Richard’s Story – Strawberry Fields

December 21, 2016

Severely autistic and very quiet Richard* arrived at Strawberry Fields almost a year ago. He had previously lived in Wales within a residential setting but with the opportunity to live closer to his family he was moved to Strawberry Fields.

The support team took time with Richard, his family and previous carers to understand how to best support him. They documented as much as they could on his one page profile and established a clear circle of support which includes important people to Richard and key health/social care professionals.

Like many others living with autism Richard had some very clear likes, dislikes, and preferences. Richard doesn’t like the word ‘No’, he likes things in their place and he likes the lights full on when in a room. One additional preference was his liking for purely white foods which were always liquidised. This meant he was eating a very restricted diet. He also preferred to take meals in his room.

Other preferences meant he was sleeping without a duvet cover & pillowcase, wearing five pairs of socks inside his much beloved black wellies and spending much of his time quietly on his own.

The team knew that Richard’s diet should ideally be more balanced and healthy and so established this as a key area on which to begin supporting Richard to explore. Whilst providing his preferred white meals they would also place small portions of other vegetables and meats near his plate. Gradually Richard took an interest in these items and began trying them every so often. With encouragement from his support team Richard gradually ate more of the additional items forsaking his white foods. Less than a year on Richard enjoys a healthy and varied diet. Amongst his favourites are Sausages, Chicken, Bananas, Vegetables and a new found love of Chocolate especially Malteasers and Smarties.

Another important area of support was identified early on with Richard. Upon arrival he wore five pairs of socks at once inside his wellingtons. The team identified this was causing some issues with skin irritation and hoped to reduce the numbers worn to improve this. Richard’s personal care routines were somewhat sporadic on arrival, but the team felt that with a little extra support he could resolve the skin irritations. They had to gain his trust, with support from his Dad and encourage Richard to allow them to help. Gentle and continued persuasion and encouragement begun to have a very positive effect with Richard now wearing just two pairs. He is now quite happy to wear these two pairs which act as a cushion for his feet as he dislikes any other form of footwear, and he will now see the Chiropodist on a regular basis.

Key to the support being provided has been communication. Initially Richard made only noises hardly talking at all but the team have used every opportunity to involve Richard in conversations about choices, opportunities and needs. With very positive progress being made all the time. Richard is talking more and more, asking for his favourite foods, snacks and activities to be provided. Only just recently he called his key support worker by his name, a very special and poignant moment for both Richard and Trevor.

Trevor and the team talk regularly with Richard’s family, who visit frequently. They are delighted with the progress Richard is making and the improvements in his overall health and wellbeing. Mum, Dad, Grandma and Grandad all are welcome regular visitors to the home. Richard has been using a tablet recently to watch his favourite DVD’s in communal areas and as he is growing in confidence with it they are now considering setting up Skype so everyone can catch up with Richard and Trevor more readily. Such are Richard’s communication skills that everyone feels this will be a great opportunity for Richard to keep improving. For the first time Richard has wished his parents a Happy Christmas. Stunned but delighted his parents wished Richard a very Happy Christmas too, with broad smiles all round.

Richard’s quality of life is improving at a remarkable rate, his new found energy is helping him to enjoy trips out to the local shops to buy his favourite treats. He recently visited the local shop for some chocolate and found himself tidying up the rack of DVD’s for sale. The store keeper was only too happy to benefit from his help. Positive experiences are constantly building Richards’s confidence in social interaction. So much so that he has also just begun to venture into the dining room to join others for his meals and watch his favourite DVD’s with another individual supported at Strawberry Fields. His recent trip to the shop was with another supported person in the same transport, a first.

He now sleeps with full duvet and cover set and leaves his wellies at the front door.

Just ten months ago none of this seemed possible, but Richard has and continues to achieve some inspirational progress with the dedicated care and support of the team at Strawberry Fields.

*names have been changed to protect privacy