Our Program

Art and Woodwork

We have two art tutors who each come in one morning a week for our in-house art groups and we regularly visit the MENZ Shed in Naenae for woodwork. We have completed a range of projects, including constructing a model of Petone and creating a Thumbs Up Art Trail, where we produced a number of paintings which were framed and hung in local businesses.


CookingAt Thumbs Up we run both group and individual cooking activities. We have a small group who cook a Friday lunch.  Anyone can order a cooked lunch from the cooking group who organize the lunch from budgeting and shopping through to preparing and serving the meal.  In addition many of our young people have goals based around learning basic food preparation skills and receive one-to-one teaching of these skills.


Thumbs Up has contracted Claire Hewitt from Igniting the Creative Spark, for a number of years to run two in-house drama groups.  Drama provides an opportunity to explore our individual creativity in a safe and fun environment and is much enjoyed. Drama sessions are high energy, full of laughs and provide plenty of practice for the inner actor/actress within each of us to come out!

Check out the link below to see all of the amazing drama activities that Thumbs Up and Claire have been working on up to December 2018.


Communication and Literacy

LiteracyIn 2015 we secured funding which allowed us to bring in Inclusive Communication Therapist Shannon Hennig. With Shannon, we have developed communication goals for every person who attends our service. Shannon also runs multiple weekly literacy groups with different focuses for different people and needs. One group Shannon runs is called the Switch Group, this group focuses on using buttons and switches to support communication for people who have limited verbal communication.  Members of the groups are given lots of activities to practice reading and writing skills. In addition, the sessions provides the opportunity for Shannon to get to know individuals better, offering more opportunities for communication and engagement.

We see communication skills as a key link in the chain of a good quality of life and we are proud of what is being achieved through the communication skills program.


Music is one of the most popular activities in our center and we offer it in a range of ways and in a variety of settings. We start each day with a music circle which provides a nice space for settling into the center and the day. John Paul Young, our in-house music therapist, runs several music groups throughout the week, focusing on aspects such as relaxation, participation, self-expression, turn taking and many other skills.

In the community music sessions we visit other organisations in the community to share our music, and through music we interact socially and build friendships with others.

One of our upcoming community music programmes is called Song Leading and we are preparing to start this new venture in the coming months.

We see music as unique in its ability to reach almost everyone. It is easily one of the most popular activities in the centre and we continue to develop ideas around how this amazing tool can be used in different ways.

Community Inclusion and Engagement

Andrew at the bakery

One of our key focuses at Thumbs Up is the inclusion and engagement of our young people in their own communities. We strongly believe that participating in and contributing to your community in various ways is an incredibly important element to achieving a high quality of life.  We aim to spend at least 50% of our time away from our base.

Included in community inclusion are various roles which provide opportunities for contribution. To this end we are proud to be a part of the Meals on Wheels program which has run for many years.  Some people do work experience placements in local community agencies such as the Settlers Museum and the Dowse in Lower Hutt.  These roles are valuable in building relationships between our service and others in the community while also enabling relationships to be built on the personal and individual level.

Sports & Recreation

We have a full time Sports & Recreation Facilitator at Thumbs Up who runs multiple activities that fall under this umbrella. Over the past couple of years there have been many sports activities, from community sailing with Sailability to Boot-camp style fitness groups. There is a weekly tramp/walk, challenging those taking part to develop physical skills and fitness.  For those who prefer water based activities there are a number of swimming based groups including a group who goes to the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre to make use of their hydro therapy pool. There are many smaller sports/games groups that are run in-house and at the local parks in the warmer months. The Facilitator runs a weekly gym group which is held at Jenkins Gym. We also attend the Rimutaka Gym Sports once a month which has been an awesome experience and has provided a space to build on many physical skills such balance and coordination. Once a year we also get together with Ignite Sport and run a day course at Brookfield Scout Camp where we do a number of fun activities from team games to zooming down the flying fox.