Through MacIntyre No Limits, we support young people on the cusp of adulthood. Many come to us from restrictive backgrounds; schools where their timetables and access to spaces were strictly curtailed, or time spent out of education, where their world had dwindled to their bedroom or their computer.
The co-production experience for most No Limits learners begins during their transition period. Using a resource developed by our administrator, staff give learners a blank timetable and stickers, representing a huge range of activities. Learners are encouraged and supported to set themselves a draft timetable of activities that excite them.
Once learners begin their programmes, co-production is ongoing. Through weekly tutorials, learners are given the opportunity to express their feelings about their timetable and objectives.
For example, Dan expressed that he no longer wanted to go swimming. This was removed from his timetable immediately and replaced with an alternative session of his choice. On another occasion, Dan requested to learn domestic skills, so a session he enjoyed less was transformed to meet this.
Another key area of co-production within No Limits, is Positive Behaviour Support. Learners are supported and encouraged to take ownership of their behaviour supports and to contribute actively to developing these.
One great success was with Josh, who had been used to being given “behaviour charts” at school and in his residential setting. Josh's Key Worker identified that this was a restrictive practice and wished to phase it out, but Josh stated that he wanted to keep it. Therefore, control of the behaviour chart was handed over to Josh.
With staff support on the IT side, Josh created his own chart, complete with the ground rules he wanted to follow and the rewards he would receive. Staff were then able to support Josh to decide whether he felt he had earned his reward. This not only removed a restrictive practice but in significantly developing Josh's self-awareness and self-management, leading to a reduction in incidents.
Another co-production PBS success has been with Noah. When he started at No Limits, Noah used a very small range of words to communicate and often “froze” when uncertain about how to respond.
Staff who had some familiarity with symbolic communication created a symbol board to enable Noah to communicate some key concepts, such as emotions, personal space and basic needs. This took some time to take hold, but once it did, Noah grasped it eagerly.
As his communication increased, Noah and his staff were able to move into a co-production mode, adding to and changing the available symbols to suit Noah’s needs. For example, Noah did not like the “personal space” symbol that staff had used, so it was changed for one he recognised. Noah was also able to communicate that he wanted “sulking” added to the range of emotions, with a photograph of himself in a “sulking” pose instead of a symbol. Noah was then able to use this to communicate his need for emotional validation when things weren’t going his way.
Most recently, Noah and his staff developed a ‘switch staff’ symbol so that Noah could express anxiety about who was working with him. This gave Noah the ability to notify the staff member that he needed them to switch out. This has, as in Noah’s case, significantly reduced incidents and led to a much smoother package.
Using co-production gives us the power to engage new learners before they begin, to re-engage when they lose focus and ensure they reach their goals.