How we help The difference we make KAREN'S STORY Karen came to Cherry Trees 3 years ago. Her introduction report stated ‘she likes to draw blood by ripping cuticles / loves to break glass / loves to hear the sound of a baby crying’. We knew that Karen had challenging behaviours but believed we could support and help her to cope with these disabilities. Previously Karen had been given three carers to attend to her needs and, starting at Cherry Trees, we dedicated two staff to her care. At this time, her parents were unable to take her out into the community and so coming to Cherry Trees was a huge relief in terms of free time for them as caring for her was a full time role. Her initial visits to Cherry Trees were short ones where each activity would be planned for a maximum of 15 minutes in case she became over stimulated or indeed bored which would affect her behaviour. We ensured any hazards such as liquids (which she would love to pour all over herself and the floor) were out of sight and not a distraction for her. We were able to gain her confidence and trust and started to work with her to encourage interaction and involvement. Karen also had limited access to other children in case she tried to harm them and her lunch would be served in the single dining room with just her carers as she was very noise intolerant and could get very anxious with others around her. Like any family that joins Cherry Trees, we set meaningful goals that would help family life by progressing every child in some way with their independence. Karen’s parents wanted her to be able to take part in activities and go out into the community. Through diligence, patience and thoughtful care, Cherry Trees has been able to move Karen on in many ways. Her visits are now much longer, giving her parents the opportunity to have a little more time to themselves. Karen has become more relaxed at Cherry Trees. On arrival she is smiling and looking forward to her visit. She has a cup of tea and a biscuit before meeting up with the other children which reduces her need to empty juice jugs if others are drinking. She will choose activities by repeating the choices given to her. She now eats her food in the main dining room with others and has managed to cope well with different noise levels. She has also expanded her food choices which were very self-limiting. When she first came to us we had to use plastic cutlery and plates as she would throw them but now she can be trusted to use normal cutlery and plates like others which is an incredible improvement. Her huge achievements are in the community where she now frequently goes for walks and she has been bowling, gone to the Air Hop Trampoline Park and she even managed our Circus event this year which was really challenging on her sensory needs. All these activities need major planning but every young person should have opportunities to try out new experiences. Karen has also got involved with our gardening project and has sown vegetables and harvested them in preparation for her own dinner. She also loves to bake and has made cakes on several occasions and again has coped with fluids being around her and not had the desire to throw them around. Karen has periods of good behaviour but sometimes she will regress to historical traits if her anxiety levels rise. We are, nevertheless, incredibly proud of the achievements she has made and huge thanks goes to the incredible Cherry Trees Staff for the time, patience and dedicated support offered to Karen which has brought her so far on her journey. She has come a long way from the young lady we met 3 years ago. Her Senior Carer Emma, has become a good buddy to Karen, and she says she loves having fun, being tickled and pulling funny faces together. The pair have shared many happy outings – memories and moments created, Karen smiling and showing great tenderness. In Emma’s words – ‘Karen is a joy’.