Things To Celebrate

March 2016 002My presentation at last week’s National Autistic Society conference seemed to go well I’m pleased to say. I will share a summary of it, and some reflections on the conference more generally, very soon. In the meantime I have two pieces of news to share.

Firstly, I am delighted to report that Dylan started an ASDAN qualification in Horticulture yesterday. Isn’t that marvellous? I have mentioned, in previous posts, how much Dylan enjoys working with the activities coordinator in the social enterprise shop at his  home. This has become a very positive aspect of Dylan’s programme and it’s fantastic that the work Dylan is doing is being recognised in this way.

In my conference presentation last week I referred to my attempts, when Dylan left school, to secure post-19 education provision for him. It seemed to me that, in my area at least, the developing agenda around community-based autism services had created a situation which was working well for some individuals but had nothing to offer to others. This seemed, in general, to divide around what is sometimes referred to as ‘high and low functioning’ adults (terms I dislike).

So many people, at the time, were of the view that education was not possible, or even appropriate, given Dylan’s intellectual disability and limited communication. I should focus instead, I was told, on identifying social care provision for Dylan. By the time the Local Authority had accepted their obligation to provide education services to autistic adults with complex needs, Dylan was too unsettled to access such provision. It is ironic, perhaps, that it is through a residential setting  – a model of provision which some people argue should be phased out – that Dylan has finally been able to access the education which is appropriate to his needs and from which he can benefit.

I have always argued that the challenge, in the aftermath of the Winterbourne View scandal, is to ensure residential settings for adults with disabilities are excellent rather than to close them down. While community-based support will be an infinitely better option than residential care for some adults (providing it is properly resourced) there will always be others for whom residential services are essential. Our task, surely, is to identify what the key factors are in the development of excellence in relation to residential settings for autistic adults?

When parents and relatives visit a prospective home for autistic adults they try to make careful judgements about the setting. Is this a safe place? Is it a happy home? Are the residents purposefully engaged and well-supported by trained and caring staff? Such judgements can be difficult to make, however, and parents receive little support with the decision. We do our best but, inevitably, worry about whether this will be good enough.

2Happily I’ve never doubted that the home I eventually chose for Dylan was the best that could be. Even so, it was fantastic to receive independent confirmation of this at the weekend: Dylan’s home, I am delighted to say, has been judged ‘outstanding’ in a CQC Inspection. It’s a wonderful acknowledgment of the time, effort and care the staff and management invest in Dylan and the other young people at the home.

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The pictures of Dylan are from the Home’s February newsletter to parents. They show Dylan working on the firebrick stand he has been making as part of his woodwork project.

 

9 thoughts on “Things To Celebrate

  1. Wonderful. Everything you have said about this home so far has made me feel it must be an extraordinary place. That it should be judged officially ‘outstanding’ is marvellous and uplifting, and can set an example and a way forward. It can be done: HERE it is.

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    • Thank you Nell 🙂 I am not often on the side of Inspection teams (who so often seem to focus on the wrong boxes) but in this instance they seem to be in alignment with the view from the ground that good things are happening here 🙂

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  2. Hi Liz
    I’m interested to hear that Dylan is doing a qualification in horticulture. I expected him to be doing something connected with woodwork or craft, though horticulture sounds good, too.. Does he work in the gardens at his home?
    It does sound like a good life you’ve developed for him with the support of the home. Having worked in a Camphill community, I was pleased to hear that there are mainstream versions of this type of provision for autistic adults. How many such places are there in the UK, I wonder?
    Still loving the soap and jam that Dylan made. Keep us posted on his progress.

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    • Hi Caroline – I also would have expected Dylan to be doing something connected with his woodwork rather than horticulture too. Perhaps there isn’t one or maybe it is a question of moving through levels? I will ask the coordinator when I see him. Yes, Dylan works in the poly-tunnel and orchard and also plants up in the shop and waters etc. I think that there are lots of links with the Camphill life, which is something I have always been attracted to. The management and staffing of Dylan’s home is, of course, quite different to a Camphill Community. I think CCs have hit some challenges meeting legislative standards re-care given their use of volunteers? I haven’t followed the situation closely but seem to remember seeing something about this. I had forgotten you had done this in the past, Caroline. Glad you are enjoying the soap and jam! I bought some soap last weekend and am loving it – sweet pea 🙂 Not opened my mother’s day jam yet – I need to make some bread 🙂 Thanks for reading, x

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