From homestay to haircuts: How Specialist Services helped transform Kym’s life

Feb 14, 2022 | News

There is something so peaceful and comforting about home. It’s a space where you can be yourself, free from judgement and fear. But what happens when you no longer have the courage or means to leave it? When life outside becomes so overwhelming that home is the only place you feel safe?

Cara customer Kym lives with an intellectual disability, schizophrenia and clinical trauma – a trio of factors that forced him to withdraw from his surroundings and disengage from all forms of community participation. Kym would seldom leave home, his sleep patterns were in disarray and he grappled with his emotions, impacting not only himself, but his housemate and support staff.

Kym struggled to welcome people into his environment, just as he, himself, struggled to leave it. Something as simple as heading out to get a haircut felt completely out of reach.

In the last six months however, his life has changed in the most extraordinary way.

Behaviour Support Practitioner Erika Mullins, from Cara’s Specialist Services Team stepped in, working alongside Kym to foster positive behavioural change, and to educate and empower his support network.

“When I started working with Kym, he hadn’t been out in the community for probably two years,” Erika said.

“He would spend nights watching TV and would sleep during the day. He rarely interacted with staff and had very limited social engagement. Lingering trauma from historical medical treatment meant he would refuse clinical intervention, which was really impacting him.

“I completed an assessment of Kym’s situation and put practical strategies in place to help him increase his confidence and improve his quality of life.”

Over time, Kym and Erika’s relationship has blossomed, and Kym is now achieving his goals in a constructive and rewarding way.

“Things that may seem small, like altering his sleep patterns or allowing people into his safe space, have been huge changes in Kym’s life that he has really embraced. We are seeing his willingness to participate in the community, his mood and his behaviour all lift significantly.”

Erika’s role is not only about working directly with Kym, but also involves putting systems in place for support staff, to offer a consistent and united approach to Kym’s care.

Quality Service Manager Emma, has witnessed Erika’s thoughtful and pragmatic manner with Kym and the Support Workers around him.

“The change in Kym has been phenomenal,” Emma said.

“Erika has given the team the confidence to work with Kym in different ways. Considering the clinical trauma, behaviours and everything he has had working against him, to see him come so far and start to reengage with staff and the community has been incredibly pleasing.”

Resources and strategies are displayed on the wall of the staff office for a simple point of reference, while Erika also checks in on staff meetings to review Kym’s situation and discuss his progress.

Kym’s protectiveness over his space previously made it difficult for his mother Ruth to visit regularly and even when she was able, the visits were often fleeting. Now, Ruth drops by more frequently, staying for an hour or two to spend precious time with her son.

The clinical trauma that ruled Kym’s life for so long is beginning to heal, with a nurse entering Kym’s home once a week to attend to his medical needs. Not so long ago, this would have been an impossible feat.

“It’s super exciting,” Erika said.

“I love working with Kym and seeing his growth. Other staff say they have seen his amazing progress and are really on board with his behaviour support plan. They can now have more meaningful interactions with him and are supporting him better than ever.”

Kym’s increased independence has seen him start to prepare meals, rediscover his love for drawing, and consciously reconnect with those around him.

And you know what? He even got a haircut.

To find out more about how to access Specialist Services, you can contact the team on 8347 4588 or email us at SSTadmin@cara.org.au. Please note that your existing NDIS plan may or may not cover Specialist Services. Please discuss this with the team when enquiring.

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