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Community rehab

Showing young people what’s possible

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Young adults with disabilities are being supported in understanding and articulating their feelings, enabling them to increase confidence in themselves and their abilities, through a new innovation from two specialist neurorehab providers. 

MyAbility was developed to enable young people to better understand their disabilities and express themselves, while allowing parents and carers to learn more about ways they can support them in doing so. 

Aimed at young people with conditions including Cerebral Palsy, brain injury and autism, MyAbility has devised a 14-week pack tailored to the needs of the person involved and written in an accessible and engaging manner, alongside an accompanying parent or carer pack. 

Among the MyAbility initiatives is MyAbility Reflection, which gives the chance to focus on their abilities rather than disabilities, and reviews their aspirations from the start to the end of the period. 

The project, created by ATtherapy and Recolo, has recently completed a pilot study, with strong feedback attesting its effectiveness in supporting the emotional needs of young people. It is set to launch later this year. 

MyAbility was the brainchild of Francesca Sephton – a highly specialist speech and language therapist at ATtherapy, who works with children and young people with severe speech limitations – who realised the many questions they had, but were often unable to ask. 

I was working with a number of teenagers with Cerebral Palsy and they were given the communication tools to be able to successfully articulate themselves. While they did have a good level of understanding, they weren’t able to express themselves without the use of technology,” she recalls.

“They had so many questions, such as ‘Why do I have Cerebral Palsy?’, ‘Will my disability go away?’ and ‘Why am I different to other people?’. 

“There were lots of questions about their disability that had never been discussed or responded to in an inaccessible format, but nothing was available for the young people on my caseload to discuss their disability in a comprehensive, accessible way.  

“It’s quite a complex thing to explain, and might not be something they had ever discussed in this way with their parents or carers, but they really needed to know the answers to these questions.

“We also talked about their aspirations and what they wanted to do in their lives and careers, so I wanted to show them what was achievable and reflect positively on their abilities.” 

From there, Francesca realised the need to create something new and specific for this age range –  “there were books for children which had characters with disabilities, but nothing for my teenagers to answer their questions”. 

She approached Dr Andrea Pickering, consultant clinical psychologist at Recolo, a community neuropsychological rehabilitation provider for children, young people and their families, to work alongside her to develop the idea further. 

Recolo and ATtherapy set about creating MyAbility, to address the need for appropriate clinical resources to assist the young person to understand and adjust to their diagnosis.

“By creating these packs, we wanted to make something fun and engaging, but that would have the very important role of helping the young person and the parent or carer to work through questions they may have,” says Francesca. 

“There are some really important opportunities for young people to think about what they can do and who they are, while also understanding more about their disability.

“It’s been great to work with Recolo, and Andrea has been instrumental in the development of the packs, service delivery and the research and development.”

Emma Bowers (Highly Specialist SALT) and Niki Dutton (Highly Specialist SALT) were also key members of the MyAbility development team, with Emma developing the traumatic brain injury version and Niki designing the autism version. 

And following successful feedback, the team are now focusing on launching MyAbility later this year. A YouTube channel has already been created, to help pave the way for its release. 

“The feedback has been really positive, in that it confirms we are doing what we set out to do in supporting young people to talk and express their feelings, parents to have open discussions, and psychologists and speech and language therapists also said they found it very thought-provoking,” says Francesca.  

“We are continuing to develop and refine it, with a few tweaks here and there, and are really welcoming feedback from clinicians to ensure it is appropriate for both users, parents, carers and clinicians, and additionally to make this remotely accessible during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The full team are working hard ahead of our launch and we are so excited to share MyAbility, particularly with those young people and families who will benefit from it.” 

Brain injury

Breathe Care creating ‘new generation’ of ABI support

The provider is creating an initial two new independent living developments, with more planned

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A care provider is creating a new generation of independent living accommodation to maximise the recovery potential and future opportunities of people living with acquired brain injuries (ABI). 

Breathe Care is set to open two new developments in the coming months – comprising a total of 17 one and two-bedroom apartments – to help bring new and much-needed choice in ABI provision. 

Both developments, in Wellingborough, will have an integrated multi-disciplinary team (MDT) on site around the clock, which clinicians specialising in neurotrauma and ABI rehabilitation. 

St Heliers in Wellingborough site

And plans are already underway for Breathe Care to expand its accommodation and care provision further across the country. Kettering has been identified as the next location, with hopes to bring 14 apartments to the town by the end of 2022, followed by a move into adjoining counties.

Breathe Care has shaped its ABI model based on the expertise of its leadership team, bringing together years of experience spanning brain injury rehabilitation and care, commercial development, supported living and architecture and design. 

Its chief clinical director, Amanda Swain, has over 30 years of experience of developing, establishing and reinventing ABI and neurological care services.

Its new developments – flagship project, St Heliers, and Edwards Chambers – build on its experience of operating independent living apartments in specialist mental health care across Northamptonshire for over a decade.  

“We did a lot of research into what the current offering for long term living with slow stream rehabilitation in ABI looks like in this area and realised that we could make a really big difference,” says Stephen Crouch, founder and chief executive of Breathe Care. 

“A lot of the client group is aged between 20 and 30, but the choice is often living in an HMO or care home with older people. Independent living apartments, done at a high standard, can bring huge benefits to this group in particular. Our projects are very specialist and answer an exact need. 

“Not only are they beautiful apartments, but they can help to reduce anxiety and anger through   clients having their own space and privacy, while having the support there 24/7 as and when they need it.”

The combination of living space designed for the exact requirements of its residents, coupled with a specialist MDT on site that includes specially-trained support staff, is already helping Breathe Care and its model to stand out from the competition, says Stephen. 

“Because our team is there around the clock, and the clinicians or Amanda are there, we are creating a new level of support. We can introduce new or better processes for these people as soon as they are needed, which will lead to better outcomes,” he says. 

While the focus is on getting everything ready for a January launch for St Heliers, Breathe Care is also turning its attention to future plans and replicating its model elsewhere in the country. 

“For now, the main thing is getting the care team established at Wellingborough. This style of independent living accommodation is badly needed,” says Stephen. 

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Brain injury

How the power of football is increasing brain injury support

The partnership between Liverpool County FA and The Brain Charity is helping to raise both awareness and funds for survivors

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A new partnership is harnessing the power of football to help increase support for people living with brain injuries and other neurological conditions. 

Liverpool County FA is working alongside The Brain Charity to raise both funds and awareness around the impact brain illness or injury can have on individuals and families. It is also supporting the frontline work of the charity in delivering support across Merseyside and, increasingly, the wider UK. 

The two-year partnership is building on the love of football to help engage people, and hopes it can particularly target men, who can be a hard to reach group who are reluctant to seek support. 

In another strand of the initiative, Liverpool County FA will work alongside its new charity partner to help grassroots football clubs and leagues to be more dementia-friendly, and learn how to recognise early warning signs and offer support. 

It will also help to raise awareness of the growing links between football and neurodegenerative illness – building further on the work of the FA nationally with its guidance around high-force heading in training to help grassroots players understand the risks. 

Daniel Green, CEO of Liverpool County FA, says the partnership will offer support to brain injury survivors in a host of ways. 

“We hope it will be quite diverse. As well as the financial support we can hopefully give to The Brain Charity, we are looking at areas which could potentially include employment and volunteering and how we can work together, be it through support around education, coaching and CPD qualifications, for some of the their clients,” he says. 

“If we can use football to tackle some of the social isolation they may have been experiencing and rebuild their confidence, then then we believe we’ve got a real role to play locally. 

“Football can cater for all demographics, male and female, young and old, but we know the male population can be particularly hard to reach. Football is still quite a male dominated game, and while this goes more broadly than just neurological issues, men don’t tend to talk very openly, or will maybe be more flippant, in talking about what troubles them. 

“The Brain Charity have identified a real target audience that they want to work with, and to potentially use the power of football to get to those individuals to feel more comfortable talking about and identifying what those issues may be.” 

Another key aspect of the partnership focuses on the high-profile issue of dementia in football, with Liverpool County FA working with The Brain Charity to raise awareness of the signs and impact of the illness. 

“There is the wider issue and ongoing work around dementia linked to football, and back in July the FA issued their updated guidance for amateur and youth football, both male and female. So this is something we are raising awareness of, and how to spot those early signs of dementia too,” says Daniel. 

“This could be among people who have had a career in football, or they may not have done, but it’s about how we can all work together to spot those symptoms, and identify the actions that friends, family and people’s wider networks can take to support people from recognising the signs through to managing the symptoms. 

“And also, one of the big challenges The Brain Charity have identified is, it’s one thing that clients receive the medical support and advice that they need, but it’s another thing to look at their own physical wellbeing alongside that.

“We’re keen to use the facilities at our disposal to link the two elements. So an individual may receive some counselling through The Brain Charity, and we’ll then help facilitate a walking football session, or something of that nature, so that they’re getting not only the medical advice that they need, but also that physical wellbeing piece for them. 

“We can provide that safe environment whereby they can talk openly, to try and find that normality again for them and rebuild that confidence. We’re also keen to work with our local clubs to see how we can work together to reintegrate people back into a football environment, but in a manner that is sensitive to some of the challenges they may face – but that’s in its early stages.”

Nanette Mellor, CEO of The Brain Charity, said: “We can’t wait to get to work delivering a programme of physical activities, awareness campaigns, fundraising appeals and volunteering opportunities in partnership with their staff and wider grassroots network.

“Liverpool County FA’s key value of ‘Football for All’ matches our own wholehearted commitment to fighting for an inclusive society.

“We are excited to improve the health and wellbeing of people with neurological conditions across Merseyside, with their support.”

Daniel adds: “Through discussions very early on with The Brain Charity there’s a lot that we need to try and get to grips of, but there’s also a lot of opportunities as well. 

“We hope that through the two-year partnership we will be able to put in place the service provision and structures so that when the two years come to an end, the work will be able to continue, so we can continue to support people with neurological conditions for the long term.”

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Community rehab

UK City of Culture uses music to support people with dementia

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The UK’s City of Culture is seizing the power of music to increase its support for people in the community living with dementia. 

Coventry University is working with The Orchestra of the Swan to bring classical music to the city and use this to aid those living with the neurodegenerative condition.

The Orchestra of the Swan is a British chamber orchestra and will be the university’s, as well as the city’s, orchestra-in-residence for the UK City of Culture year, which began in May 2021.

As well as hosting a number of concerts at prominent venues across the city, including its Drapers’ Hall and iconic Cathedral, the orchestra will also help to train Coventry University students in music therapy for people with dementia. 

Once trained, the students will then volunteer with the orchestra’s client care  homes, as part of a joint outreach project to help increase the levels of provision for those with dementia. 

Dr Geoff Willcocks, Coventry University’s director of arts, culture and heritage, said: “We have many great musical groups in Coventry, but we really lack a professional orchestra. 

“In a small way, for the City of Culture year, Coventry University is filling that gap, and we are thrilled to be working with our long-term partners The Orchestra of the Swan to make this happen.

“Music is one of the most powerful ways in which we can connect with our memories and our past. 

“The dementia music therapy that our students will be undertaking over the next year will help many people who live with dementia. I hope that this will be the start of a legacy program that sees our students helping older generations live better and more fulfilled lives.”

The Orchestra of the Swan is based at the Stratford Play House in Stratford-upon-Avon and has a history of helping people through outreach work.

Debbie Jagla, managing director, Orchestra of the Swan, said: “Since 2014, The Swan has delivered hundreds of workshops in care homes, dementia and wellbeing cafés benefitting over 10,000 people living with dementia in Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Birmingham.

“The benefits are extensive, with improvement in cognition including memory and attention, whilst reducing agitation, anxiety and depression. 

“We are thrilled to be working with Coventry University students to pass on our knowledge and open up more opportunities for students to engage with the Warwickshire community. 

“Having the chance to perform regularly in the newly-refurbished Drapers’ Hall is icing on the cake, and we look forward to sharing our cross-genre approach with the Coventry community.” 

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