Diane* is 22 years old and started attending the Day Centre here at St Elizabeth’s just over 3 years ago. She lives at home with her parents and two older brothers.
Diane was a student at a local College and when her 3-year placement was coming to its conclusion, she started attending a different Day Service. However, this wasn’t very successful and Diane was unhappy there. St Elizabeth’s Day Opportunities programme was recommended to Diane and her parents, and they got in touch. Diane came in for an assessment and we thought we could meet her needs.
Diane started attending for one day a week whilst continuing her College placement of 4 days per week. She quickly settled in and became familiar with and comfortable in this environment. During her college holidays, Diane increased her attendance at the Centre.
Diane has a diagnosis of epilepsy, autism and is a non-verbal communicator. Her preferred method of communication is to show you or take you to what she wants. She has used picture cards and /or Makaton in the past, but she prefers to show you, as she lives very much in the moment and likes an immediate response to show you have understood what she is communicating. Diane uses a range of vocalisations to express her emotions along with facial expressions. She also uses repetitive physical movements in both a soothing relaxing manner and also to indicate impatience or that her anxiety is building.
When Diane first attended the service she was very unsettled and found the transition from a college placement with its stricter routine to an adult service where she had a range of choices very difficult.
Diane finds repetitive movements and motion have a calming effect, and she likes to walk. The large grounds, different rooms and buildings across our site all needed exploring and she spent a lot of time walking routes and revisiting rooms until she was familiar with the large site. Diane has learnt that we don’t expect her to stay in one activity for the whole period of time: it is her choice if she wants to leave, have some time out and re-join the session if and when she wants to.
Diane has built relationships with staff and knows that she won't be pressured into attending just because that is on her timetable. Staff working with her will assess her mood and tolerance on a daily basis, reducing the likelihood of her becoming stressed and pre-empting her behaviour breaking down by offering alternatives.
Thanks to the hard work and determination of staff, alongside our personal approach – treating every individual as the unique person that they are – both her parents and the staff working with Diane say she is like a different person.
When Diane finished her College placement she initially attended the Day Centre for 2 days a week. This has increased to 4 days as she became more settled and familiar with the Centre.
Diane has tried different activities, initially based on information gathered from her family and carers as to what her interests were, and now has a weekly programme of varied activities that caters to Diane’s interests and preferences. Diane attends sensory sessions, music, and works in our on-site Charity Shop, run and managed by Day Services. Diane also now goes swimming once a week, something that she hasn’t had the opportunity to participate in since her schooldays. Diane has shown progression in all her activities: each activity has activity-specific goals that are set for her e.g. accepting a hand massage in her multi sensory session. These are regularly reviewed and updated, to ensure the activity is still relevant and meeting her needs.
Diane’s attendance at Day Services has been a learning curve for both her and the staff team. Diane is noticeably more settled. She has built relationships based on trust, knowing that familiar staff will respond appropriately to her and will recognise when she is finding an environment or situation difficult. When Diane feels overwhelmed and experiences sensory overload, she has confidence that the staff will provide the necessary support for her to regain stability. Staff have learnt to read her body language, vocalisations and general manner and try to intervene with guidance and alternatives.
At the Day Centre, Diane has the chance to socialise with her peers and make friendships with other clients. Her tolerance for the company of others has increased. When she first attended here, she appeared completely unaware and uninterested in others. She will now choose to spend small amounts of time in the company of others, depending on what the activity is. When Diane first attended here she had to be transported to and from the Centre by her parents; she now travels in a taxi with a driver and escort rather than relying on her family.
Over the 3 years she has been at St Elizabeth’s, her family say she has become a different person. Her mum says that she is so much happier and really enjoys coming in – she has often heard her laughing out loud. Her parents say how relieved they are that Diane has found somewhere where she is happy, has the opportunity for new experiences and where she has been given the chance to learn and develop.
* Names have been changed to protect the identity of the individual involved.