Life is really blooming for Blossom these days. Embracing her independence, she has a new enthusiasm for life as she realises that more things are possible and available. Blossom, now finds herself in the unexpected position of being a largely independent woman, who catches up with her friends around the community, attends art classes – even planning to sell her work, and has a mobile phone which she uses to stay in touch with her family. You may presume that this is no great feat – that this describes many women around the community. However, when you then consider that Blossom comes from a long connection with facilitated support, including attending hub centres three days a week – you begin to see the beauty and importance of the growth process she has been through recently.
For Blossom, and others with a disability, sometimes a person can be content with their situation until they are shown what is possible. In many instances, they may have been happy with the status quo for some time – years in Blossom’s case – dependent upon facilitated support, without ever considering that there is another way. Perhaps it may be easier to keep rolling over with facilities and care that everyone is happy with. Why change what isn’t broken, you may ask? However, the answer lies in what is in the best interest of the individual. Show them what is possible and let them choose their own path. This is the key that prompted Interactionz to have a brave and ambitious conversation with Blossom’s family.
Blossom’s journey to independence began when Danae Cooney, her Interactionz mentor, had a discussion with Blossom and her family around transitioning to community based services by the end of 2016. From the beginning, her family were very supportive of this change. Blossom, with the guidance of her mentor, completed a PATH (Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope). PATH is a planning tool, which uses visual mapping and drawings, to help people visualise what is possible, and plan steps to achieve this. As part of this process, a brainstorming session occurred uncovering new opportunities around her current interests. It also involved problem solving how Blossom could uncover new potential within herself, whilst also ensuring her safety as she embraced a more independent way of living. With her mentor guiding the process, family and other natural support network were identified to help guide her through this transformation.
Art and craft was already something Blossom enjoyed, and she had been attending a regular creative workshop at the Interactionz hub centre. However, Danae helped to identify programs and venues that would both match her interests, but also get her out in the community. She now attends a community art group called Arts. Meeting new people and developing new social networks has had a vast effect on her confidence, as well as decreasing her risk of social isolation. It has also given Blossom greater access to art resources, increased her skills in mosaic making, as well as providing the opportunity for a number of other flow-on benefits.
Ambition was something Blossom had never considered. However, speaking to other artists at these art groups has inspired her to grow her creativity further, and Blossom would like to one day sell her best work to create extra income for herself. Beforehand Blossom had no particular awareness of what to do with her completed works of art and craft other than as gifts. This has also had the added benefit of improving her awareness of money and understanding of payment for goods.
To back up this new skill, catching the bus independently to the art class has helped Blossom gain confidence in handling day to day transactions as she pays for the bus, as well as increasing her confidence and giving her new navigation skills. Previously her Interactionz mentor provided guidance and support for Blossom to use the bus service to attend the group. However, Danae and Blossom made a plan to safely transition her to catching the bus by herself, and she embraced this independence whole-heartedly. Now Blossom can safely travel around her community, as well as requiring less direct support from a service provider.
To build further on Blossom’s sense of connection to the community, Interactionz supported her to find a suitable volunteering role at the St Albans Toy Library. Again, working here has helped to build her social connections and give her a sense of fulfilment in contributing to others’ happiness.
To keep everyone informed of Blossom’s ongoing wellbeing and safety with her new-found independence, she now uses a mobile phone to keep Interactionz staff and her family informed of where she is and her plans. The introduction of a mobile phone solved the problem of how Blossom could be independent but also keep in touch. In this age of instant communication, a phone is as likely to be in someone’s possession as their money card, but having always been in facilitated care, Blossom had never had one. Blossom’s family and Interactionz staff contributed to the learning process of Blossom becoming familiar with using her phone, knowing when she should use it, and who to contact for help in different situations. Family and staff feel more confident in Blossom’s independence as they know they are contactable if the need arises, and Blossom is rapt with her own mobile phone as she “is more like everyone else”.
Blossom’s independence has flourished, and with it, her sense of self-worth, confidence and feeling of being part of the community. She has far less reliance on facilitated care from service providers, and enjoys the freedom of living her own life without dependence on others. However, in an environment where previously there was nothing wrong and everyone was content with dependency on facilitated care, it took the bold step of asking what was possible, and letting Blossom decide for herself what she wanted. This initial step led to an opening up of Blossom’s world, and she is truly flourishing in an environment where both she, and her family, realise that so much more is possible.
An update on Blossom’s story:
Since this story was first written, Blossom’s independence has bloomed further. Having embraced the desire to see what is possible in her life, she approached Danae with the idea of trying more new things. To make room for these changes, she no longer attends the Arts group, instead Blossom is now part of a craft group where she enjoys sewing and knitting, expanding her skills further and meeting new people. She has also extended her volunteering at the Toy Library to two days per week. Through working at the Toy Library, she has made connections with an after school care group, where she is going to start to help look after children and make afternoon tea. These days, during the weekends Blossom enjoys catching up with her friends independently, doing everyday things like going for walks, and for lunch. With the support of Interactionz mentoring and her natural supports, Blossom continues to enjoy her independence, and the opportunities which it provides for her growth.