Tillie’s Story- Harvey Lane
*names have been changed to protect privacy
Prior to her arrival at Harvey Lane, Tillie had gone through a very unsettled period in her life. Her Mother, whom she had lived with in Portugal for all of her 28 years, sadly passed away removing much of the stability in her life. Tillie moved back to live with her Father in the UK for a short time before moving into a residential setting. She then went through eight residential placements in the space of just two years.
There was not much in the way of time for transition to Harvey Lane and at the time she would try to hurt staff, she would leave the service without support and get jealous when her peers went out and she did not. Staff at the service had to get to know Tillie very quickly and try to understand what made her tick.
Communication was a big factor for Tillie, frustration through not making herself understood often led to aggression. Staff took time to put effective systems in place to enable Tillie to communicate via pictures and through an interpreter. This had noticeable positive results as she appeared much more empowered and confident.
Tillie reacted very positively to anything relating to music and singing. She enjoyed taking part in dance activities and always appeared more at ease when engaging with music. When the dance activity course finished, staff at Harvey Lane encouraged her to consider attending a group called ‘Sing Your Heart Out.’ Having seen the group perform previously, the Harvey Lane manager identified the potential benefits to Tillie in attending such a group. ‘Sing Your Heart Out’ was originally set up for individuals who have had some mental health needs such as depression, based around the concept that singing gives people energy and helps to lift the mind.
Tillie was one of two people with learning disabilities who joined the group at the same point. This helped to ensure that she felt included from day one. Other supporters and family members are encouraged to take part, but everyone in the group is treated the same. The group often focuses on singing harmonies and repeated words, which helps Tillie with her language and enables her to actively take part in the whole session.
Since joining the group Tillie has built up relationships with the teacher, as well as several members of the group from different age groups. She joins them for refreshments half way through and has not displayed any challenges whilst involved in the sessions. In the year since joining the group, Tillie has developed a full understanding of the expectations of the teacher and of the purpose for being there.
The thing she really likes about the group is that the staff who accompany her (on a 2:1 basis) take part in the class as well. They are not by her side in the class; they all just become part of the same singing group. This means that her peers in the group talk to and engage with Tillie directly, rather than talking through her support workers.
Being part of a group with a shared love of music has meant Tillie has grown in confidence. She has been able to develop her communication skills, which has brought out her personality. She now informs any new support workers who accompany her on what they need to do at the group. She has taken the opportunity to take part in church recitals and sing as part of the town music festival, which has helped her to engage more with the local community. She even featured with the group on an advertising poster for the Norwich Music Festival, a huge event involving a month of solid music and arts performances. This gave Tillie a great sense of belonging and pride.
Whilst she still faces a few challenges, often when she gets insecure or frustrated, the frequency of her behaviours has decreased dramatically since she has found a settled environment to call home.
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