Travelling all over the world with Disney on Ice sounds like a dream job – and, for seven years, it was exactly that for Lindsay Worgan.

Lindsay worked on the merchandising side of the live performance shows, and loved her job. She dealt with people from many different cultural backgrounds – often whose first language wasn’t English - so she developed very good communication skills.

Those skills are now being well used in a completely different, but even more fulfilling, role.

Lindsay was always interested in health and social care, but left school with few qualifications. The job with Disney taught her different life and transferable skills that she is now applying to her position as Support Worker for the North East Autism Society.

"After working away for seven years, I felt it was time to come home and start to wind down,” says Lindsay. “I really wanted to do something rewarding, and a friend who worked for an autism care organisation suggested that I try it.  I saw an advert for Support Workers with NEAS, and decided to apply."

indsay started with NEAS in September, and works part-time shifts at the New Warlands Farm, near Durham, which offers day care and respite care for adults. She works with autistic adults between the ages of 19 and 30, who come to stay in the six purpose-built lodges that offer short residential breaks, along with the opportunity to take part in a range of different activities, develop independence, and friendships outside of the family unit.

"The flexibility of the hours means that I can also study part-time at college,” says Lindsay, who is taking an Access to Nursing course.

I still want to work in health and social care in some form, so I made the decision to go back to college to get my qualifications.

She is also studying for a Care Certificate with NEAS, which proves that you can get qualifications at any time of your life.

The Care Certificate is a great qualification to have – I’m learning so much. And because I’m also getting on-the-job training, it all fits together. I’m learning things like equality and diversity, working in a people-centered way, and communication.

Her communication skills have proved very important, as many of the adults that Lindsay works with are non-verbal.

"I work three shifts a week, mostly on a one-to-one basis with different individuals who all have their own requirements. Autism affects everyone differently,” explains Lindsay. “Because of that, you have to be very adaptable.

As well as life skills, we do a lot of arts and crafts, and try to theme some of them through the year. Recently, we had a pumpkin carving competition and I was working with an adult who had never carved a pumpkin before. We did it together, and it was just lovely to see the sense of achievement she got from that.

"It’s really good to do things with individuals that they probably haven’t done before, and they learn from it. It’s so rewarding – it’s what you get back from them."

Interaction with parents is also a priority, so a two-way communication book is used to record likes and dislikes, any incidents of importance, and any other information that will help to make the adults’ stay more enjoyable, and the parents’ lives easier.

We always chat with parents when they arrive to drop their child off, and when they pick them up. We’ll talk about things that have happened that might be significant to behaviour, like a recent seizure, or about certain foods that they might not be allowed. And it all goes in the book.

Many of the adults who stay in the lodges have Smart Targets – aimed to move them towards independent living. Lindsay says: "We help them towards meeting their targets and it’s really rewarding when it happens. It might be a simple thing, like brushing their hair without prompting, but it all counts.

Lindsay also helps the adults to do their own laundry before they go home, so that they’re learning how to look after themselves, but also not taking dirty clothes home – which is helpful to the parents.

The lodges are open all year except over Christmas and the New Year, and as Lindsay has worked every Christmas for the past seven years, she is very excited.

Although it’s not like coming to work, when you come here,” she says. “New Warlands Farm has such a lovely environment, with cows and chickens, and a sensory garden. There is so much for us to do, on site, with our adults.

And I’ve never worked anywhere else where the teamwork is so strong. As I haven’t been here very long, there’s always someone to help me if I need it. Everyone is so supportive.

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