Keeping safe the children, young people and adults entrusted into our care, has always been our top priority at the North East Autism Society. 


And in a global pandemic even more so.


As vaccination programmes roll out for the most at risk people, and those working in the care sector, we were thrilled to hear that one of the young adults we support has accepted the vaccine. 


Nathan Redfearn initially turned down the vaccine and it was clear to his Family Support outreach team, that he was anxious and scared.


So the team set to work finding creative solutions to help with his understanding of the vaccine process and alleviate some fear.


Thankfully a personalised support approach – tailoring everything to the needs and wants of each person -  is what we do best.


Jan Patterson, NEAS’s Family Support (North of Tyne) manager, explained.


We know Nathan really well so when he refused the vaccine it was clear to us that he was really fearful and perhaps didn’t fully know what to expect.


“We created a social story so he could see where he would be going and the steps that he would take once there. And we sourced a vaccine role play pack which included gloves, syringes and plasters so he could watch us taking turns with them. He was a bit apprehensive at first but after others acted it out, he wanted to join in.”


It was also important to establish what was causing the 21-year-old to feel anxious.


We asked him why he didn’t want to have the vaccine and he told us he didn’t want it in his arm.  With support from mum and his GP, he was able to have it in his leg. We got some really lovely feedback from Nathan’s mum celebrating the team saying had it not been for us knowing him so well she believes he would never have had the vaccine. I’m really proud of Nathan and of my team.”


But it’s not just the vaccinations that have proved challenging during the pandemic. 


Routines changed often with little warning, lockdown restrictions on family visits, favourite places being closed, faces covered by masks and covid tests are just some of the difficulties we’ve all have to navigate.


This disruptive experience is heightened for those of us with sensory needs or who rely on a predictable routine. 


On top of that, new figures released from the Office of National Statistics have shown that people with additional needs or a disability have been disproportionately affected by Covid 19, in terms of symptoms and fatalities. 


John Phillipson, North East Autism Society Chief Executive, said: “The vaccine represents something of a light at the end of a tunnel for all of us. Hearing the good news that Nathan – and so many others – have now been vaccinated is fantastic.


I’m indebted to our incredible staff teams across the region for their relentless stamina in continually finding ways to best support those in our schools and care, throughout the most challenging of years, and for beating their own anxieties about having a vaccination jab in order to best protect themselves and others.