I started working with disabled children in 1999 so I’m celebrating twenty years this year. For some of this time I worked in Lambeth’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) in the Autism and Complex Needs Intervention Support Team. This was a specialist team focused on supporting children with autism – a severe learning disability and challenging behaviour. We provided intensive, holistic support at home and in school to help both families and teachers to understand and reduce challenging incidents.
I worked closely with families and with occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, and educational and clinical psychologists. Most of the children I worked with were non-verbal, which meant their behaviour was often a crucial form of communication.
My work fell mainly into three areas:
Addressing external factors that might be impacting on a family, mainly poor housing and lack of social care – together these were the biggest, most complicated and often most frustrating parts of my job.
The second big area involved developing programmes aimed at managing specific behaviours. This could be making changes to a child’s environment, addressing their sensory needs or teaching them new skills.
The third thing I spent a lot of time doing was making resources for the children. These were tailored to the specific child and situation, and I made lots of visual timetables, social stories and customised count down timers. I used the laminator a lot!
Fat Sister mentioned that my niece, affectionately known as Bean, was finding it hard on days she was at work. Fat Sister’s a doctor and so her hours change and she often has to work overnight. This must be hard for Bean to understand, so I thought I’d make her a visual timetable so she could start to understand what to expect.
I had great fun making this and even more fun showing it to Bean a few days ago. Together we planned her week and stuck it on the wall.
This evening King Russell said “Bean’s been asking to go swimming loads for the last couple of days – I’m going to take her tomorrow – would you like to come?”’ I immediately said I would. King Russell went on to say how strange he thought it was that Bean was suddenly so into going swimming. I laughed and explained that it probably wasn’t that random because I’d put a picture of a swimming pool in as part of her planner.
So it seems as though the planner is working well. Not only does Bean know what to expect each day, she can also have more of a say in what we all do.