The activity centre has embraced digitality

25.5.2023 9.35
Some of the creators of the Kunkun Sanomat magazine. From left, Max Österberg, Niko Puranen, Jaana Töyry, Jonne Salin, Terja Karvinen, Milla Leinonen, Samuli Soininen, Rasool Al-Moadhen.

Creating their own magazine has been a familiar activity in many activity centres over the years. The people at the Kuninkaantie Activity Centre in Espoo also decided to create their own magazine, but this time with a slightly modern twist. They decided to make the Kunkun Sanomat magazine into a virtual online magazine. 

The idea was influenced by the Erityistä voimaa (“Special strength”) project organised by the Finnish Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, which the activity centre also participated in. During this project, both the staff and the clients received instruction on the diverse possibilities of what can be done with tablet computers. 
“I participated in the group as somewhat of a ‘guinea pig,’ as I am the oldest instructor at the activity centre and not good with computers. Initially, it felt like a mistake to participate. I had no skills whatsoever with these devices. But then it turned out to be really interesting and now I wouldn’t trade instructing this group for anything,” says Terja Karvinen, the instructor of the “digigroup” who participated in the project. 

Tablets are not just for games but can be used for a wide variety of things.

After the project ended, we became part of the Wellbeing Services County, and a new digital inclusion unit was a integrated in the Disability Services. The unit's special instructor Samuli Soininen joined our group’s activities, and we started brainstorming our next project together with the clients.  The traditional idea of creating a magazine came up, but this time we decided to use newer methods. 

“We divided the tasks among the group—deciding on who would research the history of the activity centre, who would conduct the interviews, and where we would go to obtain stories for the articles. We considered all the tasks necessary to produce the magazine and agreed on who would do each task,” Terja recalls.  

The clients worked splendidly in pairs, with one taking pictures and the other conducting the interview. Transcription became a real matter of heart for one of the clients. Each member of the group found a task they enjoyed.

Now the magazine is nearing completion, and the group has been divided into two units. Together with Samuli, some are finalizing the magazine, while others are working with Terja to plan the next digital project. 

“Creating the magazine was fun and relaxed, but there was also some tension in the air. Some texts disappeared or overlapped, and inserting pictures was occasionally challenging. However, everyone is excited about the work and are always eagerly waiting for the digigroup to start,” Terja says. 

The clients who participated in the digigroup gave very positive feedback. Jonne reported learning how to take photographs with the tablet; Jaana talked about learning to use the tablet in diverse ways. Max and Milla enjoyed conducting interviews, and Emma liked taking pictures and writing articles. 

The Kuninkaantie Activity Centre offers a diverse range of activities

The Kuninkaantie Activity Centre is visited daily by approximately 100 clients, of which around 40 clients with mild intellectual disabilities participate in work activities. There are several different activity groups. Exposure to working life is gained through activities in various locations, such as cleaning church premises or doing stable work at a horse barn.

“We do all sorts of things here. Yard work, snow clearing, and currently our greenhouse is being prepared for the growing season. We may also assist with dining, laundry, dishwashing, or wiping tables in the dining room. Daytime activities also include other wellness activities, such as exercise, outdoor activities, music, and relaxation. Celebrations, such as May Day or Midsummer, add a wonderful variety to our activities. Meeting friends and peers is an important part of the day. Employment coaches support individuals who can manage independently at an external workplace, with the support of a work community, by helping them in finding a supported work position or job,” explains Eeva-Maija Kalavainen, the service manager of the Kuninkaantie Activity Centre. 

Learning from traditions while moving towards new operating models

The service line manager for the Wellbeing Services County’s Disability Services, Lena Astala, explains that traditional activity centres have started to change in the recent years. Many might still picture the rug weaving and pottery work of former work centres. That remains part of the reality today too, as hands-on activities, including carpet weaving, are enjoyable tasks that some of our clients want to do. 
“Hands-on activities will undoubtedly continue to be part of our activities, but as the world digitalises around us, we want to offer our clients opportunities for digital inclusion. It is our outright obligation,” Lena asserts. 

Digital inclusion and skills can only be improved through practice. Therefore, activity centres are increasingly incorporating activities done with tablets as well as practice on using clients’ own smart devices and various digital services. For example, responsible use of social media is a tremendously important skill for young adults today.