David and his mom Helen are friends of Changing Our Lives. We first met them about 4 years ago when we were working on a series of Quality of Life reviews, measuring how services and community supports enable people to have a good quality of life, as valued members of their community, making choices about their own lives which lead to greater independence. We are currently writing David’s Ordinary Life Story but rather than wait for the book to be published, we wanted to share David’s experiences of lock-down, along with some of the creative solutions Helen has devised. 

Life before lockdown for David was full and varied. Living in his own home, David loves to have friends around for meals and parties; he regularly goes to watch live wrestling matches and enjoys meals in pubs and restaurants. David benefits from a varied life, as he gets bored easily and this can be frustrating for him. When COVID-19 hit, Helen knew that he had to be shielded because of various health difficulties he’s had throughout his life, and so lock-down for David started early on 16th March.

David’s learning disability means he has struggled to understand some of what’s going on during the lock-down and the reasons for it. David sees his staff come and go every day and finds it difficult to comprehend why he can’t go out. David also relies on visual prompts to aid communication, so struggles to understand that shops and pubs are closed if he can’t actually see that they are closed.

Helen manages the staff team that supports David to live an independent life in his own home. She has through a blend of creativity, common sense and an unwavering commitment to David’s human rights, reimagined David’s day so he can live his best life possible under very restrictive conditions. As David can easily get bored, Helen has bought him a range of 38 activities that can be done within the home, including magnetic and sticky darts, dance mat, a remote control car, a new webcam so he can talk with his friends online, a foot spa and a slush puppy maker. David also likes to be creative; his long-term favourite thing is to roll pieces of paper up and make them into batons. More recently David has taken a liking to foam batons, which he dismantles, removing their flashing lights. Both of these are calming to David.

Each month since lock-down Helen has taken a range of photos of David in different activities and has had these printed as individual photo journal books. David likes to look at these photos to choose what he wants to do and they also act as a way of recording what he’s been up to during lock-down. Helen has also used the photos to explain to him what is happening around the country with COVID-19. Helen has always used photographs to help explain the world to David.  In order to explain how in the first weeks of lock-down basic supplies were not available in the shops, Helen took photographs of empty shelves and put them into this book. David has also been taken for a ride in the car to see for himself that the pubs, theatres and other places he likes to go are closed. This approach has really helped David understand lockdown. David already uses range of visual prompts in his life, so taking photographs of lockdown has helped him understand the situation.

In addition to the photo journals, David has a range of visual planners which enable him to understand what is happening around him and make choices. David has a book made up of small photos with Velcro on the back. Each photo represents what David wants to do the following day. David chooses what he wants to do and sticks the photograph of what he wants to do on his Daily Planner every evening with staff. He also has a Staff Board in the kitchen; each of his staff have a photo taken and this photo is put on the board each day to show David who will be working with him.

Another way that Helen has explained lockdown to David is by calling Boris Johnson, ‘the man’. Helen has explained that ‘the man says you can’t go out today. David also understands that he has to wait for ‘the man’ to say what he can and can’t do.

David like us all is a social being and during lock-down has missed being with his friends. He especially misses the parties and the food! David has met some friends over the Internet through online platforms but he doesn’t think this is as much fun as being with people in his own home. However, thinking creatively Helen has organised afternoon tea deliveries, cheese cake and ice cream deliveries, as well as a few Chinese takeaways to keep David’s life as normal as possible.  As lockdown is gradually easing, David has been on a socially distanced picnic a few weeks ago and his social bubble is now extended so he can visit his sister Elizabeth and their pets including a snake, hamster and hedgehog. David’s story of his reunion with his sister featured in the BBC news in June.

There is no doubt about the quality of David’s life; the support David has around him creates opportunities for him to flourish and make the most of life, even within the restricted conditions of the lock-down.