With a new Outreach Service opening in Celbridge, the team at Gheel Autism Services reveal the challenges and rewards of working with adults with autism.
There is no “typical day” for Care Worker John Walshe.
“On any given day I'm a storyteller, Agony aunt, chef, plumber, Pokémon go expert, the list goes on…”
John works with Gheel Autism Services. Founded in 1971 by the parents of people with autism, Gheel provides services for adults with autism in the greater Dublin and North Kildare region.
“One day I'm liaising with Dublin Bus trying to organise bus training, another I'm meeting a college Principal to ensure a course goes to plan. I might spend a day helping someone get on the housing list, practice the theory test or find an apartment.”
“On another day, I could be creating an environment where someone can express their love of water. I might be celebrating with someone who cooked a sweet and sour chicken for ten people, after working on each step for a year”
Gheel provides a variety of other services for people with autism including Day Services, Respite Services, Residential Services, Day Programmes, Residential Programmes, Leisure Programmes and Outreach Services.
The organisation is launching its new Outreach Service in Celbridge shortly. Aimed at young adults with autism who have been through the mainstream education system, the service aims to enrich the lives of people through inclusion and integration says Gheel Regional Manager Lisa Merriman.
“The people with autism we will work with in Celbridge require a different type of support than the traditional day service model and the goal of the service is to help adults with autism to transition to independent living and learn valuable skills to function in society.”
Tailoring the service to the individual is a fundamental belief for the team at Gheel. The organisation’s low arousal approach ensures respect for each individual's autism allowing them to be who they are.
It’s the ability to be creative and to think of solutions ‘outside the box” that makes working with people with autism rewarding says John Walshe.
“Seeing how you can use someone passions, to build other skills or finding small changes in the environment that can make a big difference. With all the changes exemplified by 'New Directions' and other policies, it's a very exciting area to work; many of the things we are doing have never been done before. You also get to work as part of a vibrant team and meet lots of people.
Erica Murphy, is a Social Care Worker with Gheel in Dublin, she says daily plans are also important.
"We would plan the day with each individual by offering visual supports where necessary. The plan would be guided by service user choice and goals they are working towards. Every day is completely different but could include; independent living skills, health and well-being, social skills, community integration, leisure, linking in with other services."
As with every job it’s important to measure and track progress. All activities are noted and recorded with task analysis to map progress or regression. There are also weekly meetings with service users to establish which activities they prefer to do and any new things they may wish to try.
“As a team, we constantly brainstorm and challenge ourselves to come up with new or improved ways to support each individual service user to have the life they wish.” Says care worker Natasha Whelan.
Natasha, who worked as a youth worker before training in special needs, says as well as working with people with the autism the team at Gheel makes her job so worthwhile.
“As well as having the honour to support and learn from our wonderful service users, there is the pleasure of working alongside a vast superbly varied staff team without the feeling of hierarchy, from the top levels of management right throughout the service everyone is valued and supported. I honestly feel blessed in my career.
Gheel HR Manager Carol Barr says that while recruitment for the new service at Celbridge has now been completed they are currently recruiting for their outreach service in North Dublin.
“We are always looking for additional care workers and social care workers and I’m especially interested in hearing from people who have experience of working with people with autism.”
It’s more than providing a service says Gheel Social Care Worker Olivia Maher.
“We all want to help our service users have a life and not just provide them with a service. In my opinion having a positive attitude and showing enthusiasm and working as part of the Gheel team help make that happen.