The heart behind Stuarts House Care
George and Amanda's Story
At 18 months old we began to notice that George was developing differently to others. He wouldn’t be able to respond to you or look at you and he’d lost the few words he had at 15 months old, to be replaced with high pitch squeals or a repetitive sound like a train. His behaviour had become a series rituals, running off and tantrums.
Age 3 years, 7 months George was non-verbal, he was unable to come when you called him, he couldn’t stand still and would run off constantly with no sense of social situations or danger.
He would insist on lining up objects and even people. From his car seat he would attempt to grab the steering wheel from my hands as I was driving to insist we drove a certain way.
He was a great escapologist. We had the watch him every second of the day, even so, he did evade us a number times, on one occasion, to be found in a field, heading for the motorway with Thomas the Tank Engine in his hand. On another occasion he climbed on a bus and had to be tracked down by the police. The most terrifying was when he left his school and was missing for 3 hours, to be seen on CCTV crossing the road, heading for the train station, where miraculously he was discovered by a workman who scooped him up off the train track in the dark after George didn’t respond to his voice.
Reciting the alphabet
In March, 1999, one year, ten months into the program, George started mainstream school along with his peers, with the ability to name all his class mates, the alphabet, phonics, colours, shapes and numbers.
George had the ability to learn and with consultancy over 4 years, I and the team learnt skills and techniques that are used today at Stuarts House Care.
We have continued to use ABA throughout George's life and he has gone from a young lad , with severe autism, to a young man who can speak, work and enjoy social situations that seemed unimaginable and impossible.
One month into the program, George aged 3 years 11 months.
George was non-verbal and lost in his own world, our GP suspected autism.
We desperately looked for information on autism and anything that could help our son. After much searching we discovered a group of parents following a home program LOVAAS, having great success with their children.
There were painful months in between health assessments, and no plan or help from the Health or Education authorities. We were left to watch George’s condition spiral downwards.
George was diagnosed autistic with Severe Learning Difficulties at the age 2 years 9 months and our worst fears were confirmed.
We started George on the LOVAAS program age 3 years, 10 months. I gave up my career to run the program and my husband Mike worked all hours to fund it. George responded as hoped and we knew this was the right decision.
After 6 weeks on the program George was able to speak and we recorded over 300 words. It felt like a miracle! His ability in attention and behaviour had become far more positive and he began to learn skills we hadn’t thought possible.
Consultant first visit to the UK , March 1998 10 months into program.
In March 1998, we engaged with a consultant who had qualified at UCLA and who had worked with Ivor Lovaas himself, and we started George on an Applied Behaviour Analysis Lovaas Program (ABA). Leading the home program, I employed a team of phycology students, who worked across 40 hours a week, providing 1-1 teaching through discrete trials.
When George left residential school at the age of 18 we looked for a specialist ASC provision offering the expertise he required. There was very little available and what was available was so expensive, that the authorities were not in a position to offer this to George. The other huge problem was that had we’d been successful in securing this provision, it would only take in George until his 25th birthday.
George left his residential school placement to come home to live with his parents. He was at puberty and the uncertainty and lack of a specialist placement that could support his needs was causing him great anxiety and his condition deteriorated.
With no adult specialist ASC provision available, I decided to once again give up my career and embark on furthering my autism knowledge and gained ASC and a Higher Management Social Healthcare qualification.
Stuarts House Care was formed in July 2013. I use my extensive experience in ABA and managerial qualification to head an amazing team of staff.
We support 10 young adults across Day Care and Supported Living. With the expertise support from my amazing team of caring staff, George and the others enjoy experiences and social inclusion that makes me very proud.
Just as autism doesn’t stop at 25, our service doesn’t either. Using ABA technique we have enabled George do so many things that he simply wouldn’t have had the ability to accomplish, from cooking to driving a tractor.
His latest achievement was to learn all the skill necessary to play darts, taking his maths skills from the classroom into the world with all the social benefits and opportunity. It took George over 2 months to gain all the language and knowledge needed to understand and play the game.
Language targets, included:
identifying and naming single, double and triple numbers
understanding the worth of bullseye and outer bull
keeping score and
working out what double needed to win.
Using sheets in the classroom, to teach each step, we incrementally added onto each mastered target, until he was ready to take his game to the local pub.
This is a great turn taking sociable game, age appropriate and one example of how we work to open up the community world to all our service users.
The support from the families and friendships that have formed over the years, have all added to what makes Stuarts House Care a provision with a huge heart and a common goal to help our special children and now young adults be happy and live a fulfilled life.
"While much attention has been paid to the young children who made phenomenal progress in early, intensive behavioural treatment, such research does not exhaust the benefits of behavioural treatment. Therapy utilising applied behaviour analysis is primarily meant to improve the quality of life of an individual with autism. This can be accomplished in early childhood, adolescence, and even later in life." (Lovaas Institution).
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