North West development coordinator Amie Dobinson discusses how five young adults with learning disabilities and autism, who are supported in the region, have blossomed thanks to the launch of our transitions model.

In April 2013, United Response launched a pilot scheme for five young adults, Sara, Alisha, Tom, Will and John*, who have learning disabilities and are on the autistic spectrum, to live independently, and study at a local mainstream college as an alternative to attending a residential college away from family and friends.

Our key goals when supporting young people in transition are to make sure that they are involved in their local community, developing real transferrable skills that could lead to employment opportunities, working towards the highest level of independence possible and able to maintain informal networks of support.

Working closely with the individuals, their families, and the local authority, we found two houses suitable for the three young men and two young ladies, which were near the town centre and local shops, and within walking distance of their colleges.

Reducing support over time

Over time, there has been a massive reduction to their initial support needs which means that they are now able to live more independently and are developing their own skills and interests.

At the start, all five individuals required 1:1 support to travel to and from college. After careful planning, we slowly and gently reduced the amount of support and, within just a few months, they were all able to walk to and from college unsupported. One of the young men has even passed his cycling road safety test so that he can cycle to college when he wants.

At first, Sara needed 1:1 support to go food shopping. Now, with minimal support, she does this herself. As well as singing in the local choir, Alisha does voluntary work helping out backstage at a local drama group, while Sara would like to create a cat-sitting enterprise. Tom has already established a successful small enterprise building and selling bird boxes.

Find out more about them in this short video:

Exceeding expectations

When Sara and Alisha were moving into their new home, their neighbours instantly warmed to them and lent them a television until they were able to get one of their own. With support from staff, Sara and Alisha thanked them by cooking them a three-course meal.

The three young men successfully applied for funding to throw a hugely popular community barbecue and, with support, to build a vegetable patch. Tom also saved up and bought a ping-pong table, and wants to turn the garage into a games room for the young men and their large circle of friends to enjoy.

One of the most rewarding aspects when reviewing the success of this new transition model is how consistently the young people meet and exceed all expectations in terms of what they are able to achieve. They, and the people around them, have learnt that goals, dreams, aims and ambitions are just as achievable for them as they are for anyone else.

*name has been changed

Amie Dobinson, North West development coordinator.

Learn more about how we support young people in transition

Watch another video about Alisha, Sara, Will and Tom

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