Our members and staff describe the difference HOPE has made to the lives of their children and young people.
Paul – My story
I first joined HOPE for Autism in 2002 where I went swimming at the John Smith Swimming Pool in Airdrie. HOPE started various youth groups in 2003 and I joined a group that was on every Wednesday night until I left the organisation in 2013.
When I got older, I was put on a befriending scheme, which the organisation had started, and had 2 befrienders who I went out with socially to various places, which included the cinema, bowling and restaurants etc. This helped me become better at socialising and going out with friends, giving me the incentive to arrange days and nights out with my friends and I started doing this more regularly.
When I went to the group, the youth leaders would ask what we all did at weekends and I’d tell them about a day or night out I had and they would often tell me that they thought I was improving on my social skills and communication abilities and this made me feel happy and increased my confidence.
HOPE has made a huge difference to my life. I’ve met many great friends from my time there throughout the years and feel that their various programmes have improved my abilities to find employment, communicate and go out socially with my family and friends.
Having autism is one of the most difficult challenges I’ve ever had to cope with in my life and I still have difficulty coping with it today.
I hope my story can give families affected by autism some encouragement and I hope they find this helpful. If I can make something of my life and be able to go out socially or order food in restaurants etc, then I can’t see any reason whatsoever why other autistic children or young adults can’t do exactly the same.
I’ll always be right behind those with autism and will support them all the way. I wish them every success in their lives and future ambitions.
Young girl L was in the Thursday night group and was happy and content but very quiet. L would only speak to staff and eventually one other young girl. They liked to both keep to themselves and didn’t interact with the other group members.
I decided to offer L a trial session in our Friday social group to see if this group would be more beneficial to her as she was slightly older than some of the young people in the Thursday group.
She was very nervous about this but was willing to give the group a try. L with support enjoyed the session and was happy to come back. Initially L was still a little quiet and kept to herself but now with the support L has made great progress.
L has made many friendships within the group and attends all Friday sessions as well as our disco/ karaoke nights in the centre. The difference in L’s confidence has been fantastic to see. L now meets with the friends she has in hope at other times and this has had a great impact on L’s life and also her families lives as they feel more content seeing her so happy.
C – Age 6
C has been doing fantastic in the groups. He was not attending consistently at first, however since receiving the wheelchair C has been attending almost every week. He has settled in really well to the group and enjoys interacting with the other children during free play. Over the 9 sessions that he attended from 27/8/15 – 19-12/15 C received 9 ‘no’ warning cards and and 12 ‘sad’ face cards and participated in 7 of the activities.
Staff noticed that C found it difficult to transition from free play to tidy up/activity time, this resulted in C crawling under the tables and refusing to hand toys back. Since 22/10/15 C has been attending the groups consistently each week so we have been able to implement effective strategies to help him with transitioning. We make sure we give C 15/10/5 minute reminders before tidy up time. For the activity we gain his interest by adapting the activity to suit his own interest (e.g at Halloween C did not want to make a spider picture so he made a zombie picture instead with the same materials and working on the same skills).
I have observed and noticed a great difference in his social interaction skills. C will initiate play with other children and is also able to take turns in interactions and with toys with support from staff. His attention span, ability to understand instructions and ability to cope with transition has also progressed. It has been a pleasure to witness C’s fantastic progress.
L – Age 6
L has made great progression since the groups returned in August 2015. L has participated in all 16 activities that have taken place during the sessions that he has attended. He has shown interest in all activities and has been happy to try new things. L has received 11 ‘no’ cards and 6 ‘warning’ cards. Staff felt that L found it difficult to share toys, however after implementing strategies and with use of visuals to help with this, L’s behaviour had improved. He is now able to cope really with the turn taking and seems to have an understanding of the concept of sharing. L has also created friendships with some of the other young people in the group. L at first struggled to initiate play with other children, however, this is something he now feels confident in doing. It has been lovely to see the start and progression of friendships over the last few months.
J – Age 6
J has progressed really well over the last few weeks of groups before finishing up for the Christmas break. Since returning in August 2015, J rarely removed his jacket and hat when coming into the group. However as the months progressed, J gradually took his hat off and eventually took his jacket off for the Christmas party. This is a major achievement for J and his parents as it shows he is becoming more comfortable in the HOPE environment. J has received 14 ‘no’ cards and 1 ‘warning’ card from August until December 2015. J has expressed challenging behaviours which has resulted in him biting and nipping staff members. Despite this, J has received 27 ‘happy’ faces. He has participated in 8/10 activities and has also join in with other children during free play. When returning after Christmas, myself and staff will implement strategies and use various communication tools such as visuals and Makaton to help and support J, which will hopefully prevent challenging behaviours.
ML – Age 11
ML has been a member of the group for the last two years. Previously, he commonly displayed a variety of challenging behaviours, ranging from verbal inappropriateness to violence towards staff and other group members.
The group’s behavioural reinforcement strategy is based on a coloured card system:
– Green = well done
– Yellow = warning
– Red = 3rd warning for same behaviour
ML’s behaviour has increasingly reduced over the last year, with the records showing that he has received less warning cards and no red cards since March 2015.
A new system of recording behaviour was introduced in the period Jan-Mar 2016 in which behaviour was marked /10 across all three systems. The implementation of behavioural support and reinforcement did not change during this period, simply the recording of it.
This is a tremendous success for this young person, who has proved to staff that he has become more patient, accepting and skilled at self-regulation in terms of his emotions and reactions to challenges. Staff continually comment on his increased maturity and his visible enjoyment of the group.