Tag Archives: Adult Services

Accessing & Assessing Social Activities for Autistic Adults

Today I made the difficult decision to cancel one of Harry’s two weekly social activities.

For the last few months Harry has been going to his school’s Youth Club which takes place on a weekday evening from 6pm till 8pm. His attendance was suggested by a member of the Adult Services team who attended Harry’s Statement of SEN review in January and we were very grateful for the opportunity to extend Harry’s social activities. (Up until that point I didn’t even know that school ran a youth club even though he’s been attending this school for 18mths).

Perhaps our distance from school meant teachers thought we wouldn’t be interested. His school is a 45 minute drive from where we live so, in order to attend, various other support processes would have to be set up. For instance it would be pointless in Harry going if it meant that we would have to take him and bring him back. So, Adult Services suggested that they could arrange for a worker from MENCAP to collect Harry at the end of the school day, walk with him to the nearby community centre where Harry could access their tea-time service, and then accompany him back to school for the start of Youth Club.

In order to avoid the hour & a half round trip to collect Harry at the end of Youth Club we decided to ask his school taxi company to provide that service – at an additional cost to us of £30 a time. When I discussed the possibility of Adult Services covering the cost within his ‘funding package’ I was told that Harry was in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and that this was what DLA was intended to cover. So be it! On top of that we also had to find the cost of his tea at the community centre, a further £2.60. Again, that seemed reasonable enough if it meant that Harry was getting the chance to interact with his peers, and perhaps even making a few friends.

Harry started going to Youth Club a few months ago. But I soon heard from people who saw him at the tea time service that he looked a bit lost, sat on his own and didn’t join in with activities. And, although Harry isn’t the most talkative of people, it seemed to us that all he really seemed to do at Youth Club was watch films. Admittedly, this is one of his favourite activities but it didn’t seem to us to be a particularly ‘social’ activity and we expressed doubts at to the value of his attendance.

Last week those attending Youth Club took advantage of the warm weather and walked to a local pond where they fed the ducks. This made a nice change from sitting indoors watching films but at a cost of £32.60 a week we felt it was time to acknowledge that it wasn’t making the best use of Harry’s DLA.

So, today I called Adult Services, explained the situation and asked them to cancel the support work provided by MENCAP. They were very understanding and told me that, in the meantime, they had been in touch with Action For Children to see whether they could offer any activities that Harry could access.

Until then, Harry is back down to one social activity a week…

Visit to a Respite Care Home for Autistic Adults

Just typing those words seems wrong. A ‘care home’ makes me thinks of old people sitting around in mis-matched armchairs gazing blankly into space. I know that’s not what all care homes are like – I visited half a dozen not so long ago when looking for accommodation for an elderly great-aunt – but that is the image that is conjured up in my mind.

In reality, of course, the care home is not like that at all. Far from it. After a drive of 45 minutes on a bright, sunny day I found myself at a large, detached Edwardian villa on the outskirts of a seaside town. It had been adapted to provide accommodation for up to 7 young adults on the autistic spectrum.

My overall impression was of a light, spacious house which consisted of: a communal lounge containing comfy sofas and armchairs for watching TV; an adjoining dining area equipped with several small tables and chairs where guests (or – as they have to be referred to by council staff – ‘service users’) could take their meals; a sensory room; a computer room; a communal kitchen where guests are encouraged to make their own drinks and join in with the preparation of meals; a wetroom and 3 ground floor bedrooms suitable for use by those with mobility issues. Upstairs were a further 4 bedrooms all with their own washbasins; a separate shower room and a bathroom.

Outside the garden was large with lawned areas, a pond, a summerhouse, seating areas, mature trees and flowerbeds: perfect for Harry’s obsession with sticks! I could easily envisage him pottering around quite happily in the sunshine.

We spent a great deal of time discussing Harry’s individual likes and dislikes, routines and behaviour. It seemed to me that staff would endeavour to accommodate Harry’s interests wherever possible. Activities available included Wii, computer games, DVDs, jenga, jigsaws, board games and barbecues. The home is located within walking distance of several pubs and shops and Harry would be able to go to the cinema if he wished.

At several points during the discussion I found myself getting quite emotional as staff commented on how lovely Harry sounded and that they were looking forward to meeting him. They expressed surprise that we hadn’t accessed respite care for him before. As I explained how easy-going and laid back Harry was I found myself wondering the same thing.

Although there were seven rooms these were not all occupied all the time so the mix of people would change over the course of the fortnght. In August, when Harry would be staying, we discovered that he would know several of the other guests who had been recent leavers from his current school. It was good to know that he would see some familiar faces whilst ‘on holiday’.

In my research I had found that the weekly cost of a stay at the home in 2009 was £233 so when we finally discussed costs it was with some relief that I learned Harry’s funding package from Adult Services would easily cover his stay.

By the end of my visit 2 hours later my mind had been put at ease. We agreed on a series of familiarisation visits starting with a Sunday afternoon trip in a few weeks’ time. In short, I was so taken with the place I’d have happily booked myself in and you can’t say better than that!