Photo of a young autistic man smiling, purple quote block

This month we meet Jacob, a 25 year old autistic man and a resident at one of our services. Jacob moved into our service in May 2017. Jacob is a friendly, engaging person with a great sense of humour. He is an expert on a wide range of topics, and is particularly keen on facts and figures. Jacob enjoys a variety of activities and can often be found engaging in jigsaws, games and sensory activities.

Jacob spent four years at a specialist residential college and then moved into a supported living house with another autistic young man from college. Jacob’s mother Sasha Brown explained that there were significant issues with the care provision, telling us: "From our perspective the problems basically came down to a lack of understanding of how to support autistic people, combined with poor management." As a result, Jacob began to struggle with his mental health. The placement broke down after nine months and Jacob moved back home with his mother and step dad. As well as being autistic, Jacob also has OCD and can get very anxious in certain situations. He gets very distracted with thoughts and counting. During his time at home Jacob became increasingly unable to take part in any activities without his mother due to his anxiety.

With family and long term friends Jacob is able to communicate verbally and articulate himself well and has a good vocabulary. However, he does not always fully understand the true meaning of the language he is using. Jacob is selectively mute and this became more significant after he left college. Due to anxiety he could not speak verbally to any support workers even though he wanted to.

Over the past 18 months, our key staff and Speech and Language Therapists have been working with Jacob and his family on communication techniques. Since April Jacob has also had a private therapist working with him and his staff on his anxiety around verbal communication. Staff use visual communication tools, including TEACCH boards, total communication, Makaton and social stories. Jacob has also used a specialist communication tablet. This came in handy when he went out and about in his local community. Jacob responds well to simple, direct phrases. He has enjoyed exploring many different ways of communicating. In particular, he has proved to be a dab hand at finger spelling and recently taught members of staff how to finger spell their own names. With encouragement from our staff, Jacob has gained confidence in his ability to express himself non verbally and in the past few months he has started to talk to some members of staff.

During his time with us Jacob has built positive relationships with our staff members - particularly his key worker Abigail. Abigail has supported Jacob for two years and her support with him has been outstanding. Initially, it was difficult for Jacob to communicate with Abigail. Until July, he communicated with her using signs and writing on a whiteboard. She explains that she often had to guess what he was trying to tell her. Although there are times when Jacob still struggles to express to himself, he has learned to trust Abigail and now the two verbally communicate with each other. Abigail tells us:

Now Jacob verbally communicates with me his world has opened up. He is always telling jokes and interesting facts. Most of our time together is filled with laughter and understanding.

"He tells me what he does and doesn't want. He is more motivated and is blossoming within the house. He is always telling Donna and Robert (staff members) about funny things he has seen or interesting TV programmes. He still has a long way to go as he still selects who he verbally communicates with."

Jacob has a close network of family and friends who he regularly keeps in touch with.

Jacob expresses that he likes his room, the activity room where he watches TV and his collection of cars at Fernery. He enjoys living in Burnham especially the beach, town shops, the amusements & the local cinema. He also likes going to other places nearby like Weston-super-Mare. He enjoys horse riding and woodland skills. The best thing that has happened since he lived here is finding his voice.

Jacob has made so much progress since moving into our residential service. There is still a long way to go, but our staff are really proud of how much his communication has improved in the last 18 months. His current goals are to communicate verbally with new friends and in social settings, and to learn more about safety. We hope that he can continue finding different ways of expressing his thoughts and wishes and, with support from staff, work towards living a more independent life.

Photos of a young autistic man at one of our residential services - on the beach, horseriding, in a park, in a cafe

For more information on supported living services and current availability, visit our Placements page.

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