We support more than 200 people with autism. For 70 of these, autism is their primary support need.
How we plan support
When we start supporting someone with autism, we first assess their behaviour, communication and socialisation, as well as their day-to-day care and support requirements.
Observation in their environment is crucial. This helps us understand their needs, abilities and strengths, hypersensitivities – to touch, light or sound, for instance – and any fears, obstacles and fixations.
We also use the assessment to explore behaviour management strategies and risks.
Working with the person and those who know them well, we use the assessment to develop a support plan. We enable the people we support to have choice and control over their plans.
Ongoing assessment is important. All plans are reviewed every six months, or sooner if needed. Individual plans are discussed at team and supervision meetings.
How we create the right environment
We consider environmental factors that may affect people’s support needs. For instance, we may need to instal soft lighting in response to people’s sensory needs.
We respond to individual needs while maintaining a homely and comfortable atmosphere.
We also take steps to manage potentially challenging situations. For example, we may use curtains with Velcro attachments if people could pull them down when anxious.
How we manage change
Changes to routine and structure can be difficult for people with autism, and can be triggers for anxiety.
We ensure there is a regular staff team to build trusting relationships with the people they support. Staff develop a deep understanding of each person’s needs so they can identify and respond to changes, to avoid anxiety escalating.
We ensure we understand the individual triggers for each person. We include this learning in Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) plans so triggers can be avoided where possible.
The PBS plan may include relaxation or self-management techniques, like having a bath or listening to music. Physical activities can help manage feelings.
Some people find it hard to express how they are feeling. We might use anxiety flash cards to help express feelings, or numbers to identify the strength of the feeling.
Many of the people we support who have autism prefer to spend time alone. This can lead to social isolation. We work with the individual and the people who know them well to understand why this is, so we can develop the right support. For example, if the cause is a lack of social and communication skills, we may practise or develop those skills.
We promote positive social interaction to try to avoid the negative aspects of isolation.
Support to deal with isolation can include working with the person to find local social groups or activities of interest. It could also be by encouraging small talk. However, we are careful to introduce new activities at a pace that is right for each individual.
We ensure this is balanced with the need a person may have to spend time on their own.
How we recruit the right staff
We enable people with autism to be fully involved in the recruitment of their own support team.
Each support plan has a staff profile section. This includes details of what is important to the person we are supporting. For instance, they might prefer someone fit and able, or calm and quiet.
People we support take part in recruiting staff in many ways, including joining a panel interview (with support as required), pre-recording questions, or meeting applicants informally.
Based on individual preferences, compatibility, and shared likes and interests, each person supported is allocated their own key worker.
How we train staff to support people with autism
Staff supporting people with autism all receive autism awareness training, before moving on to receive training delivered by the National Autistic Society using the SPELL framework. Training could include:
Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication handicapped Children (TEACCH) approaches, if relevant
Autism and sensory issues
Understanding stress and anxiety in autism and their impact on behaviour
Autism and ageing
The training that we commission is always bespoke to the person that we support and their team. This ensures that our staff can identify and address the causes of behaviour and understand how to reduce the risk of behaviours escalating.