It’s national Starts at Home day on 1 September, which celebrates the positive impact supported housing has on people’s lives. In honour of this event, we meet Ashleigh Jones, one of our Isle of Wight customers, and find out what his supported home means to him.
Ashleigh (‘AJ’) Jones, 29, has autism and has been living in Sandown-based St Helena, one of the Group's supported living schemes for customers with learning disabilities, since May this year.
AJ explains why he decided to move to St Helena:
I’d reached a point in my life where I started to feel a bit enclosed and too reliant on others to do the things I wanted to do. I wanted this to change so I could have the opportunities to develop more independent skills and have more control over my life.
Emma Davidson is the care and support team leader based at St Helena, and has been working closely with AJ, helping him grow his confidence and skills to meet the new challenges he’s facing.
AJ made a life-changing decision to come to us after living all his life at his family’s farm. He grew up surrounded by beautiful countryside with no other houses nearby. Although his family home was very loving, he felt the time had come in his life where he wanted to do something different and live more independently.
As AJ has always lived in the countryside, his awareness of road safety has been very limited. Before he moved to St Helena, he needed support whenever he went out into the community and had to go in a car to get anywhere.
New beginnings at St Helena
When AJ first moved out of his family home, he found the transition intimidating, but chose to see his new life as ultimately exciting and a chance to live the way he couldn’t when he lived at home with his family:
I chose St Helena because it felt like a good place to be and I wanted to be able to do the things I want to do freely. The decision to move here was exciting but a bit daunting. In the beginning it was scary, worrying and emotional, but, in a way, exciting. Since I’ve been at St Helena, my life has changed a lot. I have the freedom to make my own routines and time to relax by myself when I want. I can cook for myself, I can keep my flat clean and tidy, I know how to change my bed, budget my money, and get dressed by myself.
When I was living at home, my mum would do most things for me, and I needed her to help me get dressed and undressed. But now, this is something I can do for myself.
“I feel like I’m living my life the way I want to live”
It’s clear AJ’s decision to move to St Helena has been a rewarding and positive one for him. With support, he’s working hard to meet the goals he has set himself and is well on his way to becoming happier and more self-reliant.
It’s obvious how proud Emma is with AJ and the work he’s done so far. She’s mindful of the challenges his autism presents and the support he needs to meet these challenges.
AJ’s autism means he sometimes struggles to understand social norms. Part of the support we offer is to help him develop the skills he needs to understand and manage social situations, and manage his own behaviour more effectively. This includes recognising areas for improvements and developing self-sufficient skills so he can achieve his goal of being able to go out in the community safely and independently.
After just three months at St Helena, AJ is settling in well. He’s happy with his new home and how far he’s already come. He says:
The best thing about living here is being independent and being able to do my own thing. I like being at St Helena because I can make my own decisions. I’m not told what time I have to be home; I can say to staff I’ll be home at a time I decide and it’s okay, as long as I let the staff know.
I enjoy planning my meals and the freedom to choose what I want to eat each night. I like going out to shop for food and cook for myself I get support with preparing meals. I like experimenting with food, and I enjoy creating new dishes. I have to wash up too, which I don’t like, but the staff support me to make sure I’m doing it properly, and this is part of being independent and having my own flat.
One personal goal AJ has set himself is to go out by himself, walk to the sea front, have a cup of coffee, and have some time to himself without needing someone to support him to do this. He’s working hard to meet this goal, including working with staff to increase his road safety awareness.
The staff here talk to me and listen to me. They’re kind, caring and always honest. They challenge me in a good way about the things I struggle with. They give me advice and are always there for me when I need them. Instead of saying ‘Oh Ashley, you’ve done something wrong,’ they say something like ‘Maybe next time you could do it a different way,’ which helps me understand so I can learn different ways of dealing with situations.
They help me in lots of ways and I like being with them. If I were not here, I’d still be living with my family.
In the future, AJ would like to have a paid job so he can save money to pay for different activities he would like to do. A keen golfer, he’d like to work for the golf club in Sandown.
I feel I know everybody and everybody knows me. I have my own space and I can be independent. I like being involved in the activities and everything going on at St Helena. I was invited to the barbecue here the other week and it felt nice that I was able to be with all my friends. I’m always invited and included in any activities or day trips out with the others. It’s fun and it makes me feel good to be included.
I’ve made many friends here and I have good relationships with the staff. I feel like I’m living my life the way I want to live, and I wouldn’t want that to ever change. St Helena is the best thing that’s ever happened to me and I really love my life here. I’m very happy.