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Jenny is a young autistic woman with profound learning disability. She has always lived in supported living environments and has been supported by Ark for a number of years now.
Due to circumstances out of Jenny’s - and Ark’s – control, it was no longer safe for her in her home. She needed to move out as soon as possible. This meant moving suddenly, with little preparation. While this could be a difficult and traumatic experience for anyone; for someone like Jenny, who needs consistency and predictability, this was overwhelming.
Jenny lived in temporary accommodation for just over a month while a new house was found. As Ark is a registered social landlord as well as a care provider, we were able to source a suitable property from our own housing stock in the area. This meant we could set out a timeline for moving into the property, including works to make adaptations to the house and to enable the transition to the new house to be a suitable pace for Jenny.
Jenny’s staff team made a social story to explain the house move, with photos of the new house, and read this regularly with her. A social story is a tool used to help people understand situations and learn what the consequences of the situation will be. Jenny and her team went to visit the surroundings of the house before she could move, to support her familiarity with the area. This gentle introduction to Jenny’s new home supported a good transition by increasing her familiarity with her new home, promoting feelings of safety.
While adaptations were made to her new home, she was able to visit with staff to choose how her home should look. Considering Jenny’s autism profile – the hypo- and hyper-sensitivities that Jenny has, her strengths, needs and preferences – was important to create a home environment that best met her needs. Jenny can become overstimulated by her environment, so using décor that can be easily removed means that the environment can be changed to suit Jenny’s needs as required. Staff ensured that Jenny played an active role in choosing what her new home looked like through their knowledge and experience of spending time with her, and knowing how she expresses her preferences.
Including relevant professionals and other important people in Jenny’s life was also important. Specialist input from the Occupational Therapist, for example, ensured that the layout of her home, the fixtures and fittings, all suited Jenny’s needs.
Jenny was supported to move into her new home at a slow and steady pace. Since moving into her new home designed around her needs and preferences, there has been a reduction in behaviours of concern, evidenced by a decrease in incidents. Those who know Jenny well have noticed that she is vocalising more and using speech to express herself, where previously this was limited to echolalic responses.
Jenny’s story highlights the importance of good transitions and the careful consideration required to get this right for people. It demonstrates how people can overcome negative experiences with support from a professional and caring circle of people who work together to achieve a positive result.
I really love my job. Every day is different and I get a real sense of satisfaction when the person I support has a good day, or develops their skills, or tries something new.
I support a young man who uses a wheelchair to get around and has a lot of medication to take. When I first started working with him, I was a bit nervous about getting things right – making sure I didn’t do things for him that he could do himself, or not knowing the right way to do something. I got training about how to help people move around safely, and about how to help people with their medicine. I also spent time with other workers supporting the person before I worked alone. That helped me feel more confident, and I know I can ask my colleagues, my manager and look at the person’s Good Life Support Plan if I need to check something. The person I support is good at keeping us all right too, and we as a team update his notes to make sure that our knowledge about his wishes is right.
Now that I know the person well, I am able to help him speak up about things that affect him. I support him to go along to some of the participation groups that Ark runs, and to be part of the National Involvement Network. The person I support’s confidence has really grown from attending groups where people include him and listen to him.
Before I joined Ark, I didn’t work in social care and wasn’t sure if I would be good at it. Now I am working on my SVQ2 in Social Care to get a qualification while I am working and learning at my job.
Folks that know Michael say he has a great sense of humour. Michael likes getting new clothes and looking smartly dressed. He is subject to a Compulsory Treatment Order which means a Mental Health Tribunal has made decisions on his behalf about taking medication.
Michael spent time as an in-patient in hospital. When he was discharged, he got a support package from Ark to help him manage his house, his medication, and with personal care tasks like shopping and cooking. Michael had support in the past before going into hospital, but this had broken down. As a result, he felt worried that the same thing would happen again and it was making it difficult for Michael and the staff team to build good relationships. Michael is someone who has often been described as having ‘behaviours of concern’, meaning that he behaved in ways that were dangerous to both himself and others.
The staff team sought to find ways to engage positively with Michael while maintaining firm boundaries. They use positive language and developed a Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) plan in partnership with Michael. Collaborating with Michael in this way ensured that he had choice and control over his service and provided consistency. His PBS plan means that boundaries and expectations are clear and helps Michael to feel safe in his support. Michael and his staff team plan his support together which means his care and support is responsive to his changing needs.
Now that Michael’s feelings of safety and security have increased, his relationships with his staff team have improved. Working from this secure foundation helps Michael’s confidence and self-esteem, which has had a positive impact on how he interacts with his community.