Nigel and Peter at Foothills.

Peter and Nigel personify the power of purposeful interaction

The power of purposeful interaction between Disability Support Workers and the people they work with can achieve amazing results.

By using the Hanging Out Program and the GOOD Plan methodologies, The Disability Trust DSW Peter Freestone has been making breakthroughs with Nigel, a participant at the Day Options program at Foothills in Balgownie.

Nigel, who is a non-verbal communicator, enjoys spending quality time with Peter in the sensory garden at Foothills, listening to his favourite classical music composers of Bach and Mozart.

They have bonded since Peter started working for The Disability Trust last year by putting the HOP and GOOD Plan principles into practice.

The GOOD Plan is an initiative of The Disability Trust which encourages Disability Support Workers to formulate a person-centred plan for participants to reach their goals.

Nigel’s goal was to make the most of the Hanging Out Program, which was developed by Sheridan Foster, a Victorian speech pathologist to support DSWs who are working with people with profound disabilities to help them not to be socially isolated.

The Disability Trust Clinical Manager Danielle Flowers said the Hanging Out Program empowers DSWs to spend 10 minutes of uninterrupted time with the person they’re supporting where the only purpose is about the interaction.

“It’s a playful time where people are encouraged to be relaxed and curious about the person they’re supporting and what they’re interested in, how they’re communicating and how they might respond to different things in their environment,” she said.

“It gives DSWs the opportunity to support in a time when it’s not about other things that the person needs.

“It’s not about getting somebody something to eat or putting them in or out of the van, it is just about communication, it is just about the relationship and it’s just about connection.”

Coupled with The GOOD Plan, Danielle says it’s a winning combination.

“The GOOD Plan framework allows DSWs to look for opportunities in their environment, to allow people to interact with their environment more and to be more independent,” she explained.

“They can focus on their goals, dreams, their aspirations and look for opportunities to do that. It allows them to think about and be curious about what people might be interested in experiencing and then supporting them to actually do that. As opposed to just moving through the day in a set program and that not being individualised to the person in a person-centred way.

“People with profound intellectual disability are often at risk of spending a lot of time on their own and for their communication to be only around their care needs.

Nigel and Peter at Foothills.

“Purposeful interaction is really important for people at risk of social isolation so they can have meaningful connection with other people.”

Peter has noticed a range of positive changes in the way Nigel interacts with him, other participants at Foothills and the world around him.

“He’s become more friendly, more open to us being around. He likes to hold my hands, he just seems more relaxed and happy in our time together,” Peter said.

“Nigel really looks forward to the time we spend together.

“I think he is always making progress. He is quite cheeky – when I’m not with him on other days with other clients, he lets me know that he wasn’t happy that he wasn’t spending time with me.

“He likes to make sure that he’s in control when I’m with him. He will do things in Nigel’s time, as I call it, like drinking his drink or taking his medication or eating. He always lets me know with a grin or a side glance. Every week it seems our relationship is getting better and stronger.”

Nigel and Peter at Foothills.

Peter said their time in the sensory garden was vital to ensuring Nigel gets time to do what he enjoys.

“His GOOD Plan is to be doing the Hanging Out Program which helps him to be more relaxed and for us to learn more about Nigel. They work side by side,” he added.

“With that, I found out that Nigel likes to be outside in the sensory garden here at Foothills to spend time with him. He likes the atmosphere. He’s outside, even on hot days we’ve got the wind blowing and it’s lovely.

“We’ve got the birds making noises and butterflies flying around. He goes searching for those things. His whole body language changes when we go out here.”

Nigel’s mother, Joanne, said for the first time in his life, he is enjoying the company of other people, not just his inner sanctum.

“He’s gone from a man who has virtually no communication skills to having a connection with people and being able to express himself,” she said.

“I just wish this whole program had been around 40 years ago because it’s made such a huge difference to Nigel.

“Instead of just being pushed into activities that other people thought he might have enjoyed, people are learning what he enjoys and can follow up on that because his expression is so much greater than it used to be.”

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