The atmosphere was excitement and a sense of celebration. Jennie, her family, team Jennie (her support team) and her Community Circle – together with friends and family – were launching Jennie’s art. The sunny, spacious room, was decorated with bunting, and there were tables with tiers of cup cakes, and Jennie’s art around the walls. Against one wall, was a stand with her range of cards, and 4 designs of mugs available for people to order. Over five years ago, Jennie and her circle created a PATH, a person-centred plan that focuses on the future. One of our best guesses at her dreams (Jennie does not use words to communicate) was to support Jennie to share her art with others.
This year, we set up a new circle with Jennie – a bit like a short term task group – specifically to work towards this dream. The purpose of this circle meant that we needed different people with the talents, connections and expertise to help us. We asked Helen, from Community Catalysts to join, and Claire from H S A Press. Community Catalysts have years of expertise of establishing community enterprises, and we were lucky that Helen actually lives locally to Jennie too. Part of Claire’s role at H S A Press was turning ideas for postcards to the finished product. These were our notes from the first meeting.
It only took three meetings of this new circle to go from the idea to supporting Jennie to choose her logo, for Jennie to work with Claire to scan in some of her pictures, a lot of work behind the scenes by Claire, and Helen talking to local shops who might sell Jennie’s work to the launch on Sunday. Jennie’s team, from Independent Options, supported Jennie to arrange the launch.
For Jennie, it was a party with her favourite people.
For Suzie, Jennie’s mum, and her family, it was a proud moment of achieving dreams and celebrating success.
For her circle, it was success in achieving together what we had set out to do.
And for me, it was seeing Jennie as a role model for other young people with autism. She is twenty-two, and all of this started with her person-centred review when she was fourteen. Suzie said how worried she was about Jennie’s transition, and one of the actions from the review was to set up a circle of support. Jennie has a community enterprise, a mortgage, a personal budget (as an Individual Service Fund) her own team and flat. The ingredients were a supportive family, a personal budget (that enabled her to recruit a great team) and a Community Circle – family, community and having control over resources. In June we have an annual gathering of people involved in circles of support nationally – to ask the question, how can we make circles more available for more people – so that stories like Jennie’s are everywhere.
You can follow Jennie’s Art and buy her work on Facebook