Ailbhe’s Story

Blossomed over the years

We first met Ailbhe at Blossom Discovery camp in 2016. She was a shy quiet girl who only gave us glimpses of her personality and sense of humour. As Ailbhe progressed to our weekly programme for teenagers Blossom Buddies (now Blossom Explore) she became more confident and independent and that’s when we really got to know her and to benefit from her fantastic sense of humour!

Ailbhe’s mother, Eithne, recently wrote that: “Ailbhe absolutely loves the interaction with her peers and all the staff of Blossom Ireland. They go on numerous trips with a view to teaching them all independence regarding safety, eating out, spending money and using public transport.”

“She has gained so much confidence and independence from the Programme. They have organised such fantastic Workplace Tours and given her an opportunity to experience what it’s like to work in different environments (a restaurant, an art gallery and a bank, to name but a few). This is something that is not available to her at the present time in any other organisation she is involved with.

Ailbhe is 18 now and will join Blossom Connect where she will receive individualised support from our Transition Planning Coordinator to plan for life after school.

Watch this video to find out more about Ailbhe

“Ailbhe absolutely loves the interaction with her peers and all the staff of Blossom Ireland. She has gained so much confidence and independence from the Programme.”

Conor’s Story

Our first graduate now a staff member

Conor was one of the first young people to reach 18 and graduate from the Blossom Gateway Programmein 2017 having attended Blossom Ireland services since he was 10.

When Conor was 17, he told the team at Blossom Ireland that he wanted a job at a Blossom Discovery camp. The team took him seriously and Conor volunteered as a support staff member for two summers. Thanks to this experience coupled with Conor’s own ambition and abilities he has since been employed as a Peer Mentor for Blossom Explore and Blossom Gateway. As a programme graduate Conor brings a different perspective to the rest of the staff. His first-hand experience of some of the challenges young people with

intellectual disabilities can face when developing their independence skills is invaluable and is a huge support to the programme participants.

Conor’s dad told us: “Conor’s confidence level has soared since he started as a Peer Mentor and he just loves putting on his uniform and heading off to work at Blossom on Saturday mornings. The support of all the Blossom team was critical here – as they allocated key tasks for Conor and taught him the difference between a Blossom buddy and being a member of staff. He has now learned numerous skills and disciplines.”

Thanks to this experience and newly acquired skills, Conor also secured part-time employment in Supervalu in Sutton and was recently made permanent.

“Conor’s confidence level has soared since he started as a Peer Mentor and he just loves putting up his uniform and heading off to work at Blossom on Saturday mornings.”

Amy’s Story

One of our youngest participants

Amy is a bubbly, energetic and sociable young girl who has been attending Blossom Ireland Discovery camps and yoga classes since she was 9. Amy started Blossom Explore once she turned 14 in spring 2019. She has now completed her first term and although she was nervous at the beginning she settled in very quickly and is now a really active participant in the group each week.

After her first session with Blossom Explore, Amy’s Dad, Richie told us that “Amy came home and was telling her Mum and brothers that she went to the shops with her friends. She was very relaxed and happy coming out, which is great to see.”

Amy will continue to attend Blossom Explore next year where she will be taught valuable life skills such as using public transport, eating out and road safety in a fun and safe environment. The over-arching aim of the programme is to increase confidence and independence while out in the community.

“Amy came home and was telling her Mum and brothers that she went to the shops with her friends. She was very relaxed and happy coming out, which is great to see.” .”

Howard’s Story

Howard is 19 and has a mild intellectual disability. Howard and his family received support from Blossom Connect when Howard started at his adult training centre last year.

As part of the service, Blossom Connect developed Howard’s one-page profile with him. This gives new people he is introduced to a snapshot of what people like about him, what is important to him, and how he likes to be supported. The one-page profile was a great way for Howard to introduce himself and start a conversation with his new key workers and people he met at the training centre.

The Blossom Connect Transitions Planning Coordinator (TPC) also set up a series of reviews with Howard’s family and his key workers to discuss Howard’s goals and ambitions. Howards was at the centre of these reviews and was able to express what he was interested in and what he wanted to do. 

At the end of the review, all parties involved were assigned practical achievable short-term goals to support him to achieve his ambitions.

A major goal set within Howard’s person-centred review was for Howard to secure meaningful and enjoyable employment. Howard had just started being a Peer Mentor at Blossom Ireland. Howard’s new employer was invited to join the next review to discuss how to best support Howard at work. Everyone was clear on where Howard’s ambitious lay and understood what their role was in supporting him to achieve his aspirations. For example, it was identified that Howard works independently once he is given a check-list of tasks to complete. Once Howard’s employers understood this, they could allow him to work independently and in turn his confidence grew.

Howard is a very talented and enthusiastic young person that loves to be involved in new projects. Being at the centre of his reviews, he was empowered and able to guide people around him to set up goals that really mattered to him and his life.

“Blossom knows Howard extremely well – his strengths and his weaknesses.They were able to sit down with us and go through the goals that we had and that Howard has. They were able to involve Howard in the process so that it wasn’t us, it wasn’t Blossom or his day service it was a whole series of people involved in the process and that was really good. Howard felt that he was actually owning the process and the outcomes from it and that he could participate in it. “ Laura & Nick – Howard’s parents”

Aisling’s Story

Aisling is 20, she has a dual diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and a mild intellectual disability (ID). She attended a mainstream school with a special needs class attached to it for students with various abilities.

While Aisling was at school, her family availed of Blossom Connect. This was a collaboration between the Blossom Connect team, Aisling and her family and Aisling’s school. Working closely with Aisling’s teacher and her family liaison officer, person-centred reviews took place to identify common goals for Aisling to work towards both inside and outside of school. 

The main goal was to build on Aisling’s communication skills and further develop her confidence. Practical arrangements were set up and were reviewed periodically to measure progress. By the end of term, Aisling was more talkative, cheerful and engaging with activities on offer, these were core components of the goals that were initially set for Aisling.

This tailored, three- way collaboration and reinforcement of clearly defined goals, both in and outside of school provided Aisling with lots of opportunity to work on and realise them.

Blossom Connect built a truly effective collaboration between Aisling, her family and her school. As well as achieving her initial goals, Aisling was also able to embrace the idea and challenges of leaving school. Since then, she has very successfully transitioned to an adult training centre near to where she lives.

“I would recommend other families to use Blossom Connect services. They are a third party and have a very good knowledge of what works and what doesn’t work for our children. With our young people, you have to know the young person, their story and their situation and Blossom Connect take that into account.” Sean – Aisling’s Dad

Rory’s Story

My name is Auveen Bell. I am CEO and co-founder of Blossom Ireland but more importantly, I am Mum to an 18 year old boy Rory who has ID. We as a family benefitted very much from the Blossom Connect process.

Blossom Connect is an incredible service, which brings together a group of people you, choose – a support group – who all want to see your son or daughter succeed in life. They want to support you as a family in doing that and that is a great feeling. It is a safe place where a family can express all their concerns, big and small, about the future of their child without feeling compromised. So often people focus on the disability but we were reminded of my son’s strengths by those that know him outside of the family and this allowed us to set some goals that I felt were achievable. They weren’t necessarily massive goals but they still represented progress and we felt we could build on them going forward. We felt we had some control back about Rory’s future and about what it is, he really would like to do.

The biggest challenge we found with Rory leaving school was the fear of the unknown. There is so little information out there as to how it works. When I asked other parents who had been through it I got a feeling that it was all very stressful and with huge uncertainty. The biggest worry is that they will end up somewhere that doesn’t suit them or worse that they won’t get offered a service at all due to lack of funding.

Blossom Connect doesn’t necessarily solve that problem but they are able to provide us with information about the services that are out there. They are familiar with how the process works for a school leaver with special educational needs and they can advise you as to what steps you need to take and when. This was a huge relief for me as I was always worrying that I wasn’t doing enough. Obviously, they are not able to address any funding issues that might arise with the HSE if that’s the route you choose to go down for your son or daughter but in addition to waiting on that you can set goals around skills and interests that your child could be working on. 

For example, one goal we decided to work on for Rory was his ability to use his phone to let us know where he is or when he is coming home. It might not seem like much but for us this was a really practical goal that we knew would build on his path to independence. And that was just one goal.

I also found the training provided was hugely beneficial. It gives you really simple yet practical tools that can be used when planning a new phase or even a new goal in Rory’s life. It also helps us to focus very much on what’s important to Rory and not just focus on what services are available. I just find it all very empowering.

“They [Blossom Connect] are familiar with how the process works for a school leaver with special educational needs and they can advise you as to what steps you need to take and when. This was a huge relief for me as I was always worrying that I wasn’t doing enough.” Auveen – Rory’s Mum