Carving a life skill

This Great Interaction took place in Warrington in a single person service.

Keith is a 58 year old gentleman with a mild/moderate learning disability. I have been his senior support worker for around 3 months. Keith likes to ask about my family and how everyone is doing and one Friday he asked what I would be doing with my two young daughters at the weekend. I told him we were going pumpkin picking and then carving them ready for Halloween. He asked me if he could do one. I explained that of course he could do one and asked if he had made one before. Keith replied, “no”. I was amazed at this, so I said, “tell you what Keith, I’ll pick you up a pumpkin and we can carve it together next week”. Well his face lit up with excitement.

Upon my return to work the week after, I was greeted with the most excitable person in the world. I showed Keith his pumpkin and the set which I was going to use to carve my daughters’ pumpkins and he was made up. After handover we had a cup of tea and a chat about what we needed to put the seeds into. I suggested making a pumpkin pie, but Keith said he didn’t want to and he would rather just get rid of the pumpkin seeds straight into the bin.

Here’s Keith getting the bin bag ready for the seeds:

Our tools and the pumpkin:

After getting everything set up and ready I asked Keith if he would like to draw a star shape on top of the pumpkin. He said, “why do we do that?” To which I replied, “so we can get the seeds out”. “Ooooo,” he said, “yes, I would like to do that”.

So here is Keith’s star on top of the pumpkin:

“So, what now?” Keith asked. Now the fun begins we cut along the star line to open the pumpkin.

The inside of the pumpkin after Keith’s excellent job of cutting out the star. I gave him so much praise for cutting out the top; he had a lot of difficulty cutting this as it was something he had never done before.

I then explained to Keith that it was time to get our hands dirty and scoop out all the insides of the pumpkin. Keith was a bit reluctant at first to do this, however, I said to him, “Why don’t we each put our hands in one at a time and then try and tell each other what it feels like inside? I’ll go first if you want”. Keith liked that idea, so I put my hand in and said, “errrgggghhhh it feels slimily!” The expression on my face made Keith double over in stiches laughing. “Let me have a go,” he said. So he did what I had done and I think the expression on his face was probably the same as mine. But he did clean the pumpkin out!

“So now Keith we have to draw the face on the pumpkin,” I explained. “Oooo,” he said, “can I do it?” I replied, “Of course you can”.

And here is the face Keith opted for – a not so scary face, which I gave him so much praise for.

The next step was to say, “Now Keith, it’s time to carve out the face, the same as you did with the star on the top.”

The finished product. Well done Keith!

Now this activity and interaction has given Keith so much joy and happiness that we have already planned to go out and actually pick a pumpkin next year.
And the transferable skills? Well, it has also given Keith the confidence to cut up his own fruit, which he does a lot better than some of the chefs you see on TV!

So using the facilitation skills, being creative (my hands going into the pumpkin first), lots of warmth and encouragement, stepping in and back (being responsive) and thinking about facilitating learning which I learned about on the ‘Advanced Great Interactions: Facilitating Progression’ course has given Keith lots of enjoyment and helped him to feel really good about himself, but importantly it has also given him a new life skill.
I couldn’t be more proud!

Nick O’Neill
Senior Support Worker


  • Emma Killick says:

    Great Blog Nick – the way you involve and encourage Keith is wonderful. I particularly love the way you turned the scooping out of the insides into a fun if rather yucky shared experience. Please tell Keith I think it is a fab pumpkin face especially for a first one!

  • Kate Webb says:

    Oh this is so lovely to read! And what super photos, thankyou!

  • Tess Marshall says:

    Nick, this is such a good story, and so well told, I was visualizing every step along the way of Keith’s pumpkin adventure. What a great result.

  • Natalie Macpherson says:

    I love it when learning is fun! Really demonstrates how learning can be brought into fun activities that are motivating for people. Excellent pumpkin carving skills by Keith and great facilitation skills by you Nick.

  • Andrea Parr says:

    Nick, amazing blog, it makes me want to put my hands in a pumpkin too and share the same feeling. It is wonderful to see what great facilitation skills you used to bring about a wonderful outcome and experience for Keith. Well done and thankyou for sharing.

  • Wendy Cook says:

    A great blog Nick the interactions with you are Keith are a pleasure to see. The banter between you two is truly lovely. 🙂

  • Victoria Lockett says:

    Nick, What a great detailed blog you have made. What an inspirational guide, step by step carving a pumpkin. I would certainly use this guide myself as I have never carved a pumpkin out. What a wonderful creative project for Keith to get involved with and you using the great facilitation skills. Thank You for sharing.

  • Jackie Alexander says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Keith has done am amazing job at carving out the pumpkin and it certainly looks like he had a lot of fun doing this and then chopping his own fruit.

  • Andrea Hartley says:

    Well done nick,great blog and the way you used your facilitation skills was fantastic.keith you can see in the photos what a great time you had carving your pumpkin.

  • Maureen White says:

    Well done Nick, the way this blog has been completed is fantastic, loved all the pictures. The relationship you have built with Keith is brilliant. The facilitation skills you used are explained each step of the way.

  • Mark owen evans says:

    Nice blog nick it was a real pleasure to read and see what a good relationship you guys have with each other.
    Well done dude

  • Paula Kehoe says:

    Well done Nick really enjoyed reading your blog and getting an inight into your work well done

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