Andrew joined Share in 2011. During his time with us, he's been learning independent living skills, digital skills and music with us.
We've always known that Andrew understands what we say and can follow instructions easily. But much of our work with Andrew has involved engaging him with activities to find out his likes and dislikes, and looking for new and innovative ways to communicate with him. We noticed that he had some knowledge of Makaton, so we've tried to develop this to help him express his meaning, needs and wishes, and he's using this more nowadays. And we've also explored using a visual communication board to help him build sentences and tell us about what he's been doing at home.
This has included a lot of one-to-one work with different staff members in the team. Over the past few months, this has led to a number of discoveries about Andrew and a marked change in the way he interacts with people. For example:
- Andrew is becoming more responsive to contact with other people, maintaining eye contact more and getting less distracted;
- Andrew is very clear about what he would like to eat for lunch and will indicate clearly what he would like more or less of (although we're pretty sure he's joking around with us when he queues up for a second helping of lunch!);
- He is able to easily find an internet browser and YouTube on the computer to search for things he likes, such as the TV personality, Lorraine Kelly, or sports shows, such as Match of the Day;
- We know he likes sport too – a while back, Andrew initially signalled he didn’t want to attend Share’s Sports Day at a local leisure centre, but on the day he was hanging around the group that was going out so we took him with us! He seemed to have a really great day and took part in many of the activities on offer – we discovered he was especially good at golf! He also played tennis, rugby and even tried cycling!
- A number of tutors have noticed a marked improvement in Andrew's typing and writing skills, especially writing his own name. He's been able to copy and type out a couple paragraphs of text on the computer, correcting his mistakes along the way, and even 'voicing' the letters and signs that he is typing out. It was a joy to see him engaged throughout the task, and he seemed particularly happy when he was praised for a job well done.
Andrew's increasing willingness to take part in activities has become more evident recently when, for example, he agreed to being the 'model' for some photos for a poster students were creating about hygiene procedures before handling food when he happily pretended to use the hand dryer while another student took his photo.
On other occasion, during pastoral hour when we encourage students to ask each other questions about their time at home or what they did at the weekend, Andrew signed for ‘eating’, which we interpreted as him asking what another student ate at the weekend. Andrew was visibly happy and excited to ask the question, have it understood and then answered.
We're very excited about Andrew's progress – he's growing in personality and growing in confidence, enough to start making his own choices and making himself understood. With our work on digital inclusion, we are also investigating a number of digital solutions to help Andrew communicate further still and open up a new world for him.