How can social workers and support providers ensure that care packages deliver socially inclusive outcomes?
Self-advocates in the inclusion movement rightly demand that models of support provision enable service users to access the ‘mainstream’ community activities of their choice. They also argue powerfully as to how this inclusion can create important opportunities for developing friendships and ‘natural support’.
Yet for individuals with complex autism there are many additional and often unseen barriers to full social inclusion. Breaking these down begins with a detailed understanding of the person and creative, person centred, thinking;
“It is important to understand the person and especially their sensory needs in detail as autism will impact upon each person uniquely”; says Gary Thompson, operations director at Autism Care UK, adding that:
“It is also about staff at all levels working towards inclusive outcomes for the person through their person centred plan and ideally through an engaged and committed ‘Circle of Support’”
For people with autism especially gifts, talents and ‘special interests’ are a very good place to start in supporting a person to be more socially included. Firstly because putting these gifts and talents before any ‘labels’ positions the person in a positive light (and is why everyone supported by ACUK has a ‘positive profile’ which is what new support staff must read and understand first).
Secondly, a focus on the things a person is good at, interested in, and enjoys is more likely to lead to successful inclusion. In this regard local special interest groups (from aircraft to zooology!) are very likely to be places where people on the spectrum can meet new friends in a safe environment where there are shared interests aplenty.
In a rapidly changing (and financially challenged) social care sector, this kind of creative and inclusive practice has never been more important – it is evidenced for example that greater levels of social inclusion can reduce the amount of support needed; even by those with more profound and complex needs. This is yet another reason why social workers should expect (and demand) socially inclusive outcomes!
Autism Care UK, as a national provider, seeks to be an innovator in the area of social inclusion, which is one of the organisation’s four key outcomes. Further details of their unique support pathway which encompasses residential, supported living and community outreach can be found at www.autismcareuk.com