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Believing in Barbara: the story of how one woman has finally started living her life

This is the story of how Dimensions is turning around the life of one young lady who has autism and a learning disability.

After a string of failed placements, Dimensions has halved Barbara’s staffing needs and costs – from 2:1 to 1:1 . She is now out, about and meeting all sorts of characters in her community.

Barbara, now in her mid-20s, has not had an easy life

Difficulties in school meant that she did not learn the relationship skills that most of us take for granted.

Barbara’s first supported living placement broke down when she was physically abusive towards others and age 21 she ended up being sectioned into an ATU where she lived for two years.

Dimensions met her at a residential home in Gateshead

The thing that struck us most about Barbara, was that no-one had anything nice to say about her at all.

No-one around her seemed willing to build Barbara up, to find her strengths, to engage with her in the way she needs.

Due to her verbal and occasionally physical aggression, no-one even seemed prepared to encourage her to go outdoors; she may have been living in the community but she was most definitely not part of it.

Often, Barbara lay in bed all day – she got up after 11am on three out of four days. Her staff seemed to have given up.

Given the right environment Barbara can be full of life, full of energy

When her support changed to Dimensions, and following our Functional Behaviour Assessment, our two top priorities were to get the right living environment, and the right staff around her.

Welbeck Road is a core-and-cluster house (five independent flats in the same complex). This gives it a nice community atmosphere, whilst also providing the independent living that is so important to Barbara.

She can spend time at home, and go round to any of the other four tenants to build friendships. As a group, they go to the dogs, have film nights and get together for all sorts of things. Barbara is even planning to go to a Little Mix gig this year.

Overall, 56% of her waking time is now spent doing activities, compared to 14% before Dimensions.

And most days, she chooses to get up before 11am.

Getting the right staff for Barbara meant recruiting energetic, positive people

  • Staff who would make the effort.
  • Who would not let setbacks get them down.
  • Who could create the vibe that Barbara would respond to.
  • Who are as full of beans as she can be.
  • Who can help Barbara discover her own potential, and never, ever make her feel she’s let them down.

One of the first things we did was to get a high-energy playlist together

A playlist that now gets Barbara out of bed and going in the mornings.

We have also devised an activity planner so that regardless of what time Barbara gets out of bed, there is a plan for something to do.

It was important for Barbara to take control of her life

She’s very target driven. She monitors her own sleep, has decorated her own home, chooses and buys her own shopping and has recently joined Slimming World, while challenging herself with a new Fitbit.

Indeed, since beginning her fitness programme, Barbara has reached her target each week.

She’s going out every day and enjoys visiting her mum. And, she has already completed one college course with skills for people and is looking into enrolling onto another in the near future.

There’s a long way to go. But Barbara’s story shows just how important it is, for all of us, to be surrounded by people who believe in us.

Barbara needed the right staff

  • Staff who would make the effort
  • Staff who would not let setbacks get them down
  • Staff who could create the vibe that Barbara would respond to
  • Staff who are as full of beans as she can be
  • Staff who can help Barbara discover her own potential, and never, ever make her feel she’s let them down