Jake's new chapter
A man, 21 years old, is sitting in the middle of the road.
Oblivious to the dangers around him, the cars that slam on the brakes when they see him, he sits and he waits.
This man is Jake, a year ago. He doesn’t know when he will next be taken out of the house. So he is waiting in the road.
Before moving in to his own home, supported by SeeAbility, Jake had always lived with his parents, but things hadn’t always been easy. Jake has autism and a learning disability, and his moods could fluctuate.
“Things depended on how Jake was, how busy places were and everything affected whether we could go out,” says Cathy, Jake’s mum. “We went on holiday a few times but that was hard because it would have to be on Jake’s terms.”
Life got even more challenging when Jake’s dad lost his sight six years ago. Cathy became the carer for both of them, and as they grew older, it started to become overwhelming. Jake loves getting out and about every day, but Cathy was struggling to meet these needs.
Finding the right support
The answer was in nearby Didcot, where SeeAbility was opening a new specialist supported living service. After meeting with the team, Cathy decided it was the right place for Jake.
“It was scary thing to do it, it is hard to trust people with your son. But I felt like I could trust the staff, I got a good feeling about people.”
The SeeAbility team visited Jake regularly in the lead up to the move, taking the time to build trust and understand each other. At first Jake would not engage, but then gradually he started to make eye contact, to communicate using his iPad, and then finally he started to relax and trust the team. In July 2022, he moved in.
“It took him time to settle in,” says Cathy. “But now he seems a lot more settled. He is being supported to grow and do more with his life.”
Since moving into his own home, the SeeAbility team have been working with Jake to understand him at a deeper level and give him the tools he needs to become more independent. Shireen, the manager in Didcot, explains:
“With Jake it is important to ensure he is active - he needed to go out every day. Jake used to go out and sit on the floor in the middle of the road.”
This was frightening for the team, and highly dangerous for Jake. It isn’t a busy road, but no one expects there to be a man sitting there. They knew he was trying to tell them something, and needed to act quickly to understand him. Shireen and Lorrain, the Deputy Manager, discussed it, and realised that he was sitting there because he didn’t know when he was going to go out again – he didn’t know if it was going to be the next day or the next week. Immediately, they came up with a plan to support him out of the house every day, even if it was just a walk to the park. Jake never sat in the road again.
Gradually, they developed this further. They would support Jake to decide who he wanted to be with him, where he wanted to go out, and what he wanted to do. They would sit with him to plan out each day.
On one occasion they planned a big trip to London. The team showed Jake pictures of the different places he might like to visit, and he chose which ones he wanted to see. He chose what they would eat, and what time they would come back. The day was a great success.
Building a life
Soon, Jake started to learn the everyday skills needed to live independently.
“We are now not having to remind him how to do things because he has built those skills” says Shireen. “He will empty his shopping bags into the fridge or freezer and then take his bags and take them to the shed. It is a normal natural thing for him to just do. He has blown us all away with how independent he has become and how clear his communications are.”
This communication aspect was key for Jake. He communicates using an iPad, but before being supported by SeeAbility it only had three or four words available.
“We have added new words to it: names of staff, things he loves to do. He has control over all those choices – like saying he wants to go to Oxford and watch a movie.”
All these approaches have weaved together to help Jake build the life that he wants. With every passing day he gains new skills, confidence and independence.
Cathy is delighted with how Jake’s life has improved through SeeAbility.
“I am fortunate that Jake has found somewhere where it is good for him now. When he first started I had doubts, but that stemmed from incidents at school so it was hard for me trust. It takes me a long time to trust people. But all the staff are lovely and I feel how happy he is at SeeAbility now.”
“I can see everything is good there - Jake is happy and that is key. He is always laughing, he has me in stitches where I go there.”