One of the key components of our BAGS model is maximising Autonomy and Control for those we support. We talk about this concept in our Active Support training and find it generates interesting discussion amongst staff teams. However, we sometimes find there are misunderstandings relating to the topic. So, we want to use this edition of the bulletin to revisit and clarify what we mean by Autonomy and Control for the people we support.
Autonomy refers to the ability to make choices and decisions for ourselves. It includes small choices we make on a daily basis, as well as bigger decisions which define the way we live our lives. Having the freedom to make these choices is something we all take for granted, but would very much miss if it were taken away from us. We have full choice over what time we get up in the morning, how we spend our spare time and what we have for dinner. We also take charge of our finances, our work and leisure, who we live with and when and how we learn new skills. Having this sense of autonomy means that we are fully in control of how our lives play out.
We know that many people with additional needs suffer from a lack of autonomy, with other people making decisions on their behalf. When this happens, people lose control over important aspects of their lives. In many cases when people don’t do very much or spend time doing things that are not very meaningful or constructive, it can be perceived by staff as “their choice”. In fact, these patterns of behaviour are often an indicator that the person has very few alternatives to choose from, perhaps due to skill deficits or a lack of opportunities to try other things. Essentially, they have very little autonomy or choice. Our aim at SNC is to ensure we promote and respect autonomy for every person we support and we believe that the first step in doing this is creating autonomy. There are many things that support staff can do daily, as well as on a longer-term basis to achieve this aim. We have provided a breakdown of some ideas on the reverse side of our bulletin, which can be posted in your staff areas as a regular reminder.
Employees of the month
This month’s award goes to two very deserving support workers – Natalie Astles and Audrey Threlkeld. Natalie and Audrey work tirelessly to provide consistent support to the folk living in one of our supported living services. The value of this is particularly felt at the moment, as they provide comfort and reassurance during a very difficult time at the house.
Thank you so much ladies – your hard work and compassion are hugely appreciated.
Communicate clearly, in a way that people understand, about the range of available options for activities and other decisions. This may require visual support aids, reduced language and extra time to process
Help people to regularly review how they spend their time and explore whether there are things they would like to change. Then take action to see how those changes can be realised
Remind people about their options throughout the entire day, to emphasise that they are living their own lives with your support
Support people to become more independent in things they do and teach new and meaningful things. This will increase their options, so they can make real choices, instead of simply choosing between doing something and doing nothing
Give people control over their plans so that they can choose not only which activities will be included each day, but also the order in which they will happen
Educate and inform those we support about the risks and benefits of the choices they make. Somebody who opts out or does a limited range of activities may not realise how this can affect their well-being and quality of life