Paul's Story

It’s almost exactly a year since I was contacted by Burgess about their supported living housing project.

At that point I had just taken some major steps towards independence by moving out of the house I shared with my mother to a bedsit in a local supported housing development. However, I didn’t quite know what the next stage would be until my support worker told me that the project was now fully in progression with the help of, amongst others, Burgess. It came as a great pleasure to learn that I had been chosen as a potential tenant in this venture.

While I knew what a fantastic opportunity this was for my personal growth, it also had its daunting side as well, as I found out when I needed some persuasion to sign the Housing Association’s stark tenancy agreement. One of my main concerns was whether I could actually afford to move, with the cost of furnishing the flat, let alone the new bills I would have to pay. But I was fortunate to be reassured by Burgess staff, who set up appointments to give me information, help me claim financial assistance and let me know that household costs weren’t quite as much as I originally thought.

So it was that in May I packed everything and came across to my new home. Like every new happening in life, there were some teething problems to begin with, such as my new bed snapping in half barely three days after I received it, but these were easier to deal with thanks to the great support I had from the Burgess workers.

My pre-designated support slots have been ideal as they’re flexible enough to be used to do things, or go to places, or even just have a chat about how things are going. There are also other forms of support. We have regular tenants’ meetings for residents and staff and the on-call phone ensures that help can always be reached in case of emergency.

“The one aspect of independence I didn’t realise until recently though, is how it’s interlinked with personal confidence. People have told me that I seem so much more confident and outgoing than I was just a few years ago.”

I always use the analogy of a jigsaw puzzle, whereby if you change one piece, you need to change the rest of the pieces to get a full picture, and that’s just what this move has given me the impetus to do. I’m exploring the possibility of moving from part-time to full-time employment, and in the meantime, I’m planning to build up my skills in other areas by enrolling at the local Adult Education Centre.

However the main skills I’ve acquired over the last year or two have been those in independent living, which I think people with Aspergers Syndrome find rather more difficult to come by than others. At home, although it was meant with the best of intentions, my mother was over-protective and it wasn’t until I moved out that I was able to do things like cooking and the laundry for myself. Nowadays I relish the responsibility that maintaining my own flat entails, and enjoy both the freedom of being able to wake up on a morning and decide what to do there and then, and the satisfaction of being able to solve problems and issues using my own initiative.

The one aspect of independence I didn’t realise until recently though, is how it’s interlinked with personal confidence. People have told me that I seem so much more confident and outgoing than I was just a few years ago, and the ultimate proof of that was the week of the AGM in November. It started with my first ever plane trip to Plymouth and ended with me telling my experiences to a large group of people, most of whom I’d never met before.

I doubt I would have been able to do those things without the support I’ve had from Burgess Autistic Trust and others, which I am truly thankful for and I hope not only that I will be able to build on this to do greater things myself, but that others will be helped in the same way.