‘Progression, happiness, achievement’ – Eleanor’s empowering story

Posted on 10th Aug 2017 in Hesley Group, Autism, Learning difficulties, Complex needs

The Hesley Group explain how Eleanor, a teenager with complex special needs, is fulfilling her potential...

Eleanor is a 16-year-old girl with autism, learning difficulties and very complex needs. This includes behaviours that can challenge her, other young people, her support staff and the environment. She spent time living in Italy before moving over to the UK as a young child and lived in various parts of the UK with her adoptive family. Although, at times, it was very difficult and challenging for everyone, she remained in the family home until she was 14 years old, going on 15. Her home life completely broke down at this point with parents no longer being able to safely manage her challenging behaviour. She was placed in a local respite care home full time.

Initially, in the care home, staff there found things very difficult to deal with. Eleanor displayed a very high level of aggressive behaviour towards her care staff and her environment causing extreme levels of damage. Although, support staff at the home did make some progress with Eleanor, she wasn’t receiving any positive kind of education and wasn’t attending school. Staff were using multiple physical interventions daily to support her when in crisis. She also only had a very limited amount of activities. As the care home knew they could not meet her full needs another placement was sought and she arrived at Fullerton House in April 2016.

Once living at Fullerton, it quickly became apparent Eleanor could not tolerate numerous things in her living environment so a host of moderations were made until her home was right for her to feel comfortable living in.

The behaviour that may challenge being displayed by Eleanor was approached by building positive relationships with her so she would begin to feel safe and contented. This was initially an extremely challenging period; support staff were being hit, having their hair pulled and things thrown at them on a daily basis with Eleanor having upwards of 20 incidents a week. After around 3 months, things had begun to stabilise a little and the number of incidents she was having decreased. Working closely with the support staff that knew her well and the wider MDT, positive changes around her staffing were implemented and have proven to be extremely successful. Eleanor is far more settled, much happier, doing much more and incidents are down significantly. She can go for weeks without having an incident now and even when she does have one, they are nowhere near the severity they were.

Eleanor had experienced a lengthy absence from formal education when she first joined Fullerton which led to her being highly resistant to attending school and participating with others in lessons. Once we had assessed her needs, we adapted her curriculum to enable Eleanor to experience success. Initial learning sessions focussed on supporting her to attend school and complete a series of confidence building tasks. Over time this has been developed into her spending more time in class to enjoy a greater range of sensory opportunities such as swimming, baking and trampolining. She has continued to work hard each day and is progressing in her confidence, applying a range of maths skills which we are confident will enable her to leave school with nationally recognised entry level qualifications.

Life has completely changed for Eleanor. She engages in a wide range of activities now including shopping for groceries and clothing, enjoys trips to the seaside, attends parties and celebrations and interacts with her peers. Considering she only arrived at Fullerton just over 6 months ago, she has made remarkable progress. Her parents are over the moon with Eleanor’s achievements, as is everyone at Fullerton.

Fullerton House School is a specialist residential school, offering education and care for 52 weeks per year, for people aged 8 to19. The people we support have complex needs including behaviour that may challenge and a learning disability, often in association with autism.