Turning treasured collections into self-expression
Communicating personal needs and wants can be a challenge for many people with disability. Often, people with disability share a close bond with their families, carers and support staff, to help with communication needs and individual decision making.
Jared Galwey, who has non-verbal autism, is 29-years-old and has a passion for collecting objects and art. Jared lives with his dad, David Galwey, who over the years has tried and also developed different strategies to help his son communicate.
“Jared understands 99% of what I say to him, but sometimes it can be challenging to find out what he wants or needs,” says David. “Routine is really important, so we have a calendar where we use images to explain what’s happening each day. But we also need to throw a spanner in there some days as too much routine isn’t good when things need to change.”
In recent times, Jared has developed a love of collecting recyclable plastic items and straws, which he likes to sort into neatly packed storage boxes. He would do anything to find items for his collection when he was out and about in the community. This presented some challenges for supporting staff working with Jared.
“It was hard to stay focused on activities when we were out because Jared always wanted to go in search of straws and plastics,” explains Social Educator, Fred Adeniran, who has been supporting Jared for the past two years.
Fred considered some potential new activities or strategies that Jared might be interested in. He wanted to give Jared more choice about what he did each day without having to go in search of items for his collection all the time.
During COVID, Jared started working one-on-one with Fred instead of attending his regular day program. Fred says that, together with the personal support and some new activities, he has seen a turnaround in Jared’s behaviours.
“One day when I arrived to pick up Jared, I gave him some brand–new straws that he could have. He was really happy and put them in his bag ready for the day,” says Fred. “We were then able to enjoy our time out and Jared didn’t go looking for any plastics to collect.”
Since then, Jared’s creativity has also started to shine through. Using a scrapbook and his treasured collection of items, Jared has started turning to art and craft to express himself.
Jared’s dad has also noticed a change in his son in recent times.
“I’ve noticed that Jared is much happier and relaxed now that he is having more one-to-one support from Fred and they understand each other too,” says David. “They go out together and Fred helps Jared with his art. He’s always liked art because it keeps him active and busy.”
Having a special bond with Fred helps Jared continue doing what he loves in a safe and supportive environment. “Jared loves basketball and we will often go to the park to shoot hoops,” says Fred. “But it’s always up to Jared what he wants to do, I’m there just to support him and see how I can help him grow.”