Enabling Tom's confidence to shine

Livability care staff are titled ‘enabling support workers’ for good reason – because enabling is one of our core values, at the heart of the services we deliver for people with disabilities. Livability East Midlands’ Jonathan Laws shares his experience of enabling Tom, who is autistic.

I was first introduced to Tom, alongside his mother Claire, in our day service. I remember him being a little timid at first, shying away from what must have seemed an intimidating group of staff gathered at the table, opting instead to take refuge in the toilet! We have all felt like that at times!

With a little encouragement, we began to establish a connection with Tom, helped by his fancy software, Proloquo. This uses pictures on Tom’s iPad to form sentences and allows people who are unable to speak to convey their feelings. We had broken the ice and Tom could start feeling more relaxed and comfortable amongst a new group of strangers. After a very promising first meeting, we were all set to begin our weekly community sessions, with activities like the gym, bowling and swimming. Then Covid-19 struck. Like the rest of the country, we all had to go into lockdown and put all plans on ice.

August 2020 finally came around and we were allowed to venture out once again. For our first outing, Tom and I went to Evenley Wood Garden on a beautiful sunny day. On arrival, I could see how hesitant Tom was but after a few minutes of enjoying the fresh air, he started to get more adventurous and wanted to explore.

It was on our second outing to Willen Lake in Milton Keynes that Tom really began to let his excitement show, starting to sing and spontaneously laugh and at one point leaving me in the dust as he went skipping off down the path! As each week has passed, Tom has been able to build on these experiences and becomes more curious whenever he goes out into the community.

The true joy of working with Tom is being able to see his progress, confidence and self-reliance grow. We may be limited for now by Coronavirus restrictions; however, that has not impacted on Tom’s enjoyment and happiness at being out in the fresh air and quickly finding his feet.

Although he may not be able to communicate verbally, Tom makes his feelings abundantly clear, either when unsure about something or bursting with excitement. He has encouraged me to be more sensitive and intuitive, not purely relying on words to communicate, so that we can find the best ways together for Tom to get the most out of our sessions. It may only have been a few months, during the strangest of circumstances, but it is obvious that Tom is only just beginning to show what he can do and I know, when he does, he will do it with the biggest smile.

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