Theme nights and craft days

At one of our residential D/deaf homes in the Midlands, a creative Support Worker takes the lead in co-ordinating stimulating activities with and for people she supports.

Malhinder’s aim every day when she comes to work is to make people happy. She loves everything about her job as a Support Worker. As a D/deaf person, she is also delighted to be working with others who are part of the deaf community.

Achieve together’s D/deaf homes and services include residential, supported living, day and outreach services and many D/deaf people work for the organisation.

Theme nights

Whether she’s working with a group or supporting someone on a 1-1 basis, Mal loves to put her creative skills into action. Never short of ideas, she usually organises 1-2 theme nights a month with the  people living in the residential home near Birmingham where she works.

Aided by fellow team members and people they support, she will create the decorations and activities for events such as ‘Wild West’ or ‘Pub night’.  Special occasions, from Valentine’s Day and King Charles’ coronation to Deaf Awareness Week and Christmas, are always a highlight. The snowman pinata at Christmas was a particular hit.

A British Sign Language user, Mal signs: “The hard work is all worthwhile when I see the smiles on people’s faces, and they ask me ‘When can we do this again?’.”

Colour and movement

Home Manager, Paul, explains: “As all the people we support are D/deaf with additional support needs, much of what we do is very visual. Colour, movement and anything with a visual stimulus usually works really well. For example, Mal organised for Chinese dancers to visit us and people joined in with the dancing and really enjoyed it.

“People we support like to get together to do things. We have a folder which tells them what is planned, however they can choose whether or not they get involved.”

BSL training

Mal has been a Support Worker since 2009, having previously worked as a machinist for 29 years. When she found out about the opportunity to support deaf people she realised it would be ideal for her and hasn’t looked back. The team includes 22 others across various shifts, five of whom are D/deaf. Hearing team members are trained to BSL level 2 so that they can communicate well with those they support, meeting their needs and those of their D/deaf colleagues.

Not long into her job, Mal decided to put her sewing skills to good use, making embroidered personalised flannels for people she supports. Soon, team members were making requests as well! During lockdown and Covid, she listened to people’s concerns about safety when aprons were in scarce supply. In response, she sewed 150 white overalls for team members and people supported to wear. This was a great help to make them feel safe and manage risk of infection.

Bags for everyone

The sewing theme has developed over the years and many people now have laundry bags, hairdryer bags or sewing bags with their name on. Pat, who has recently moved in to live at the home is the latest recipient of a hairdryer bag, having selected the fabrics and colours for the bag with Mal. She also has a custom-made skirt as she had found it difficult to find one that was comfortable to wear when using her wheelchair. Pat chose the soft material and is delighted with the size and user-friendly Velcro straps make it easy to adjust.

Treating people as individuals

Ensuring that activities are person-centred is an important consideration in everything that Mal does. She always involves people in choosing what they wish to do, taking account of their strengths, abilities, aspirations and culture.

What’s more she always asks for feedback, as well as asking what they would like to do next. Group activities such as pizza night, where everyone adds their own toppings to a plain base, is a favourite. In the summer, a session in the garden with a pool and ice creams went down a storm.

Paul concludes: “We are very lucky to have Mal as part of our team. While everyone gets involved in theme nights and events, she takes a lead and translates her ideas into different projects. Her craft activities and everything she does create a positive mindset which is so important for peoples’ mental wellbeing.”

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