I started working at Abbey House in 1996. I had no experience working with adults with learning disabilities, apart from teaching a keep fit class at the local day centre, and at the time I had no idea that twenty years later I would be writing a blog telling you of the amazing journey that I have travelled.
Abbey House is home to six adults with profound and multiple learning disabilities. We were managed by local Mencap for the first 10 years that I was there and then MacIntyre won the tender to take over.
Sara was the Senior Support Worker then (and still is!) and she was one of the first members of staff to do the four day Great Interaction training with Gwenne. When Sara came back with all the ideas and information from her training I was instantly hooked on the idea of Great Interactions and how these can support us to make services more personalised and promote increasing choice and control.
Don’t get me wrong, we hadn’t sat around for ten years not communicating with the people we support or having meaning full interactions, but this was exciting and was just the tip of the iceberg.
I completed my training with Gwenne and together with Sara we started to introduce schedules, pictorial rotas and sequences. All the staff learnt MacIntyre’s 50 core signs and stared to use them to back up their verbal communication. Staff members were encouraged to spend time really getting to know each person, to become more creative in their interactions and to share information with others so we were consistent in our approach.
I had always been interested in how we communicate with people who function at a level prior to objects of reference, ‘facilitating to connect’ was the name given to skills we used to support someone to understand the world around them.
Slowly the balance began to shift, staff became less task orientated and began to spend a lot of time lying on the floor with people, enjoying the time that they spent with the people we support, being creative in their approach and reflecting on what worked well and what didn’t work so well.
‘My Key to Developing Facilitation Skills’ is a fantastic tool which encourages staff to reflect on their practice. These were brought into supervisions and discussed at staff meetings. Everyone began to see the many ways that we could make interactions fun and exciting; staff now had the knowledge and confidence to reach their full potential in their role.
The people we support responded to the hard work that we were doing, they became much more engaged and family members commented on how much happier and content they seemed. It didn’t happen overnight; in fact it took years of trying to be more interesting than crinkly paper! But we did it!
One of the best moments of my career was when a member of staff said to me ‘I just love the way that Debbie looks at you when you walk into her room, she really loves being with you doesn’t she’.
During my years I have found the work I have done with the Great Interactions team to be motivating, informative and exciting. I was fortunate enough to be involved with the ‘Recruiting to the Macintyre Profile’ workshops, looking at ways that the people we support can be involved in choosing their own staff. I am on the eLearning module explaining how we use chat boxes and how we discovered that someone we support didn’t like sweet and sour chicken!
I am now a Best Practice Mentor for the ‘Experts by Experience’ checklists, and we are planning to visit the services within Worcester to audit them on their Great Interactions, facilitation skills and how the MacIntyre Promises are being implemented. So watch this space…….
Thank you Great Interactions team for all your training and support over the years.
Best Practice Mentor: Great Interactions