A life beyond her label - Christina’s story

08/11/2019

People with autism typically need strong routine and order to feel comfortable, but without regulation this can consume and constrict their lives, narrowing their experiences and suffocating their wider personalities. Avenues support is about the subtle balance of these needs, and seeing beyond the condition, so people can enjoy being who they really are ...

Christina started being supported by Avenues in  2005, after spending years in a residential home in Sunderland, hundreds of miles from home.

As well as being obese and unhealthy, she was extremely angry, aggressive and unhappy, with a daily routine centred around eating and watching DVDs.

Service Manager Kellie Day explains: “Christina’s life was being driven by patterns and rewards that were doing her no good; we knew it would take time and effort to turn things round, but we were determined to do everything we could to help her have a better life.

Through careful observation and devoting extensive one-to-one time with Christina, her support team at Hempstead Road were slowly able to build rapport, and understand her sensory needs and what made her tick, all leading to a support plan that works for her and is making her happy.

“It was about Christina finding out who she is. It can be all too easy to allow someone's autism, and attraction to routine and repetition to dictate their lives. It would have been easy to support Christina to continue to wear the same clothes every day, and punctuate those days with eating and drinking. But this approach had left her unhealthy physically and mentally, with little capacity to tolerate anything new. So she would display extreme and often violent reactions to events and situations. We were determined to change how she was experiencing life.

“We worked intensely with her for months, slowly introducing her to new ideas and ways of doing things so she could gradually start to see that she could make choices and have some control in her life outside all the negative routines she had developed. This started with doing things around the house, with the long term aim of her feeling comfortable being out in the community – where she belongs.

“Today we know that Christina likes all things that sparkle, particularly jewellery - she calls them her pretties; she is wearing and enjoying different colours and styles of clothes which would have been impossible for her a couple of years ago. She loves her days out, whether that’s shopping, trampolining or swimming. And of course she still loves her food and is particularly partial to a Chinese, but she has balance now.

“When we look at pictures of how she was, and remember her unhappiness, we’re so pleased and proud for her. She’s come a long way and has such a good life ahead of her now. She’s really starting to enjoy being Christina.”