Tom’s Story – Deansbrook

September 20, 2016

Following a great many years living in a number of restrictive institutional settings, including a period at an Assessment & Treatment Unit, Tom came to live at Deansbrook, one of Consensus’ residential homes in Essex.

Tom*, who has a learning disability, autism and presents with multiple behaviours that challenge had experienced life thus far in the most difficult of settings without the necessary support in place that protected him or others. As a consequence many of his stays in settings broke down very quickly. Whilst being aggressive he himself had also become extremely vulnerable.

The transition from an assessment and treatment unit is never easy so the highly skilled support team at Deansbrook spent weeks getting to know Tom, observing his preferences, challenges, behaviours and goals. The team nominated a small dedicated number of colleagues who worked shifts at the ATU with Tom, enabling them to become familiar with one another, developing a rapport and basic trust.

For Tom trust was a very big issue as he had become distrustful of all people and increasingly agoraphobic. The team began with just three colleagues regularly visiting Tom. His quality of life was very low and the team were certain that they could improve Tom’s quality of life once they settled him at Deansbrook.

The team were right in their assessment and 5 years on Tom is unrecognisable as the same person remarked upon by the social worker who worked closely with the team during Tom’s transition.

During his initial transition period of six weeks between the ATU and Deansbrook the team developed a structured support plan in conjunction with the community support team, consultant psychiatrist, Consensus’ internal positive behaviour support team (PBS) and social worker.

The team built up and continue to maintain good records of his moods and behaviours. They identified that Tom would still have episodes, triggering some challenging behaviours. These could last an entire day, and included being physically aggressive towards the support team, where they could find themselves being placed into some very challenging situations.

Tom’s medication at the time would see him take a large combination (16 to 18) of anti-psychotic and depressant medications in a day. The team worked with the consultant psychiatrist to review this and over time Tom has been able to reduce the array of medications down by two thirds.

Once Tom had settled sufficiently, the now familiar team of 3 colleagues took Tom out on very short drives, as a first step to support him through his agoraphobia.

In addition to this they noticed that Tom was enjoying watching Thomas the Tank Engine on his television. They suggested to him that the local library might have a number of episodes on DVD. Tom considered this and suggested that on one of their trips in the car perhaps they could call into the library and look for some.

The visit to the library has proved to be a real life changer for Tom, who would now class a bad day as a bank holiday Monday when the library is shut!

Watching more of Thomas the Tank Engine was then followed up by the support team with encouragement to just pause at the local railway station on the way home in the car, looking at the trains. Tom clearly enjoyed this and this led on to parking the car and observing the trains from the platform.

Since those early visits the team have supported Tom in his wishes to look around the trains get on board, meet the drivers and most recently go out for a day trip on board a train.

Tom now enjoys a life that previously could only have been imagined. He ventures out supported to the library daily and also visits the local pub, cinema, and shops. With support from the dedicated team but also more often now with others living at Deansbrook, his confidence in others has improved hugely. This allows him to enjoy time in his home and community spending time doing things he takes pleasure in.

Through his love of DVDs he has also become familiar with ‘Bob the Builder’ and has developed a liking for trucks, diggers etc. The team are already talking with him about bigger trips out, building confidence around new environments and people. Visiting ‘Diggerland’ and the London Buses and Underground are both on the suggestion list.

During this time the support team from Deansbrook maintained regular contact, with Tom’s Aunt as his mother had sadly passed away not long after he moved into the home. She has been pivotal in supporting Tom and ensuring his best interests are considered and encouraged.

Five years ago, Tom was a person who shunned all contact with others, was distrustful of everyone and who could not go outside. Now he is about to celebrate his 42nd birthday and has taken a huge amount of joy and pride in inviting his Aunt, trusted friend and Manager of Rowan House (Another Consensus Home), along with many others who have supported him in recent years.

Whilst there are still some challenging moments these are far less frequent and might last only a couple of hours at best. Through redirection and quiet discussion Tom is now able to achieve his own resolution to frustrations.

Manager of Deansbrook, Nathan, says that the support team are extremely proud of all of Tom’s achievements so far and that all the small steps that have been taken are paying huge dividends in supporting Tom to live a life full of opportunity and success.

* names have been changed to protect privacy