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News from the Hoffmann Foundation Autism charity London - Hoffmann Foundation

A Day In The Life

Written on 9th November 2011 by Hoffmann Staff

Today is Halloween, when we are suppose to frighten each other with spooky tales and scary costumes. For me and many others it is a time to have fun, but for the people I work with, every day can be a terrifying experience. As a support worker with the outreach team at Hoffmann Foundation for Autism, my job is to offer 1-1 support to people with autism spectrum condition (ASC). I try to see the world as they see it by observing them individually, and supporting them to make sense of their world. This is how our day went.

When I aclare falconer hoffmann foundationrrived this morning to work with my client I was aware that the clocks had gone back yesterday and that this could mean that they might not have adjusted to the new time. I am trained in the TEACCH system which supports the learning of people with ASC by manipulation of the learning environment, and supports communication and planning using photographs and objects of reference. We talked through the day's timetable, starting with travelling to college by bus, using photos we had taken on the bus and at college. I also reminded them that we were visiting a new place where we may join a new class. New environments can be challenging, so I had taken some images from the internet of where we would be going.

When we were getting on to the bus, someone pushed straight passed us. This was difficult for my client in two ways; one: she doesn't like unexpected touch and two: how can I teach her social rules such as queuing and turn taking if other people ignore them?!

At college we practised using the lift. It involves queuing, learning about the spaces between people, how to operate the buttons for the floor we want, and recognising when we are at the right floor to get out. There are a lot of variables such as people getting in and out at different floors. The stairs are usually much more predictable!

After class we have lunch in the college cafeteria. Today this was particularly challenging. The whole place was covered with Halloween decorations and looked very different to how it would look normally. My client has only just become used to the new arrangement of the cafe as they have recently redecorated and moved things about such as the water cooler and the tray stand! It got worse. I usually read out the menu for the day, which she then chooses from. This is how it read today:

  • Devil's bangers, Hell's wedges and graveyard gravel (Sausages, potato wedges and bbq beans)
  • Witch's cauldron stew on bloodied rice (Cajun root vegetable casserole on tomato rice)
  • Extras
    • Bat wings on fire x2
    • Coffin surprise x1

Not even an explanation for the bat wings and the coffin surprise which turned out to be chicken wings and pizza! The bloodied rice turned my stomach! Thankfully, we have long established the need for my client to get to the counter and see the food before she makes her choice. What seems like a bit of fun to some people can be very confusing for people with ASC.

After lunch we walked to Leister Square tube. There seemed to be more people than usual, probably doing early Christmas shopping, which made it hard to walk through all the crowds. Some shops were done up for Christmas already which can also be confusing as it isn't even December yet! We don't usually go to this tube station, so my client missed the usual cues and I needed to remind her that she should use her pass to get in. We stood in the middle of the platform as she is afraid of the big black holes of the tunnels at either end.

At the new building we reported to reception. The class was in a day centre and we were shown to the classroom to meet the tutor. We talked to him about my client's individual needs, her way of communicating and her particular learning style. I explained that I would be supporting her and that we would need to build up the time gradually. I could tell that he thought that I was going to be a nightmare and that he wanted to work with her in his own way, but I know my training in supporting my client works! We meet this attitude a lot. Most colleges and day centres are unfortunately not set up to cater for people with ASC.

We eventually travelled back to where my client is picked up by her driver and escort to go home. We wait for them in a little park, where I can sit and write in her communication book and explain what we will be doing when we work together next, using her photographic timetable. Today the path was covered with fallen leaves which made the path very difficult to see and it was hard for her to walk in a straight line. It was already beginning to get dark and there was the sound of loud fireworks suddenly being set off nearby, which frightened us both. Don't get me started about bonfire night!

My hope for the future is that people will recognise the strength and determination it takes for people with ASC to use their communities and everything in them which other people take for granted. I hope that with new legislation it will become policy to hire more people with ASC as architects and town planners, to use consultants and give training to all staff offering services, and that I can continue to support my clients to help make tomorrow a less scary place.

Clare Falconer, Outreach.

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