How Paula found new ways to communicate

Paula lives in our home in Scarborough. She is autistic and has extremely complex needs as she is non-verbal and exhibits challenging behaviours when frustrated, angry or upset.

Her support workers, led by service manager Kelly Barnard, were inspired by our new autism specialism and introduced a range of innovative sensory activities to engage with Paula and improve her quality of life. The change in Paula as a result has been described as ‘absolutely amazing’ and staff love to see her cheeky grin.

As Paula communicates mainly through objects of reference, the team are finding ways to use her favourite objects as prompts to encourage her to try new activities and environments and reduce any anxieties.

To discourage Paula from taking other people’s drinks from them, the team successfully introduced a new routine using her favourite purple cup. She now understands that her drinks are always served in this cup, so the team are using this to work towards taking her out to cafes in the future.

They noticed that Paula enjoys the feeling of rain on her face, so recreated this sensory experience for her inside the home with bubbles. Paula giggles with delight when they burst on her face.

She also loves to feel the wind, so her team introduced colourful sheer scarves which she throws into the air so they fall gently across her face. This evolved from their observation of how much Paula enjoys throwing her cushions around the room and is a safer way for her to express herself.

Before, Paula would choose to spend most of her day sitting in the dining room when she wasn’t outside or taking part in activities. Now, thanks to an autism-specific environmental assessment and subsequent adaptations to the lounge, she uses this room and her bedroom freely each day.

Paula’s team are inspired by the positive changes in her behaviour and are finding new ways to engage her. Paula is now a much happier, calmer person and the enhanced sensory activities they introduced for her have enriched the lives of the home’s other residents as well.

(This person’s name has been changed to protect their confidentiality.)