Autism Awareness Month – Spotlight on Craegmoor Service Managers

Craegmoor services, (Part of the Priory Group of Companies) know what is important for their service users, as they utilise a personalised approach in order to understand the various needs of those who are in their care. Craegmoor Service Managers are crucial to maintaining this approach and ensuring that each service user has the necessary tools and support to achieve their individual goals.

Meet Kathleen Adams, Service Manager - Kinsley Autism Services

My career began when I started to work with people who had learning disabilities, as I progressed it led me to a career in working with people who have autism. I soon learnt that working with those who have autism is completely different to working with those who have learning disabilities. 

What are the rewards of working with those who have autism?

When moving from working with people who have learning disabilities to people who are autistic, you realise that the latter are much more vulnerable; every small development that people with autism experience is absolutely massive. For example, one of our service users, Jimmy* wouldn’t go outside, he simply couldn’t understand going on a walk in the outdoors, it scared him. We used ‘small steps’ and a consistent approach which enabled Jimmy to go outdoors and experience going on a walk. We also have a core group that works directly with specific service users to take them in a new direction.

It’s those kind of developments that really make the job rewarding.

How do service users at Craegmoor progress?

Each service user is different so getting to know the individual is crucial for their progression, ensuring that you read and understand all of the notes on each service user is a good place to start, and spending a consistent amount of time with each service user is really important. 

Craegmoor is a specialist provider committed to ensuring the people we support get the best possible outcomes and autism is just one of the service lines of care at Craegmoor; and we can help to achieve a successful transition from education to a residential or supported living placement for young people with autism and challenging behaviour. 

Why do you think awareness days/months are so important?

Awareness days are incredibly important, it seems as though the true meaning of what autism is can really be brought home on awareness days.  For me, it’s crucial that learning disabilities and autism are not classed as one and the same. Autism is completely different and must be dealt with as a separate entity. Because autism does not always present in a physical capacity it can be easy to ‘ignore’ the behaviour or judge too quickly. 

Education is key to raising awareness. We need to be informing young people in mainstream schools of what autism really is and how it can present itself in various ways.

Meet Teresa Hibbs, Service Manager for four residential service in Trowbridge 

Currently, I am the Service Manager for Craegmoor’s four residential services in Trowbridge Wiltshire, three of which are services specifically for people with a diagnosis of autism.  I am also part of Craegmoor’s Autism Service Line; within this people who are committed to supporting those with autism across the company, get together to share and develop best practises and training programmes for staff to ensure that our service users are getting the best possible support.

During my summer holidays at school I used to volunteer for a scheme that offered activities to children with learning disabilities, this was where I had my first encounter of supporting someone with autism and what gave me a real desire to learn more about the condition. During my work experience at college I worked at a day centre for adults, I really enjoyed working in the adult setting, so when I left college I applied to work full time at Craegmoor’s The Old Rectory, this is one of the services that I now manage.

What are the rewards of working with those who have autism?

It seems almost impossible to summarise all of the rewards that I have gained during the fifteen years that I have been working for Craegmoor as there are so many; some things that may seem small to people in other jobs can mean something so huge in my role.  Every day, something happens that makes me feel proud of the job that I do.  Sometimes we have to complete a process of elimination to find a solution, but thinking of a way that a trigger or behaviour can be overcome and seeing that idea work in practice is a massive reward.

How do service users at Craegmoor progress?

Service users at Craegmoor can progress in various ways. One of the things that I am most proud of is supporting a service user, Paul*, to move on from residential care into his own flat; after almost 60 years of living in care he now has his own space and he is the happiest I have ever known him. Paul is a perfect example that anything is possible; it just takes time, patience and consistency.

Why do you think awareness days/months are so important?

I believe it is vitally important for the general public to be aware of autism, so that they can recognise when a person might need support and to ensure that their reactions to those who have autism are not negative. I believe that being part of a community that is autism aware really does enable people with autism to have more positive experiences outside of their own homes.

We have held various events at The Old Rectory which have involved the wider community, such as garden parties for the Queen’s Jubilee, and they have been positively received as we have enabled the people that live in the local community to experience the service and for the people who we support, to really feel as though they are part of their local community.

* All service user’s names has been changed to protect their identity.

If you would like further information on the full range of services offered by Craegmoor and the Priory Group, please call: 0845 277 4679.