"It’s like having the old Ed back."

Support from SeeAbility has been life-changing not just for Ed, who has autism, but for his whole family. We spoke to Ed’s mum Sharon about the changes she has seen in her son since he moved into Priory Mews in Bicester – and how the SeeAbility team always go the extra mile for the people they support.

Twenty-four-year-old Ed spent most of the summer of 2017 in his log cabin at the bottom of his parents’ garden. All the windows were shut. All the blinds were drawn. On the rare occasions Ed did leave the cabin to venture into the house, he always wore ear defenders to block out any noise.

Ed’s older sisters Stacey and Leanne had both left home and Ed missed them. His sense of loss manifested itself in extreme anxiety and frustration. Ed’s parents decided to build him a log cabin with a small kitchen, toilet and bed, hoping it would give him some independence and a safe haven to escape to when he needed it. But it didn’t quite work out as they’d planned. “He took himself off to the cabin and refused to come out,” says Sharon. “For nearly three years he was a recluse.”

Leaving the cabin

With help from Ed’s care manager, the family started looking for supported accommodation. Flats in Gloucester were rejected because they had a communal kitchen – Ed wouldn’t have been able to handle the people or the noise, and he doesn’t eat in front of others. A flat in High Wycombe seemed promising, so Ed moved in. He was home again just five days later.

When Ed was offered tenancy of a bungalow in Bicester with support from SeeAbility, it felt different.

We went for a visit and I remember his face as he looked round the bungalow. He had this huge smile. He was opening all the cupboards and asking, ‘Is this all mine?'

says Sharon

Ed was set to move to Priory Mews in late May 2018, so in April the SeeAbility team started visiting him at home so that they could get to know him. “It was lovely,” says Sharon. “Ed was so proud to show them what he could do. He loves baking and when one staff member came he said, ‘I’m going to bake some cakes Mum.’ And during the next visit he did some ironing!”

Sharon vividly remembers the first time she went to see her son in his new home. “Straightaway he said, ‘Hello Mum, do you want a cup of tea?’ And he got up and made me a cup of tea. It was lovely, because in the log cabin he never wanted to do anything.”

Getting out and about

The SeeAbility team has helped Ed organise his week around the things he loves doing. On Mondays he goes to FarmAbility where he spends time with horses, cleans out chickens and collects eggs. Ed is a whizz at woodwork, so SeeAbility has organised for him to do furniture restoration on Fridays. During the rest of the week he visits the gym, goes swimming, borrows DVDs from the library for his nightly film viewings and enjoys long walks in the park. He’s a very long way from the Ed in ear defenders who rarely left his log cabin.

Things have improved for Sharon, too. Before Ed moved to his own home, her life had become increasingly restricted to the house because she felt she needed to be there for him. Today she can pop out whenever she feels like it, safe in the knowledge that Ed is getting all the support he needs from SeeAbility.

It’s changed all our lives. I visit him every Wednesday and we have a lovely time. We Facetime every night and he’s sitting there laughing. My daughter Leanne said to me, ‘It’s like having the old Ed back.’ She really hit the nail on the head. The SeeAbility team have given him a life.