On arrival, I was warmly welcomed by Angie and Peter two of the learners who choose to attend MacIntyre’s learning centre. Angie kindly offered to escort me to the conference suite where the presentation was to be held, chattering all the way about how excited she was to be taking part in the event, sharing with me what she had achieved over the past 12 months, and literally drawing me into her life, and plans for the future.
In the suite, the atmosphere was electric; family members, learners, friends, professionals and support workers were all busy chatting and interacting with each other, laughing, smiling and listening and creating a fantastic buzz that enveloped me in excitement and joy of the day.
As an avid people watcher, I took the opportunity to wander around and take it all in before the grand ceremony commenced, and as I wandered amongst the gatherers, greeted by and greeting people I knew and those who I was soon to, it suddenly struck me that what I was experiencing, was in essence, not a formal gathering, but a reunion of great friends and colleagues.
The camaraderie I encountered on that day was all embracing; I watched as one of the learners, who appeared anxious and had begun to withdraw from the wider group, was approached by a learning support worker who sitting down beside her took her hand, leaned in her head and began to talk softly to her. Within seconds, the learner’s head
came up, her back straightened, and the worker was rewarded with a wide and beaming smile, before being led confidently back into the group. The interaction was simple and yet powerful all at the same time, and the easy
relationship between the two was tangible, so much so that I felt as though I was eavesdropping on a private conversation.
Later, during the ceremony one young man who appeared a little overawed signed to Martin, a Senior Support
Worker, who was busy filming the ceremony, that he needed support. Martin’s response was immediate. Quickly guageing the young man’s level of anxiety, Martin gained and maintained eye contact from his position at the back of the room, and without disturbing the ceremony or drawing attention to the situation, made his way to the young man, knelt before him and using sign language, eye contact, body language and touch expertly calmed the situation and lowered the gentleman’s anxiety levels to the point that he felt able to accept his own certificate of achievement and sign his happiness at this to the whole audience.
Throughout the ceremony, where learners were recognised for not only their achievements, but for what they themselves brought to their fellow learners, the staff and the centre as a whole, it was clear to me that the
investment and work that has been undertaken through the introduction of facilitation, communication and person centred approaches, underpinned by the expectation of all staff to lead and deliver high quality, meaningful
interactions at all levels and in all situations and all circumstances, had significantly contributed to the success of what I was experiencing on that day, and what everybody involved in the service acknowledge to experiencing day in
I’m not sure who was more excited on that day, the hosts, the families, the learners who were clearly leading from the front, or myself. For me it was a reminder of why I came into Learning Disabilities in the first place, and an affirmation that the continued investment and work that MacIntyre has made across our Adult Services and contributed to the delivery of a workforce that not only reflects our values and commitments, but one that delivers a great experience every day in every way for people with a Learning Disability.
I can’t wait for the next event!
Head of Operations