One of our #Focus5 young people is learning about hospital life on a Project Search Internship at Musgrove Park in Somerset. He is also discovering how to use technology, such as Brain in Hand, as an enabling tool for managing his anxiety and organising his life.
This young man was diagnosed with autism in the early years of primary school and received additional help with his learning throughout his school career. The world has been a very confusing place all of his life. Secondary school was a real struggle socially, he did not have the skills to cope with the demands of meeting new people and became very isolated, but he focused on his learning and he achieved quite a few GCSEs.
In his own words, when he moved to college, his whole world fell apart. He struggled with the college environment, the people and the teaching staff, and the rigidity of college rules. At the same time there were all kinds of changes going on at home. His attendance suffered because of his mental health, and it seemed just taking a few days off for mental processing time and recovery from anxiety, was becoming a major problem to his ability to continue on his course. He was referred to CAMHS because he struggled to put his feelings and emotions into words, and work out how to deal with what was going on around him. They helped him with weekly therapy and when he had recovered it was decided that he would leave college, but needed a more flexible and 'sensible' approach to studying and gaining employment skills, that would suit his learning style. The college referred him to #Focus5 and he hasn't looked back since.
Louise, the #Focus5 key worker in Somerset, has spent time producing an action plan and identifying skills and aspirations. Together they have been working on developing life and independence skills (because he hopes to leave home eventually), healthy eating (because his anxiety led him to not eating), job searching and course searching. As well as all of this, Louise simply listens to him, and is a valuable mentor in his life.
They came across an initiative at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton, run by Project Search, a US based organisation that helps young people with disabilities gain skills to enter the workforce. With Louise's help he joined their internship run in conjunction with Bridgewater and Taunton College, which involves working in different departments of the hospital learning about topics such as infection control, GDPR and patient services. His next module will be spent in the IT services team which he's really looking forward to because by his own admission, he is a whizz with technology, and it was ICT he was trying desperately to study at college. He has two mentors at the hospital and because they understand his needs and treat him with respect, he is finding this grown up and hands on approach to learning much more enjoyable.
We are very proud, not just of the work he is achieving through his internship but the way in which he is so motivated whilst overcoming huge personal challenges in order to achieve. He lives in rural Somerset with no transport, so he walks 2 miles a day to the bus stop, to catch the bus to work. He also is living with anxiety which can flare up at any moment when something in his day goes wrong, be it the bus running late, or a minor change at work. His key worker helped him get set up with Brain in Hand (a #Focus5 partner) whose innovative app allows people to take control of their anxiety with electronic calendars, routines, reminders and alerts of what to expect in their day, and how to cope if things go wrong. For example if he gets very stressed on a bus because it is running late, the app will remind him to put on his headphones and listen to calming music, thereby avoiding a meltdown in public. The app is linked to a mentor so if he ever gets really stressed they are alerted. He also uses technology such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home, to programme reminders to himself around the home on how to self organise and how to cope when things go wrong. Really very inspiring!
We want to wish this young man the greatest of success in completing his internship and achieving his goal of going to university and we hope his story will inspire others in a similar position that you can overcome challenges and find a new way of learning that works for you.