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Mary's tale:From turmoil to tranquillity

A loving family can enjoy being together again without stress, thanks to TEACCH

MARY is 10 years old. Born six weeks prematurely and described by her parents as a "sickly baby", she was diagnosed as having severe learning disabilities by age three. Communication, social interaction and imaginative thought impairments were also diagnosed, placing her within the spectrum of autism.

From age five to nine, Mary's behaviour became increasingly difficult. She was often aggressive to her parents and brothers and would also injure herself, sometimes quite severely. She became more intolerant of changes to her routine and outbursts became more frequent and intense.

Friends, social workers and teachers did their best to support Mary and her family, but her behaviour became more and more difficult for her parents to manage and was putting intolerable strain on their relationship. They were unable to give time and attention to their other children, Mary's older brother's behaviour was deteriorating as a result, and her younger brother was becoming isolated from his friends. All the family loved Mary and were desperate to support her as best they could. Things came to a head after several serious aggressive episodes at her local school, which resulted in the school feling unable to keep Mary. Following much soul searching, her family agreed eight months ago to a placement at Linn Moor.

From the beginning, Linn Moor has involved the family. Mary lives in a home group and attends class with five other children, all diagnosed as autistic, with severe learning disabilities. Teachers and care staff are all trained to work with children with challenging behaviour, autism and learning disabilities, and have quickly put strategies in place to help Mary make sense of her environment, manage her autism and most importantly, through clear pictorial schedules and signifiers, to communicate her needs to others around her. Her more extreme challenging behaviours have reduced and Mary is calmer. Staff at Linn Moor are able to help her parents to use TEACCH and positive behaviour management. This has helped the family, as many of the techniques used at the school can be transferred to the home.

Mary will always have complex and special needs; she will always need support, and may still have episodes of challenging behaviour. She is a very special little girl and is showing clear signs that she is happier and more concentrated. A great deal of work remains to be done, but for Mary and her family, the future looks much brighter.

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