I first met George a year ago when he had just started his MacIntyre No Limits provisions. George initially was a quiet and reserved young man who had been out of education for some time and his family were eager to get his support right and an educational package unique to his needs. George started with No Limits in June 2017 and over the past year or so his progress has been remarkable. George has Down syndrome and has displayed behaviours of concern throughout his life, but he is admired for his sense of humour, willingness to try new things and the relationships that he develops with peers and staff.
When George began his No Limits provision I didn't get the chance to work with him as I was usually supporting other students, but I was told that he is a fantastic young person to work with. George's staff team began to take shape as his educational package got underway. In the early weeks and months of his No Limits package, communication difficulties with George emerged. George had difficulty in expressing how to say 'no' to something as well as finding it difficult to show how he is feeling, for example, even if George was unhappy he would express that he was happy.
George's staff team introduced an 'emotions board' which had various symbols on, such as 'happy', 'hungry', 'tired' etc. which George could hand to his staff if he wasn't sure how to communicate requests with them. This has been a resounding success and a true reflection of how George's innovative staff team and key-worker are willing to get things right. George now carries his emotions board with him at all times and it has even been personalised with pictures of George posing for his various moods such as 'happy'.
As mentioned previously, George has an outstanding ability to build relationships with his staff and this blog details how I developed a relationship with George over the summer holidays during social support. I had met George in the office several times and always said ‘hello’ and wished him a good day. It wasn't until the summer of 2018 that I finally had the opportunity to work with George and I was grateful for this. On the first day of support we instantly developed a positive relationship through using various catchphrases, facial expressions and singing. I was working alongside another member of staff, Lyn Mawhinney, who is George's key-worker and an Intensive Interaction advocate!
Lyn has done some outstanding Intensive Interaction with other No Limits learners and was eager to have another member of staff signed off alongside her as an Intensive Interaction Competent Practitioner. She suggested I use the Intensive Interaction training I had previously received, in a music session with George. Admittedly I was slightly nervous being filmed but agreed nonetheless that it would be a fantastic opportunity as George really enjoys interacting with his staff and I was eager to start getting some videos sent out. George and I sat opposite one another in the music room at the office and the session went well – later when I watched the video back I realised the interactions were fantastic. We had banging drums, sticking tongues out, vocalisations, hand movements, laughter and so much more. I truly saw how much enjoyment both myself and George took from the interaction.
A couple of weeks later I filmed another Intensive Interaction at a trampoline park. This video was shared on social media and was viewed by members of my family who couldn't believe how happy George and myself seemed in the video. They asked me what Intensive Interaction was and I explained to them that it's an approach to interacting that is led by the learner and aims to teach the fundamentals of communication. They noted that it certainly seemed to work as “George was in complete control and waiting on your every move!” After watching the video and reflecting with Gwenne (my Intensive Interaction mentor) I certainly felt as though the interactions with George were making a difference and our relationship was stronger after introducing them into sessions.
Recently I was promoted to the role of Programme Co-ordinator within the service and after the end of the summer holidays and the return of all the other No Limits learners I haven't been able to support George again yet. I still see him in the office and always make time to interact with him which usually involves plenty of laughter, singing, sticking out of the tongues and vocalisations! It is wonderful to see how George still associates those brief moments of Intensive Interaction with me and instigates it whenever he sees me! I am due to support George again over the Christmas holidays and will be recording another video as evidence to become an Intensive Interaction Competent Practitioner (so watch this space!). They really do make a world of difference.
Programme Co-ordinator, MacIntyre
George is not the person’s real name