James’s Story – Belstead Mews

September 25, 2019

James, a young man with learning disabilities and complex needs, moved to Belstead Mews, a Children’s and Young Person’s Service in Ipswich, Suffolk at the age of 16, as his family were struggling to cope with his violent and aggressive behaviour, especially towards his siblings.

James, whose complex needs include global development delay and a mood disorder, could not accept that his parents had to give their time to his siblings as he wanted all their attention for himself. His aggression was also apparent at school where James struggled to share his teachers with other pupils.

Belstead Mews, run by Consensus is a warm, positive and innovative residential service that provides support and accommodation for six young people aged 13 to 18 years with learning disabilities, autism and complex needs. The aim of the service is to support children with their mental, emotional and physical needs as they transition into adulthood.

Everything at Belstead is focused around the child’s wishes, wellbeing and needs and delivered with kindness, compassion and patience reinforcing that they are valued and cared for. Children are actively supported to develop life skills and coping mechanisms while reducing unwanted behaviours and improving their quality of life.

When James arrived at Belstead Mews, he was on a high dose of anti-psychotic medication to manage his behaviour. Pat Haley, the Service Manager, worked closely with our in-house Positive Behavioural Specialist and Autism Consultant to put together a person-centred care plan detailing a strategy for the team to work with. The team were fully briefed and the strategies were implemented, reviewed and adapted according to James’ progress.

Initially, James’ behaviour was extremely challenging with outbursts of violence towards the team. Undeterred, the team remained consistent in their approach, and ensured structures were in place.

Gradually the team helped James learn how to self-regulate his behaviours and over a period of time his medication was gradually reduced until he reached the point where all his medication could be stopped, which was a huge achievement. Two years on, the difference in James is incredible. With the team’s support he is able to manage his emotions better, he can relay his wishes and feelings confidently, is able to socialise in the community well and has a positive relationship with his family.

The team have also recently supported James with his transition into another Consensus service; Belstead Villa, a residential service for adults aged 18+ with learning disabilities and complex needs, on the same site as Belstead Mews. Support teams have worked together with James to ensure a stress free move and for support strategies to successfully continue.

How the Team supported James

Through robust and consistent support plans the team develop comprehensive support plans and behavioural management plans which support children to reduce behaviours and become more independent as they move on to their next phase of life.

James’ behaviour plans, risk assessments and support plans at Belstead Mews were child focused and personalised to him. The team have supported James to successfully broaden his horizons, make new friendship, enjoy activities he loves and have a positive outlook on life as he moves to adulthood.

To rebuild relationships with family

The team make it clear to families that the service is an extension of their home and not a replacement, working closely with families where there has been a breakdown and supporting all parties involved to build confidence and self-esteem in the relationship.

The team have worked closely with James’ family. By actively involving them in his life at Belstead and providing them with reassurance of their support, the family have been able to re-build their bonds and now have a close and positive relationship with James.

To receive the benefits of an education

The team are ambitious when it comes to ensuring children continue to receive the benefits of education. The team put together an education plan specifically tailored to James’ needs which has supported James to attend school/college. Working closely with education providers, the team ensured James has a good network of support at school and where he can thrive in a learning environment.

Through specialist training and skills

The support team at Belstead Mews receive specialist training in specific skills, including play therapy, Positive Behaviour Support, Active Support and sign along training, as well as holistic approaches around the impact of food on behaviour, energy levels and health.

The team have achieved excellent outcomes in supporting James by adopting a happy, clear, upbeat communication style and using social stories and symbols featuring James himself to help his understanding of situations. Preferred activities are carefully inter-mixed with essential activities (like laundry) so James can understand the balance of both.

The team carefully understand James’ triggers and when he is not coping. He is supported to go to a quiet space or his room if he prefers so he has space and time to calm down. Often a wet flannel to cool his face and neck helps massively in the calming process.

All of these strategies have helped improve James’ wellbeing, helped him to manage his aggression and improved his relationships and quality of life.

Through positive relationships with his extended support network

The team at Belstead have built good relationships with schools, colleges, medical professionals and social workers and provide weekly music therapy, weekly speech and language therapy, weekly activities to a hydro pool, daily walks, trips to clubs in the community and numerous other activities.

Every individual supported there has the opportunity to engage in as many activities as they wish, plus their own activities and to enjoy the things that make them personally happy.

James has an avid interest in cars and loves sitting in staff’s cars and looking at all the controls and gadgets, particularly any that have a convertible roof which sends him into fits of laughter! He also loves Heart Radio, proudly displaying their stickers and to role play as a worker for Premier Inn serving customers with a huge smile on his face!