Small Steps with Charlie

Charlie joined MacIntyre in January 2015. She had a couple of taster sessions and decided to join Stony Coffee Shop. In the first few weeks there were lots of observations but very little communication from Charlie. Charlie is an extremely quiet, shy young lady so her eye contact was minimal and conversations were limited to ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers.

Charlie worked in very small steps and at each stage of any food preparation she would stand still and wait for guidance with no communication at all. Her head would be low so you could not get eye contact. Staff had many conversations reflecting on our observations and how we could create something to encourage Charlie. We made Charlie a visual aid card, a sequence that showed pictures of the step by step stages on how to make egg mayonnaise and as Charlie got to each step she would cross it out. Staff made Charlie aware that we would be next to her. We bent down to Charlie’s level to give her eye contact, held her hand and asked her not to be afraid to speak to us or any other members of the team.

Charlie worked with the sequence and made a fantastic job of egg mayonnaise. She was so pleased with herself. She had done this independently. We as staff received a lovely smile from Charlie.

Charlie also used a now and next visual aid that helped her work through the morning jobs. In time we saw Charlie’s confidence grow. She is giving us small amounts of eye contact and we bend down to Charlie’s level to listen to her very quiet and very occasional conversations.

One year on and Charlie is using a visual aid menu card, going into the café and taking orders from the customers. We always position ourselves to Charlie’s level and eye contact and communication is on the increase.

Charlie is always going to be a quiet young lady but she now has a very loud smile on her face when she feels she has achieved something.

It has taken a lot of small steps for Charlie but she has achieved 1 large stride!!!

(Pictures above: Charlie using the sequence to make butternut squash soup)

Charlie had support to add her own comment:
I feel happy to come to work and like to make soup. I like to cut vegetables. At the end of the day I like to clean fridges.

Tracey Martin
Learning Support Worker
Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes

If you think a sequence would be useful for someone you support watch our short film on how to make one.


  • Emma Killick says:

    Thanks for sharing this story with us Tracey – it’s great to see how much Charlie has grown in confidence as well as all the practical skills she is learning.
    Working in a busy retail environment with so much going on and so many different things to learn would be daunting for anyone but the support you and your colleagues provide has made all the difference. Great stuff!

  • Tess Marshall says:

    I love the way this story sets out so clearly the incremental changes.

    Charlie, I’m glad you like making soup – I enjoy eating it.

  • Karl Amata says:

    It is always encouraging to hear about the good things happening within MacIntyre especially with regards to the learners as it encourages other staff to go for it and keep trying to bridge the communication gaps ,gain the learners confidence and trust and start to build a good productive relationship as you have done,well done.
    Hope you continue to go from strength to strength and share your successes in the future.

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