Ben is now 19 and it has been twelve months since he left school. The college reduced the funding for the course Ben is on so he goes four days a week instead of five, meaning we were looking for somewhere for Ben to go on a work placement for the fifth day.
We had visited a few places but nothing seemed right for Ben. At a chance meeting with someone at the college they asked if I had heard about Corran Dean. My husband and I decided to drop in unannounced, met Jim and had a look around the place. It was the sort of place that you felt almost immediately that it was right – like when you are searching for a new house and you find the one. It was definitely more like what we had been looking for and the sort of place that we would be happy to stay at ourselves if we were looking for a place for a holiday break.
We liked Corran Dean straight away and we were really excited – we just needed to get Ben on board. Ben had, by now, not been anywhere for a respite break for twelve months and it was going to be hard for him. A good plan was needed to get this to work for all of us.
Cath came round and had a long chat with us to get to know us. Ben was adamant that he was not going anywhere.
It was obvious that a team approach was needed in order to persuade Ben to spend a weekend at Corran Dean, giving our family a much-needed break. We involved Ben’s social worker, who had also mentioned Corran Dean as a potential opportunity and a local enhanced care nurse. They were both very supportive, but Ben was still adamant he was not going. Between myself, Ben’s two direct payment support workers, Cath and the nurse and social worker, we began to plan very carefully. We agreed what we would say, we agreed what we wouldn’t say and what words not to use.
We arranged a weekend visit and we pulled all of the stops out together to make this work for Ben. On the day Ben decided not to go, but we had planned for this too. Ben found the morning difficult – it was one of his bad mornings. After a while, with one of his carers chatting to him, he decided he would go along to Corran Dean for a cup of tea. He went along with a plan for him to come home, and by 10.30pm he decided he would stay.
We had shared lots of information with Cath and she used this to plan a fantastic weekend for Ben. This included his favourite foods, and the activities that he enjoyed so that he could do things that he was familiar with so that he could cope with them. It was obvious that she had lots of experience working with people with autism and with young people. Ben was full of it when he came home and as we had also planned a scrapbook about his activities he came back with this too.
Ben has just had his second weekend at Corran Dean. It is early days yet but there were no problems at all when it was time to go. His own two carers have gone with him to allow him to settle in with people he knows and trusts; already an introduction has started to be made to the people who will provide his support when he goes for his weekend breaks, and the support from his own carers will be phased out. They will, of course, continue to work with him when he is not on a break. Ben has been involved in woodworking – on the first visit he made an insect box and on the second a bird box which I will paint with him this weekend. He did tasks such as feeding the pigs and helping out around the farm. These are all things that use the right strategies to make Ben feel good about himself and the contributions he can make. His scrapbook includes photos of him driving the buggy (with help) to see the lambs and the pigs.
The family were an integral part of the planning and the process was devised between all of us. Our experience has been hugely different than our previous experiences. I can only say good things about Corran Dean. They provide first class care in a beautiful location and in a much more individual way than we have experienced from bigger places.”