One of the things that fascinated me when I was browsing through the MacIntyre website and reading articles and relevant information about the company prior to my job interview more than a year ago, were articles around Great Interactions and how the facilitation skills had radicalised the way staff engage and communicate with people they support regardless of their level of learning difficulties and abilities. As they say “it’s not rocket science”, but it was very effective judging from the various testimonies I read, and impacted on the lives of many people who received support. But as I learned later on, there is nothing better than experiencing this process first hand.
Fast forward to a few months into my role as the Head of Service for The Haven. I admit that it was a huge challenge right from the very start as there were more pressing problems then, and given the dynamics of the service that was still undergoing major changes and challenges including staff recruitment, training, working with social services and the transition of people into the service, it was not an ideal time to focus on something less relevant like Great Interactions, as we so wrongly thought then!
I was booked on the three days Great Interactions Training back in September 2015 together with two of our senior staff. The Great Interactions Audit was any eye opener for us and although we expectedly got failing marks in most of the categories, it was an honest assessment of ourselves and an admission of our failure to make things better for the people we support. However my colleagues and I agreed that we would not let these results hinder us from moving forward and we were determined to make radical changes in the way we did Great Interactions, ensuring that our staff team worked together to make things better.
We now had the bigger challenge of refocusing our efforts to improve on our Great Interactions with the people we support. The first few weeks were focused on team meetings, supervisions and revisiting Great Interaction materials on our E-Learning modules, as well as input and support from the Great Interactions Team: all vital in making the team progress slowly but surely towards our goal. We shared experiences on what worked well and what didn’t, we involved families and got valuable insights, feedback and suggestions from them and most of all we spent more time engaging and building our relationships with the young people we support.
I have observed encouraging results of our hard work as days and then weeks passed. It was a joy to see staff actively engaging with James, one of the young people we support, as he and staff just sat lazily on the grass in the back garden one sunny afternoon. James was happily humming a tune, whilst they appeared to pick bits of grass throwing them into the air. Or a time when James just wanted to play with the pegs by the clothesline and staff joined in playing as they moved the pegs along the line. I could see how James was so happy doing this and staff actively responded and interacted with him: it was Great Interactions at work.
Great Interactions with Christopher, the other young person we support, resulted in staff being able to support him to understand the danger of picking up and swallowing pieces of toilet tissues. Although it was a gradual, slow process Chris responded positively and stopped doing this for a long while. These examples and a few others clearly demonstrated to us how something simple and practical like Great Interactions can do wonderful things in the lives of people we support.
Further proof of the wonderful work that the team have done around Great Interactions was evident in the reduced incidents of behaviours of concern in the past 6 months.
Things seldom stay still and we are now faced with new challenges as Daniel moved in a few weeks ago to join Chris and James. Things will be different and we know it will be hard work, but as a team we believe that we can face these challenges with a lot more confidence and enthusiasm, knowing that our skills and knowledge in Great Interactions will serve us all well in the weeks and days to come.
Head of Service
No Limits Bedfordshire