Tracscare is to host a complimentary conference on Autism and Self Awareness for World Autism Awareness Day 2018. This event will take place on the 20th March in the Mecure Daventry Court Hotel. The day will bring together advocates, professionals, staff, family members and the people we support.
One of our many guest speakers for the day will be; Professor Digby Tantam. He has worked as a Psychiatrist, specialising in autism spectrum conditions (ASC) for over thirty years. Currently John is a Consultant Psychiatrist at the Dilemma Consultancy Ltd, he is also the course leader of the online MSc in ASC and other related neurodevelopmental disorders at the New School for Counselling and Psychotherapy. He will be presenting “Self -awareness and the awareness of other people and how they are linked".
Benefits of attending our Conference
This will be a fascinating day, that will get to the heart of why we need to improve our understanding of Self Awareness and Autism.
Self assess and reflect on own practice.
Network with colleagues and other professionals, who are working to improve services and best practice.
If you would like more information about this forthcoming conference or would like to book a complimentary delegate place, please email email@example.com or call Gemma on 07779 452354.
I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome at the age of 13. At 22 I was clinically depressed, following two serious suicide attempts and three months in NHS psychiatric wards, I then walked through the doors of Milton Park Hospital. I was sceptical, given my previous miserable experience of psychiatric care, why would this place be any different? However, at Milton Park I was pleasantly surprised.
This is a private hospital exclusively for patients on the autistic spectrum, at least we were all in the same boat and I was gradually able to develop a rapport and solid connection with some of the other patients. It is most important when people are struggling with Mental Health needs to keep them occupied! On a daily basis, there was an array of stimulating activities on offer. Ranging from 5 a side football, gym sessions to games nights which included bingo/quiz /karaoke and pool tournaments. We could also access the local town centre for a change of environment and different interactions such as swimming and ten pin bowling. I also joined the local hockey team.
I was assisted in the development of daily living skills. The cooking sessions I found to be particularly beneficial. I was 23 years old and still couldn’t boil an egg. I guess I was like an astronaut as I just heated ready meals in a microwave. I found the staff to be extremely engaging and very patient. They showed me how to cook healthy but relatively simple meals. I discovered that I had the ability to cook all along, I just needed encouragement to instill confidence in the kitchen. My self-esteem levels increased when I could enjoy the results of my labour. I also learned about money management/budgeting; these are important skills which we must learn when making the transition into independent living.
The Psychology Department at Milton Park was truly outstanding and I cannot praise my psychologist Tiago Pinto enough, as he was instrumental in changing my life for the better. Over a number of years, I had seen many therapists who had absolutely no knowledge of autism, I clashed with them and found them to be of no benefit to me whatsoever. However, at Milton Park, for the first time in my life I met a professional who actually understood me. There were no barriers, no “them” and “us.” He judged me on my merits, not on this so-called label. This amazing individual taught me a strategy that transformed my life. He taught me about making positive choices in my life and I practised this strategy over the intervening months. Low and behold my life started to change for the better as together we managed to curb my impulsive nature. My psychologist helped me to understand that my poor decision making had negative consequences which in turn hindered my progression in life. He believed in me and gradually his positivity transferred to me, raising my confidence and self-esteem levels.
I remained at Milton Park for 8 months. When I was discharged, I knew that I wanted to become an advocate to raise not just awareness but also acceptance of autistic spectrum conditions. I have developed and set up my own training company called Optimism in Autism. I have spoken at various conferences on behalf of the National Autistic Society, the British Psychological Society and lectures at a University. I am a recipient of a Speaking of Difference Inspiring Young Speaker profile and I have spoken at the House of Commons for the All Party Parliamentary Committee on Autism. Once I started to have some optimism in my autism it can’t be coincidental that things in my life vastly improved. Currently I have my own flat and have recently become a father to a beautiful little girl. It is with great thanks to the wonderful and caring staff at Milton Park who helped shaped me into the man that I am today that I now enjoy my life and I am helping to make a difference for others.
Currently I have my own flat and have recently become the father of a beautiful little girl. It is with great thanks to the wonderful and caring staff at Milton Park who helped shape me into the man that I am today, that I now enjoy my life and I am helping to make a difference for others.
At the age of 17, Katie* was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. After Katie’s offer of a provisional University place, the pressure to return and complete her A levels is believed to have triggered a deterioration in her Mental Health.
Katie was depressed with psychotic features, she had a history of self-harming, experienced tics and had an eating disorder. Before coming to Milton Park, Katie overdosed twice and at one point she absconded and walked onto train tracks when the safety barriers were down. This led to Katie being admitted to a NHS mainstream service that did not specialise in Autism.
Katie’s Pathway to Independence
In February 2016 Katie was admitted to Elstow 1 which is Milton Park’s locked rehabilitation women’s service. Katie explained that at this point she did not understand Autism at all.
Whilst on Elstow 1, Katie engaged with Psychology, Occupational Therapy, Psychiatry and the staff working with her. She received psychology sessions and psycho education which enabled her to gain insight into her diagnosis, how this affected her life and strategies to manage this. Occupational Therapy worked with her on making phone calls as this was an area she struggled with and she is now able to make phone calls confidently. Occupational Therapy also supported her with her sensory needs as this was an area of her Autism she hadn’t previously understood or known how to manage. Katie said: “Elstow 1 helped me achieve what I had wanted to when I was admitted and enabled me to progress and become ready to move into Pathway House”.
Pathway House is a residential care home on the site of Milton Park that enables patients to transition from a Mental Health hospital placement into community living and was the next step of Katie’s journey.
When Katie moved into Pathway House, she wanted to continue to build on her confidence, become more independent and get back into education. She has said that Pathway House helped with this as it provides more freedom and exposure to life experiences.
Katie’s big aim was going back into education and achieving her A levels so she could go to University. She was supported to gain confidence and experience with speaking with others, using public transport, answering emails and managing her own medication. She said: “Gaining these skills have made me become an adult and be more independent”.
Katie went to college to start her A levels, she feels that getting back into education changed her the most and that she realised she could do it with the right support.
Whilst at Pathway House Katie did suffer from a deterioration of her mental health and she experienced some psychosis. She went back to Elstow 1 for a short stay to stabilise and receive the treatment she needed at the time. With this support, she recovered quickly and returned to Pathway House within 2 weeks.
Katie completed her A levels and achieved two A stars and an A, which was a massive achievement. Katie has now started University and with support she has been able to move into the University student halls. She also attended the Tracscare Awards in April 2017 and presented the Best Autism Practice award on stage in front of almost 250 people. * Name has been changed for confidentiality
When asked what Katie felt about her experience she said:
Elstow 1 and Pathway House have helped me understand that Autism isn’t a negative thing, it’s just something you have to learn to manage. Milton Park Therapeutic Campus made efforts to recognise what my dreams were, what I could achieve and helped me achieve these. They made me realise that I am a person, not just a patient.