Breaking Down Barriers
V has autism, along with his twin brother who is also on the spectrum, so when his routine was rudely interrupted by the Coronavirus lockdown, he found it very difficult. His Community Wellbeing Group at Talkback was to continue online, there was no alternative; but would V engage?
“He doesn’t use technology to communicate with others willingly,” his mother told us. “He won’t even speak on the phone or Facetime his cousins.”
College and other agencies attempted to connect, but V told them it wasn’t for him before hanging up after a few minutes. The danger was that he would withdraw from the world completely – he declined to be thrust online, whether with family or anyone else, and he was believed to have too many barriers to online/virtual engagement.
However, a barrier can be removed if someone helps you to shift it; and Talkback staff refused to give up or be discouraged by others’ experiences. For the prospective Talkback call, A asked V’s mum to find him a quiet place with no distractions. This Mum did but was sceptical of any chance of success. Once V saw A’s face on Teams however, he immediately engaged and joined in.
After the usual hello and what have you been doing, the session was tailored for V, starting with a simple movement session to the Bee Gees’ Staying Alive! V seemed more entertained by A’s dancing. A drawing and writing activity called Happy Hands followed – A knew that V likes to write, so tapped into the areas he enjoys the most. V was calm and chatty throughout, to such an extent that the session over-ran and he didn’t want it to end.
‘I will have to say goodbye now, V,’ said A.
‘Wait,’ (as Mum tried to end the session) ‘I have a lot more to do today yet, A.’
‘But I need to go now, V, so goodbye,’ said A.
‘Just one more time, one more time, A.’
‘Bye V, see you Friday.’
V waved bye but looked rather confused. It was great that he wanted to continue.
‘I was listening from afar,’ said Mum, ‘this has been such a breakthrough today for him.’
The ongoing sessions are taking place every Wednesday and Friday and V is always asking when the next one is. He now knows when it is supposed to finish and says goodbye at the right time. He remembers staff names and that important connection is retained.
These one-to-one sessions are perfect for V, they give him the opportunity to stay connected with Talkback in a calm environment. It allows him time to process information and not be rushed, whilst working with someone he trusts. And a young man we were told would not stay online, is now reluctant to get off!
A paid tribute to V’s surprising adaptability, and his mother is amazed at how he has accepted this new means of communication and embraced the technology. A success story for V and another Talkback member empowered to contribute.
Written by Tony Flower