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Posted in T2C News  29/07/2021
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Fantastic Feedback for the Autism Reality Experience

Fantastic Feedback for the Autism Reality Experience

Staff from Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust recently took part in the Training 2 Care Autism Reality Experience. This was undertaken as part of Learning Disability Week 2021 and to give the staff a better insight into the daily challenges faced by those suffering with Autism.

We were delighted to receive such positive feedback from the Trust following their time in the Autism Reality Experience. What follows is a summary of the Autism Reality Experience as given to us by the Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust:

“Several years ago I arranged for an Dementia Reality Experience bus for older people services and the impact is still talked about to this day, and staff often stop me to tell me how the experience changed their practice. To celebrate Learning Disability Week, I wanted to provide the same experience for staff to have an Autism experience, this is known as the Autism Reality Experience bus, an innovative and immersive training tool developed to give non autistic people an experience of the sensory processing difficulties faced by people on the autism spectrum. The aim of the experience was to have a greater insight and become even better practitioners for those we care for.

On the bus, staff followed the Covid 19 IPC guidelines and a risk assessment was completed to keep us all safe. To enhance the Autism Reality Experience staff wore gloves, headphones and special glasses to distort their perceptions of reality. To make matters even more like the experience of those on the autism spectrum, a video played throughout and delivered instructions on how to carry out a number of tasks. All of this while also experiencing noisy distractions including a loud bell, a clock ticking, hoovering and a fork being scraped on a plate. There were tasks to complete and this was over a short period of time.

I believe only one person CC (an OT) completed all the tasks, closely followed by Dr CM (names removed for GDPR) by focusing hard and ignoring all distractions, CC said she knew it was only a short time and managed to keep her focus, but admitted if this was longer, it would have been close to impossible and had some great ideas to reduce external stimuli to support our service users. Dr CM went on a home visit after the experience and he couldn’t wait to stop me in the car park on his return, to tell me how his eyes were open to the environment and realising that when a service user has his eyes closed rocking maybe there is too much stimuli or he doesn’t feel secure and looked at alternative approaches, turning the TV off, sitting in a armchair which feels more secure than a sofa. The service user had a long car journey then went to the cinema and when he came home was distressed, was this due to over stimulation or sadness that the experience ended. These small changes have a massive impact to how we care and support our service users holistically. 

The team extended the invite to all colleagues working in Learning disabilities services, social care, commissioners and domiciliary care, inpatients services and we had a welcomed visit from the T C, who shared his experience.

The event was quite powerful and overwhelming, I gave each staff member the opportunity of a debrief with me and arranged for the Autism Reality Experience company to complete a more formal debrief over video link on 17/06/2021 to support the participants. We created a ‘Word cloud’ instead of a feedback form to understand the impact of the day had on individuals. I asked those who participated “What they will change in their practice”. There was some great ideas, some small with big impact such as giving short and more specific instructions to enable service users to be more independent. Another reflection was to turn the TV off when no one is watching it, as peace and quiet can more therapeutic, when staff were on the bus, they would close their eyes as the environment was a sensory overload, staff feel when they observe service users doing this, they would consider maybe they want space rather than intervention.”

Autism Reality Experience is perfect for any team or individual that lives or works with or alongside those suffering with Autism. We have provided this innovative and powerful training to NHS trusts, care staff, private organisations and even family members of autistic relatives. You can read more about the Autism Reality Experience at Training 2 Care and can book online.