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Supporting students to improve the lockdown lives of children with autism

Bassetlaw’s Rapid Response crisis intervention team is dedicated to supporting people in crisis and preventing them unnecessarily going into hospital.

Made up of Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Assistant Practitioners and Community Rehab Assistants, as well as Social Care staff they respond to crisis calls from Call For Care and put in same day medical monitoring, equipment, therapy and provide support in people’s homes through their team of Community Rehab Assistants. They also work in hospitals to assess patients and support them to return to their own home.

The team also regularly take students on placement, but they are usually focussed on supporting the care the team delivers.

Earlier this year, two of the team’s Occupational Therapists, Joanna and Leigh, took on four students from Sheffield Hallam University who were on placement at the Sheffield Centre for Education in what has been quite a significant departure from their normal work.

The students, who were on a role emerging placement at a day care facility for children with autism, started with the team there in February and held their first meeting with Joanna and Leigh in Sheffield on March 10. 

The following week, the world changed and we went into lockdown.

But rather than suspending their placements, the students were determined to make a difference and put together a detailed proposal of how they could continue their placement to work virtually. It was an exciting proposal, which pitched working with families of children with autism and delivering resources and support to them virtually.

Joanna says: “It was a really innovative idea about how to support children, parents and carers through lockdown. It was a new area for Leigh and I, so it was a great learning opportunity for us too”.

“We hadn’t really worked much with children before, but we have supported the students through the placement, assessed them from a distance, provided advice, shared ideas and worked alongside the on-site supervisor at the centre and their tutor at Sheffield Hallam. Doing it all virtually was certainly a big learning curve.”

The students developed a range of resources to support the young people, including a Facebook page where they shared ideas and resources, and a weekly newsletter.

Joanna continues: “It’s a really comprehensive package. Using communications tools like YouTube videos, Facebook and newsletters, they could provide therapy and interventions virtually.

“The newsletter was packed with ideas about what to do with the children to promote their learning and using their senses, but it also had a section for the parents and carers which encouraged self-care and offered advice on health and well-being. This was particularly important at this time when parents are missing their usual daily support.”

The placements have now ended, but the Centre plans to pick it back up with the next batch of students and overall it has been a hugely positive experience for everyone involved.

Joanna says: “I think it was really important for this project to take place at this time, and it has really boosted the students’ confidence. It was fantastic to see them adapt to this new situation and take such an innovative approach to their placement. Some of the students were living on their own in student houses so it gave them a purpose and motivation”.

“And it was good for us as well. Leigh and I both found it very fulfilling and we learned a lot about different ways of working and the ways we can use new technology in our practise.”

The students all passed with a pass ++.




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