The best attempts were made to try and make the environment work but high levels of distress behaviours continued; compatibility remained an issue and it was not possible to alter the environment to suit their individual needs. It was jointly decided that a new property that was more suitable would be sourced, relocating the three men together, with one man having his own self contained annex adjoined to a main house that two people would share.
As plans were being drawn up, an eviction notice from the landlord landed on the front door mat. This was October 2014 and the notice was for given for February 16th 2015; we had five months to find a house that was suitable and transition each into their new home, not easy for three people with such complex needs. Impossible you may think but here at MacIntyre, the impossible is POSSIBLE!
Before we could look at any possible properties, we first needed to indentify what sort of property was needed and how we could incorporate individual and family preferences and wishes. The first thing we did was a list of what was working and not working, a great person centred tool. We also completed sensory profiles for each person and discussed the project with health care professionals such as Speech and Language Therapists and Occupational Therapists. Wish lists were created and all the information complied to form one very long list of requirements including the area, which was vitally important with families.
As many of you know, Oxfordshire has become the most expensive area in the country to live in so finding a suitable property in the area under budget was a massive issue. We also needed to find a property that was end of chain as we could not afford for any hold ups in the proceedings. We needed a property that needed only minor alterations as we didn’t have time for planning permission for extensions to go through. The list went on.
The mission ……if we chose to accept it……near impossible…. was to find a four/ five bed house with a self contained annex within a 20 mile radius in Oxfordshire under budget, and get ready for three people with autism and complex needs to move in, in under 5 months…..and we did!
After looking at over 40 possible properties, the perfect house was found backing onto open fields and a play park in a small Oxfordshire town.
Internally, this new home was designed to meet the individual needs of each man and cater for their own unique sensory profiles & communication requirements. Communication systems and symbols were developed and used where appropriate for people who use this as their preferred method of communication. Colours were chosen by the men and their families, based on neutral colour schemes using positive or calming colours. Many Aspects of TEACCH were used throughout the house to clearly define spaces and their purpose. Attention was paid to light, noise and colour to provide a calming ‘homely’ environment, textures kept smooth; soft, window coverings to prevent glare with low wattage lighting, a ball pool provided for proprioceptive needs and even soft furnishings were purchased to meet individual requirements. Every detail was looked into and staff facilitated everyone’s involvement at every stage of the process.
On February 2nd, the keys were handed over and the property finished. Transition was only two weeks but very successful and on 16th February, as planned, all three men moved into their new home.
The change was instant and dramatic. The service was known for experiencing high levels of distress behaviours, and overnight this dropped by 70% providing clear evidence of how much the environment can make a difference to the wellbeing of the people we support.
James, Lewis and Matthew are very happy in their new home. They have their own sensory room and the garden is being developed into an outside sensory space as well. The project has transformed the lives of the men and their families. I know James especially would like to say thanks with his happy ‘eeeeeeeee’ sound for having his own space that we lovingly call ‘St. James Place’.
Click here to view this month’s MacIntyre Story, ‘MacIntyre’s Tea Party Fun’