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How lockdown has transformed the life of family with autistic son

Posted onPosted on 29th Jun

With the support of an inspiring social care worker, a Mansfield family with an autistic son have become closer than ever after a life-changing lockdown experience.

Parents Donna and Jean Pierre Varet were left anxious when their 27-year-old autistic son Junior’s routine was drastically changed due to the temporary closure of his regular autism day service.

However, working together with a social care worker, the family has seen a positive behavioural shift in Junior, resulting in a new lifestyle for the family.

The Autism East Midlands Day Service and a regular short breaks service used by Junior were forced to close due to government lockdown regulations earlier this year, which meant that he was at home full time.

However, with Junior’s parents furloughed, they were able to create a new and improved support plan for their son, which was shaped by spending more quality time together in lockdown.

Donna said: “Since day one of lockdown I knew we had to make sure Junior was supported as we adjusted to changes in our whole family’s routine. I’m usually working full-time and now the family is at home together each day it’s incredible because we’ve learnt so much more about our son.

“We’ve utilised the whole house and reinstated key activities in Junior’s weekly schedule at home. We’ve created an arts and crafts room, IT room and plenty of activities in the garden, such as swing ball and time in the jacuzzi. We’ve even recreated a disco night that Junior used to go to every Wednesday before lockdown and he gets dressed up for it and enjoys dancing. I’ve never seen Junior this calm and chilled before – our new schedule has made such a difference.

“The icing on cake was to see Junior taking part in karaoke with the whole family – there were seven of us altogether in one room. It’s the first time we have done anything together as a whole family and it was so beautiful to see. I would tickle his hand, which helps to keep him calm, whilst his sister, Jenny, sang on the karaoke.

“We have been mindful and carefully watching Junior and we have not seen one inkling of challenging behaviour. We’ve learnt that Junior thrives more with independence and he’s a lot calmer and happier. I’m overwhelmed to see this amazing progress. We’ve transformed as a family and reconnected with him again.”

The family has been working with a social worker from Nottinghamshire County Council’s Newark Community Learning Disability Team (CLDT) to create a new initial support plan to see what Junior’s week might look like once services reopen and explore alternative options. The plan has completely shifted to be person-centred, giving Junior more time with his parents around work.

Lisa Geary, team manager at Newark CLDT said: “It is especially positive to see that the new plan has been led by the family as they’ve been enjoying more time together. The family has used appropriate resources to help communicate with their son and help him to understand and enjoy activities reducing any anxieties which is also very encouraging.

“Another aspect is that Junior used to have to use expensive transport services to get to a specialist day service five days a week. Under the new plan he will not need that service, which is not only better for the social care budget, it’s also better for the environment.”

Coun Tony Harper, chairman of Nottinghamshire County Council’s Adult Social Care and Health Committee, said: “Our services have been continuing to support service users across the county during the pandemic, often in different and creative ways.

“It’s encouraging to see that despite significant changes in his routine. Junior has made such progress and is enjoying time with his family. The CLD Team will continue to work with the family to ensure that Junior has the support most appropriate to his changing needs and interests as we slowly come out of lockdown.”