What is Autism?

Autism ……

  • is a lifelong condition that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people
  • means differences and difficulties in three main areas known as the “Triad of Impairment”:
    • social communication: problems using and understanding verbal & body language
    • social interaction: problems in recognising and understanding other people’s feelings, and in managing their own
    • social imagination: problems understanding & predicting other people’s behaviour and intentions and imagining situations outside their own

Autism ……

  • affects the person’s senses, and how they experience the world around them
  • can mean that the person may experience some form of sensory sensitivity or under-sensitivity, for example to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours. Sensory issues can mean the person also has difficulty with body awareness, may have problems moving around easily or hold their bodies in unusual positions
  • can mean the person prefers a fixed routine and finds change incredibly difficult
  • can mean the person needs lots of support to cope with a world that is unpredictable, confusing and frightening
  • may affect the way a person conducts themselves, using behaviours that can be rigid, unusual and/or challenging to those around them

Autism ……

  • is an umbrella term that covers autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), autism spectrum condition (ASC), autistic spectrum difference, neuro-diversity & Asperger’s syndrome
  • is a spectrum disorder, affecting individuals in different ways and with varying severity. For example, people who have Asperger’s syndrome typically have fewer problems speaking than others on the autism spectrum, but still have significant problems with communication that can be masked by their ability to speak fluently. They are often of average or above average intelligence
  • can occur in combination with other conditions such as learning disabilities, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) or specific learning difficulties such as dyspraxia

Ref: “Fulfilling and rewarding lives: Implementing the Autism strategy for adults” Department of Health 2010

Liaise Loddon Ltd ……

  • is an independent organisation with many years experience providing personalised services for adults most profoundly affected by autism and severe learning disabilities, and who are at risk of being excluded from many activities, experiences & services in our communities
  • uses positive approaches to support individuals to build on their strengths and overcome barriers to living a life of their choosing
  • ensure relationships are built and nurtured with the individual, the whole family, staff, advocates and placing authorities to ensure the highest standard of service is provided at all times.

Driving Up Quality

The Driving Up Quality Code is a voluntary code of conduct written as a response to the abuse at Winterbourne View. The code was created by the Driving Up Quality Alliance, made up of national member organisations that collectively represent 80% of all learning disability service providers in the country. It was launched in September 2013 at the House of Commons.

The code is endorsed by the Minister of State for Care and Support, Norman Lamb (who contributed a foreword), the Department of Health and the Care Quality Commission. Its primary aims include improving quality in learning disabilities services and promoting a culture of honesty and transparency. Organisations that sign up to the Driving Up Quality Code are expected to assess themselves annually and publish what they find, with an action plan for improvement.

Find out more on their website.

Liaise Loddon have signed up and here is our first report looking at Practice Leadership within the company: DUQ code summary

From Old Garage To Self-Contained Unit

When a new person comes to Liaise to live with us, we work really hard to create a space tailored specifically to their needs. Somewhere just for the individual; somewhere personal.

This isn’t always the easiest project, because we have to work within existing buildings and rooms.

So we were delighted when we got planning permission to convert the old double garage at Marika House into a brand-new single-person unit.

We started work straight away, and we’re hoping to have it completed within a few months.

Here’s what it looked like before:

The interior of the old garage, looking at the double doors The exterior back of the old double garage The front of the old double garage at Marika HouseSome old junk inside the double garage before work started

Things are moving on pretty quickly, though – take a a look at the work so far:

Scaffolding on the old double garage The old double garage is reduced to a shell with no roof

We’ll keep you updated on the blog – and let you know how the new person gets on!

Specialist Worker Training: What’s It All About?

Once we’ve put a programme in place for one of the people we support, that’s not the end of the story. People change, and circumstances change, so we’re continually monitoring our programmes to see what’s working well and what isn’t working so well.

We do a lot of observation to find out what our service users like and dislike, using photographs and objects to help them reflect on their experiences. And, where possible, we ask the person in question, too.

So how do the specialist workers and the people they support benefit?

The idea is that the specialist workers can decide what are the essential and best ways to review support plans by using recordings and behaviour data, by talking to colleagues – but also by looking at how the information is presented and to whom.

So far, Liaise’s specialist workers have had four sessions this year. Participation has been great, and everyone has worked very hard.

Participants have been analysing all the steps they need to review any and all aspects of a service user’s care and support plan. This might sound straightforward, but it actually covers the person’s whole life and lifestyle – including their health and wellbeing, goals and achievements, and the skills and positive behaviours they’re learning to replace challenging behaviours.

The specialist worker group identified that one of the most important elements of an effective review is involving the wider support team. Everyone evaluates what has worked and what hasn’t worked so well for each individual.

Direct support co-workers often know the individuals they support extremely well so they can be fantastic advocates when individuals need help expressing their views and wishes.

Everyone also agreed that involving the service user in reviewing their own support plan is also crucial, and should be the starting point in any evaluation. Sometimes the people we support can tell us what they like and don’t like about their lives when someone they trust asks them.

However, not everyone has speech or other ways of communicating, so they might need lots of help to understand what they’re being asked. This means we need to come up with more imaginative ways to get service users involved.

Specialist workers in the group have shared the different ways they’ve helped the people they support to express themselves. Here are just a few of those methods:

  • Creating a book of ‘things I like’ and choosing photographs of favourite activities, people and places.
  • Choosing which staff member they want to work with.
  • Keeping a daily diary by choosing a photo of an activity or experience they enjoyed that day.

In this way, we can make sure that everyone we support is getting what they need, when they need it.

Practice Leadership Project

Liaise is also taking part in the Practice Leadership Project with Roy Deveau, assistant research fellow at the Tizzard Centre, University of Kent. The specialist worker training is a great place to discuss the strategies each home will focus on as part of this project.

It’s a great opportunity to work on teaching skills to service users and staff alike – and the project has begun in earnest.

Roy is coming back to Liaise in October to see how we’ve been getting on. We’ll report back then!

A Big Adventure For Willow Tree And Baytrees

Willow Tree Lodge and Baytrees House had an exciting day out on July 14 – they went off to the Queen Elizabeth II Activity Centre for the day.

It was a gloriously hot, sunny day down near Southampton – so there was a lot of suntan lotion, and the local pub beer garden did a roaring trade at lunchtime.

The people we support had great fun exploring a whole lot of activities – but archery was probably their favourite. H won the golden arrow with a whopping 120 points…

But L gave her a run for her money and scored a bullseye with one shot.

The motorboat proved to be a big hit too, with P and H both discovering a hidden talent at motorboat piloting.

P impressed us all on the climbing wall when he made it all the way to the top and rang the bell.

But the coolest dude of the day must have been G – who bypassed most of the rope course in favour of chilling out on a particularly comfy-looking tyre.

Everyone had a fab time – but trips like this are about more than just having fun.

A big part of what we do is making sure the people we support – people with severe autism – can play a fulfilling and meaningful role in their communities, and in society in general. This type of activity gives them the chance to do the stuff that we all take for granted.

They learn new life skills, absorb new experiences, and strengthen relationships.

Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards and the Mental Capacity Act

If you’ve been following the news, you’ll have heard about the recent House of Lords Ruling about DOLS (Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards) and the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA). You can read more about the committee, report and recommendations here.

The House of Lords appointed a select committee in 2013 and received the report in February 2014. The committee recommended that the Government should scrap DOLS and replace it with a new framework that better protects the rights of vulnerable adults in care settings.

The committee found the current DOLS operation was leading to thousands of people who were unable to consent to care arrangements being unlawfully deprived of their liberty. The safeguards are supposed to protect individuals against this kind of deprivation – but were failing to do so.

‘Poorly drafted and poorly implemented’

“The provisions are poorly drafted, overly complex and bear no relationship to the language and ethos of the Mental Capacity Act,” said the committee’s report. “The safeguards are not well understood and are poorly implemented. Evidence suggested that thousands, if not tens of thousands, of individuals are being deprived of their liberty without the protection of the law, and therefore without the safeguards which Parliament intended.”

Since the report was published, there has been a huge increase in court applications and many residential care homes are getting visitos form DOLS assessors to find out if people’s liberty is being restricted in any way.

At Liaise, we’ve obviously been following this closely and Glebelands had its own visit from a DOLS assessor in June.

We are proud to report that the assessor said he was very impressed by the level of behaviour analysis and support we deliver and would let the relevant authority know that.

At Liaise, we provide the least restrictive environment possible while keeping the people we support safe, so we were delighted to see this ‘balancing act’ recognised and praised because our staff work very hard to achieve it.

How we achieve our ‘balancing act’

This seems like a good place to tell you a little about how we achieve our ‘balancing act’. We run specialist worker training bi-monthly/eight-weekly. This is ongoing training to ensure our colleagues continue to develop themselves and the people we support.

This month, we continued to focus on service-user learning objectives. These are the short-term goals the people we support work on to develop life skills and coping strategies.

These objectives help to bring the person closer to achieving a lifestyle of their choosing and reaching their long-term aims. Learning new skills and building on existing strengths is a key part of reducing challenging behaviours and improving life experiences. The skills they learn and develop help to ensure they live their lives as freely – and as safely – as possible.

Progress at Head Office

At our head office, the specialist workers each gave a presentation analysing the many elements they must consider in ensuring the people they support have the best chance of learning. This means assessing, planning, implementing, monitoring, reviewing and measuring progress.

Our colleagues demonstrated that most progress is made when service-users and support staff are all involved in deciding what to work on. The people we support do best when there is lots of discussion to review how things are going.

This is a vital part of our work to ensure the people we support live lives that are as fulfilling, rich, safe and free as possible.

Research Autism: Beyond The Sacred Classroom

Marion CornickMarion, our managing director and founder, is speaking at a Research Autism conference in London on July 1.

This is a real privilege for Marion and for Liaise Loddon. Research Autism asked Marion to speak for them because of her brilliant early career working with children – which has led to her amazing work with Liaise Loddon and the Loddon School.

Marion worked to create curriculums that enable children with autism to develop crucial life skills as they become young adults.

An audience of parents and autism professionals will listen to Marion talk. Her presentation, Beyond the Sacred Classroom, will cover her pioneering work with the Loddon School and her much-needed move into working with young adults with autism at Liaise Loddon.

The Loddon School’s curriculum focuses on learning outside the classroom in a natural setting, where children can practise their skills in real life. We’ve found that children who resist learning in the traditional classroom discover that learning can be rewarding and fun – not threatening.

Most of the children at the Loddon School have struggled with the very idea of a classroom, or have spent most of their time outside it, because of their disruptive behaviour. Marion’s approach is to find a way to help children learn that suits them. After all, their disruptive behaviour isn’t down to them being ‘naughty’, it’s their way of showing they can’t cope with traditional learning. The Liaise Loddon and Loddon School way is a huge positive step for children and young adults with autism towards real learning for life.

You’ll be able to read more about Marion’s presentation next month.

Job of the Month May 2014: Support Workers

This month, we’re focusing on support workers in Romsey.

If you’re looking for a new and rewarding career helping to make a real difference in people’s lives, you’re in the right place.

You can find out more about what it’s like to be a support worker here – you don’t need any previous experience in the care industry. We’ll give you all the training you need to do your job brilliantly. You can find out all about all our  current vacancies here.

Don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter if you haven’t already – we’ll be able to let you know when vacancies come up.

Runner Bean Walls and Feta Cheese Salad at Sansa House

Everyone living at Sansa House has made super progress with the sensory garden – and they’ve even started serving meals from the raised beds.

One of the people we support planting spinach in a raised bed

Planting spinach

After spending time planting out the beds, we’re being rewarded with beautiful colours, delicious scents and tasty treats.

Just two weeks after planting, we’ve already harvested some of the spinach. It went into a truly delicious spinach and feta cheese salad. Yum!

Raised beds with purple flowers, herbs and spinach

Colourful raised beds

Elsewhere in the garden, the runner bean walls are coming alone well.

TD created a trellis from bamboo sticks, which will form the framework for the runner bean walls.

One of the people we support pushing bamboo canes into the ground

TD creates the trellis framework

The runner bean wall framework is up

Looking good!

Next, KG, TD and LH got planting. The runner bean seedlings went in safe and sound. TD gave them a good sprinkling of water – and there’s a job well done!

The people we support planting runner bean seedlings for the trellis wall

In go the runner beans

We’re looking forward to seeing progress, and we’ll be sure to update you. We’ll also be cooking up a storm with runner beans before the summer’s out – so keep an eye open for our runner bean recipes.

Congratulations! Marion and Michael got married

Our founder and director, Marion Cornick, got married to Michael at the end of April – and they had a wonderful day.

Marion and Michael cut their wedding cake

Congratulations Marion and Michael!

There was dancing… there was wine… and there was lots of love and laughter.

She and Michael had everything they needed for their home, so they decided to ask anyone who wanted to give them a gift to make a donation instead.

You may not know that as well as founding the Loddon School and running Liaise Loddon, Marion also supports a school in Zambia. There are 150 children with serious special needs, most of whom have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS.

The school lacks even the most basic resources. Children arrive hungry, and stay hungry because there’s no food at the school. There are no art materials, no games, no music and no phone. Power is sketchy.

Marion took a team out there in 2012 and trained the teachers in special education. The team also painted classrooms, took toys and equipment and set up a library. The tiniest things, like a rug or a toothbrush, make a huge difference.

The team goes over two or three times a year to work with the children, their teachers and their parents.

To celebrate their wedding, Marion and Michael would like to raise enough money to replace the rickety old school bus. Designed to carry 15, it usually carries many more – sometimes up to 49.

If you think you can spare a few pounds, please visit Marion’s JustGiving page. Your donation will be put to very good use.

Marion and Michael would like to thank everyone who has donated – as well as the money raised on the JustGiving page, they raised a considerable amount during their wedding celebration.

We’ll update you soon about how they’re spending the money.

But in the meantime, if you could help, we – and the children in Zambia – will be very grateful. Thank you!