Mightiness & Maggots
I’ve been booked to give a talk tomorrow morning for one of the big care agencies in our neighbouring borough. It was arranged ages ago and I contacted them today to double check the arrangements. It was a good job I did. I assumed that they wanted me to do my Get Steven Home talk. They didn’t. They heard that one two years ago. They want something more specific to their audience and have given me the title “What Makes A Good Support Worker”.
Coincidentally, I’ve been collating the stories for Seven days of Action and one of the excuses that comes up time and again as to why people stay so long in ATUs is that they can’t find appropriate, trained staff to support the home care package. I always feel my hackled being raised whenever I hear that excuse.
My job specification consists fundamentally of five “qualities”:
- Be interested in Steven.
- Be authentic
- Be funny
- Be professional.
In that order. Steven doesn’t need manual handling, so you don’t need to go on a manual handling course. I can run Mental Capacity Act training for the support workers. In fact, we just had a very lively session on the five principles. And I don’t need someone who can write a comprehensive risk assessment of the Mencap Pool or the gym.
One story that I will tell tomorrow to illustrate all of the above.
For Steven’s recent birthday, I managed to get him the missing Gladiators VHS tape that he was missing from his collection. We have tapes with five of the eight first round heats from the 1993 series, the four quarter final episodes and the semi final and grand final. Amazon came up trumps with a VHS that contained heats 6 to 8 from the 1993 series.
Gladiators is Steven’s “centering” viewing on a Thursday morning. Each day, Steven will watch an episode from a favourite TV show after his breakfast and it focuses him on the day ahead. We’ve learned over a number of years that if Steven has unfilled time first thing in the morning, he can get very agitated and a meltdown is never far away. So, Wednesdays is an episode of Mr Bean, Friday is Fawlty Towers etc etc. Steven has had the same support worker on Thursday mornings for the past three years.
So there we were on birthday morning, Steven slips in the VHS and up pop contenders that we are familiar with from the later quarter final programmes. Michael, the support worker, immediately said:
“Hey Steven. Look who it is. It’s Sirleen – the mighty maggot”.
A huge grin spread over Steven’s face. He got up and started doing his Tigger bounce around the living room. He was excited because the support worker had recognised the contender and in that recognition, Steven’s and Michael’s worlds met. It was beautiful and very moving.
Someone told me a long time ago that if you wait for someone with autism to enter your world, you’ll be waiting a bloody long time. Best thing to do, if you want to connect, is to enter their world and then, you might engage.
For the past three years between 7am and 8am, the support worker hasn’t been on his phone. He’s not been reading the paper. He has been interested enough in what interests Steven, engaged enough, to recognise Sirleen Clark – the Mighty Maggot.
That’s what makes a good support worker.
From → Social Care