Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone, I hope you all had a merry and bright Christmas.  We have slid into a New Year relatively unscathed! I hope it is a great one for you all.

2017 was an up and down year for us and thezachproject. We found out in December 2016 we needed a new base as Mudlarks were losing the use of Scott House so the first two months of the year were spent in a massive frenzy knocking on doors until I found somewhere suitable. Our current premises is great and has been one of the successes of last year.

 

My one disappointment with our current base is that it is really only big enough for Zach, it is still my goal to find a base which can have multiple users. The base would be for people who are currently in ‘no mans’ land, they like Zach cannot access current services because of their complex needs yet need a base, inclusion, activities and a peer group. A fulfilling and satisfying life.

The other morning I woke up after a very vivid dream (I have a dream!) when part of a large local sports centre was being sold off for £159,000 and that was going to be the base……anyway I’ll keep doing the lottery!

We had plenty of ups and downs with Zach’s behaviour over the year and his new supervisor worked tirelessly to try to find ways to satisfy Zach’s rituals without it descending into an escalation and challenge for everyone involved. Beam ABA Services continued to support Zach and us as a family and I thank our lucky stars (if there are such a thing) daily that he has such expert committed support from them.

To contact Beam ABA Services Limited if you are looking for expert support call -020 3886 0640 or email contact@beamaba.com

Becky who owns Art Explorers in Hertford started working with Zach in September and she is one of the big hits of the year! Zach has art with Becky every week on a Thursday morning, I am so pleased to have found her! She is so tuned in and switched on and Zach really looks forward to her sessions. She has given so much thought to the sort of activities that Zach responds to and gets satisfaction from. It is so refreshing to have found Becky, I had seen her posters around town for the classes she runs with young children and just on the off chance contacted her. She had such a ‘can do’ attitude from the off set, she is smiley and cheerful (which goes a long long way with Zach) and enjoys the sessions herself too which is a real bonus.

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To contact art explorers you can email artexplorers1@gmail.com, I can’t recommend her enough.

We are still looking for a drum teacher, Zach had an electronic drum kit for his birthday and we would love a drumming Becky if anyone knows someone who is patient, enthusiastic, smiley and happy who may be interested 🙂

One of the downsides of the year was the almost frequent contact we had with the police. In November one Sunday evening when Zach was upstairs and John and I were watching the Strictly Results show (it’s just how we roll!) there was a knock on the door. I opened the door to find a policeman asking after Zach’s welfare. I invited him in and he told us that a member of the public had reported seeing Zach and his support team in Stevenage on the Friday afternoon. Zach had escalated and been escorted back to the car and the member of the public had reported his team were repeatedly shutting the car door on his legs and laughing and joking saying that they mustn’t leave any bruises on him.

I was astonished when he told us this, Zach had just had a great weekend, he was happy and cheerful and certainly had no bruises anywhere.

After a long chat with the Officer he was satisfied that the member of the public had not given an accurate account of what actually happened, but the police had reported it to Social Services and on the Monday morning I had a call from social services who then visited Zach at his base and spoke to Zach’s supervisor, the matter was then referred to safeguarding.

Fortunately due to the diligence and professionalism of Beam recording and taking data after the Safeguarding meeting the matter was closed. However it didn’t feel very nice knowing that if the meeting did not go well, or if there was not a clear report concerning the incident that the outcome could have had a very negative consequence for us all.

I am grateful to members of the public who look out for the vulnerable and act if they are alarmed by something which they see but to report something and embellish what happened could have caused an out of control snowball for us! I like a bit of snow but….

When a person who has autism escalates it is not pretty, it is an uncontrolled mess! Zach’s team are all qualified in Team Teach which is safe and causes no harm or pain. It is alarming to witness, it is chaotic and frightening and what is happening could easily (and has) been misinterpreted but the alternative of public escalations is them happening somewhere out of sight because the support team are not confident to take him out in public……Zach loves going out and about and that isn’t something we can ever let happen.

I had my broken ankle in September which put a lot of extra strain on John. We were however overwhelmed by all our wonderful friends, although I would rather not have broken my ankle to have this affirmed. Zach was an absolute star when I was in plaster and was very gentle to me, who says people who have autism don’t have compassion!

Laura and April gave up having Zach overnight in November due to a change in their circumstances so I need to explore our options and find the best solution for us all before this year gets too old. I need a plan, then I need to get the plan agreed and make it happen. We are very grateful for the support they gave us as a family.

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Cora and Daniel still take Zach out for the first two Saturdays of every month. He has a great time with them and positively jumps with glee when they arrive. He has been to some new places and some which are old favourites and always comes home happy and content from their trips out. They have been taking Zach out for some years now and we feel very lucky to have them, they are really wonderful, kind people. They both work full time but still give their free time to us, we really appreciate them.

 

‘Get Set’ was a great addition to Zach’s weekly activities, it is an initiative by The Three Rivers District Council and designed to increase accessibility to leisure activities for adults who have disabilities. They have a number of different activities over the course of the week including dance, games, trampolining, drama and horse riding. To find out more about what they offer contact 01923 776611. It is a shame East Herts District Council don’t have a similar offer.

My last mention in this post goes to Hertford Theatre. It is a lovely little theatre and I have had conversations with Ben who is the front of house manager about doing more for people who have disability at the theatre and he seems keen. The theatre runs its own pantomime every year, this year it was Rapunzel. The production ran from the beginning of December to January 1st. On the 28th of December there was to be a relaxed performance, we and many other families I know purchased tickets and looked forward to the one relaxed live production of the year.

On the 28th December due to cast illness the performance was cancelled! What a massive disappointment. It may have been unavoidable but still such a shame that our children missed out on the experience of live performance.

Today I went into the theatre and got a refund on the tickets. I asked if they were going to put anything on instead as a relaxed performance. I was shown two shows between now and April. While I applaud that they are having performances which have British sign language and audio description it is quite alarming that this was regarded by the theatre as being a relaxed performance!

Disability comes in all shapes and sizes! One size does not fit all and I am pretty sure that Zach would not be very interested in a show about Afghanistan and post traumatic stress disorder, it doesn’t sound quite as much fun as a pantomime!

 

 

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thezachproject

Exhausted Mother and advocate to my son Zach. Zach is 19 years old and has severe autism and complex needs. My blog is about the project we set up when there was no suitable further education setting for Zach when he left school in July 2016. I find that sharing our successes and struggles is cathartic for me and I hope insightful for the reader. My hope is that others who are struggling to find a place for their child or themselves may draw some inspiration from thezachproject. Thanks for reading my blog, please leave me comments.

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