It’s 3pm on a Wednesday afternoon. Elliot is sitting at the table in his supported living service in Newcastle tucking into a hearty meal of macaroni cheese. But today, unlike every other day, he is not dining alone.
Elliot is joined by Joe, a young man in his 20s who is also supported by Dimensions. The two have struck up an unlikely friendship after meeting at a Dimensions disco last year – a friendship that is breaking barriers both big and small.
Elliot is a 49 year old man who is profoundly deaf, does not speak, and has (undiagnosed) autism. Because of his specific communication needs, he has often felt frustrated in life when people aren’t able to understand him.
He hates being touched, avoids eye-contact and would regularly withdraw from social interaction with others.
When Dimensions first started supporting Elliot in September 2017, instances of challenging behaviour were high.
He would grunt loudly when he was distressed, run at and hit members of staff.
But through their patience and diligence in proving the best support possible and his developing friendship with Joe, he has flourished.
As with any instances of challenging behaviour, Elliot was just trying to communicate. He uses a unique combination of Makaton and British Sign Language to speak so, since staff started to support him, they have worked hard to learn Makaton so they can understand him.
Despite his support needs, Elliot has a broad range of skills that he enjoys using at home and out in the community. One of these is cooking. Every day at 2pm, he will start to prepare his dinner which he eats religiously every day at exactly 3pm.
He is meticulous in the way he prepares – double, sometimes triple checking the ingredients and always eating every last scrap, even when he cooks too much.
The idea of him sharing his food would always be out of the question – we were even warned about this by his previous provider – a provider who supported him for 29 years!
But that all changed when Joe came over for dinner. Staff explained in Makaton that Elliot and would be cooking and sharing a meal with Joe and, quite miraculously, there were no issues as his staff team had planned for and prepared Elliot for the evening.
And although the act of cooking and sharing a meal is an everyday task for many, for Elliot this was a huge development from the obsessive tendencies he has over preparing and sharing food.
This meeting has set a precedent for an amazing friendship between the pair.
Despite the differences in their ages and support needs – Joe, in comparison, has very mild learning disabilities and only 30 hours of support – they love each other’s company and will often now be seen out in the community, going bowling or out for meals together.
Most amazingly, Elliot will make eye contact with Joe and allow him to link arms with him or touch him – something that he has never before been comfortable doing with anyone else.
Joe has even learnt Makaton to be able to communicate fully with his new found friend.
We can’t wait to see what the future holds for them both!