfire (her first time actually being brave enough to taste marshmallows, which are disgusting according to Tabitha), Hawaiian dancing (I got the full demonstration), loads of crafts and games, and she brought home a cookie mix in a jar which we had to make first thing the next morning.

Afterwards she seemed more grown-up

After she went to bed that night, Tabitha's dad asked me whether I thought it was possible that she seemed more confident and grown-up after one night away — my answer was a definite yes!

If you're a Leader or a parent and you're thinking about taking a child with additional needs away on camp, I would say definitely give it your best shot. It's a win-win situation - Tabitha had a fab time, all the people involved in making it work had a huge sense of achievement afterwards and all the other girls got to hang out with my very cool, mighty girl.

Girlguiding is for girls of all abilities

If your daughter has additional needs and would enjoy guiding, find out more about how we can help her get involved.