Harpreet in her hotel room

For young autistic people who may have violent outbursts and convey disruptive behaviour, it may prove more challenging to embark on new adventures. On World Autism Acceptance week, we share Harpreet’s story. 

Harpreet, 31, is a resident at Active Care Group’s Burbank Mews supported living centre in Hartlepool. She has severe autism, diabetes and seizures. She has lived in residential care since she was 13. Her needs are extremely complex, and her behaviour is often challenging.  

She has always really wanted to stay overnight in a hotel, but this has never been a possibility due to her behaviour being a risk to both her own safety and that of others around her. 

However, thanks to the dedication, skill and commitment of care workers and support staff at Burbank Mews, Harpreet was able to realise her dream on her 31st birthday this year. 

Harpreet’s story 

Jamie Alderson has been the registered manager at Burbank Mews since September 2021.  

He says, ‘Since Harpreet came to Burbank seven years ago, she has displayed very complex and challenging behaviours. It has been a bit of a rollercoaster to be honest.’ 

Charley Dodd is the team leader at Burbank Mews. She has day-to-day, 1:1 interaction with Harpreet, ‘Every day we were facing challenges. She had no trust of the staff; and she was unable to take part in everyday activities because of some of her behaviours. It was such a shame.’ 

Harpreet has 2:1 support on a 24/7 basis but lives alone in one of the six bungalows on site. She is not able to work or bring in any kind of income. 

Jamie says progress has been slow but over time, and thanks to the hard work and patience of staff at ACG, Harpreet has been able to take part in certain activities such as a meal out with staff and going in a limo for her birthday. 

‘But all she’s ever wanted to do is stay overnight in a hotel,’ he says. 

Making it happen 

Harpreet’s 31st birthday was on 9th February. So, staff decided to help her realise her dream. ‘We spoke to the hotel, and we carried out a full risk assessment,’ says Jamie. ‘It was all covered – that was sent through to the MDT team and we booked the hotel. The hotel took everything out of the room and basically just left the TV and the bed. They took away the kettle and everything. We had to make sure there were adjoining rooms so staff could be close by.’ 

Jamie was unable to find a hotel in Hartlepool that could cater for all Harpreet’s needs, so he had to look further afield. 

‘In the end we went to the Premier Inn in Wolverston,’ he says. ‘She was picked up at 6pm, and the staff took her out for a bite to eat and back to the hotel. At 7.25pm Harpreet phoned me. She was so excited, made up with life. She told me that she had a big bed.’ 

There was a small incident in the hotel when Harpreet was in the bar having a drink with staff. Some men on an adjacent table were being quite rowdy and Harpreet found the noise levels difficult to cope with. But staff were able to keep her calm and move her to a different table. 

Charley says, ‘If you go back three or four years, it’s such a change. If she had been in a restaurant and it had been too noisy, instead of just moving tables like she did this time, she would have literally stood up and flipped the table.’ 

Back in her hotel room, Harpreet asked if she could have a bath. 

‘The staff were a bit worried because normally she doesn’t like getting into the bath,’ explained Jamie. ‘So, the staff suggested she first get into the bath without any water in it to check she was OK. Then they filled the bath up, she got in and she lay there for 45 minutes having a whale of a time, buzzing with life. Then the staff let the water out so they could put a towel at the bottom of the bath so Harpreet could get out safely. It all went to plan and now Harpreet wants a bath in her bungalow.’ 

She left the hotel shouting ‘Bye Bye Premier Inn.’ 

Jamie says he ‘couldn’t be happier’ that Harpreet was able to fulfil her dreams. ‘We’re very PBS – positive behaviour support – oriented at the service. We have a person-centred support plan that focuses on what she likes and how to deal with challenging behaviours. There are many skilled professionals involved in her care and this was one of those situations where we decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and it really paid off. This has now opened so many more doors for her and she now wants us to plan for her to visit the seaside and stay in a caravan overnight.’ 

Harpreet’s own words 

‘I had so much fun. Nice food, never stayed in a hotel before. I had a bath. I ordered a KFC take-away when I was there. I really want to go to Crimdon Dene at the seaside next and sleep in a caravan.’ 

How have you managed difficult behaviour? What advice would you offer to other parent/carers on how to manage this and is there a particular wish which you have helped to fulfil? Let’s change the perception of violent behaviour in young people with SEND and get the conversation going. We would love to hear from you. Email us to share your story. 

NOTE: A Mental Capacity Act assessment was carried out by staff at Burbank Mews to establish whether Harpreet had the mental capacity to know what we were doing in terms of writing a story. It was agreed that she does and ‘she couldn’t be more excited.’