Being a Support Worker is about helping build confidence and communicating differently

A smiling woman and smiling young boy

I’ve worked at Sense for nearly 21 years as a Communicator Guide, and since 2010 as a Children’s Intervenor. Both roles are about my supporting people who have sensory impairments and complex communication needs. That could be a trip to the supermarket, a day out at a theme park, or closer one-to-one support.

I support a diverse group of people, aged anywhere from 12 to 85 years old. Many of the people I support have become socially isolated, struggling to make friends, or have lost friendships over time. It can be hard to get out and about due to this loss of companionship, and general confidence. This can result in depression and even suicidal thoughts.

I’ve supported Ty since he was six

Portrait of a young smiling boy

Being a communicator guide is about building trust among the people you support. You might be supporting someone for a big and important period in their life. I’ve been supporting 12 year old Ty since he was six.

Ty has a condition called CHARGE which affects him in many ways. He only has sight in one eye. His other eye is artificial. His hearing loss is recorded as profound in both ears, which means he relies on British Sign Language (BSL), gesture and written communication.

We’ve had many adventures and lots of fun together. Along the way, Ty has developed his social skills and learned how to interact with the wider world.

I’ve supported Ty to go on many different activities including Deaf events, Deaf church and Deaf clubs. Through my role as a Children’s Intervenor, I’ve seen Ty improve in confidence, and with his BSL signing skills.

Ty initially really struggled communicating with people who don’t sign, but I taught him how using pen and paper, and gestures, can be an alternative method of communication. This gave him confidence and now he carries fingerspelling cards wherever he goes, handing them to people he meets when we’re out at the cinema or shops. He never asks me to interpret, instead he just gets his pen and pad, becoming more and more independent with every day.

For a trip to South Africa, we both learned American Sign Language (ASL) and South African Sign Language (SASL) fingerspelling together. We’d communicate through fingerspelling, which Ty found easier, and he ended up teaching me!

Ty is amazing at tactile hands-on signing which he uses when he meets deafblind people. This is fantastic, as lots of deaf people who go on to lose their sight rarely get the opportunity to chat to young people.

As a Support Worker, I get to create new opportunities for children like Ty

A smiling man and smiling boy on a football pitch. The man holds a white board that says "Dribbling techniques"

Recently Ty was upset about wanting to be better at football as it’s his passion. He said it was because he only has the use of one eye. So I rang my old boss, Gaz Davies, who’s a registered care manager with Sense, and also a football coach. I asked Gaz to coach Ty, who in return gave Gaz some BSL lessons!

At the end of the first football session, Ty kicked the ball onto a target at a distance. He now has had four sessions and is so happy with his improvements.

I’ve watched Ty go from being a shy six-year-old with no confidence, to being the winner of a Sense Young Person of the Year award at nine, to growing into the confident young man he is now. Being able to take give him new experiences, like meeting the Solihull Barons ice hockey team at a recent fundraiser for Sense, was an amazing experience we’ll both never forget.

A man wearing an ice hockey uniform with a young smiling boy holding an ice hockey stick

My role is important because without Communicator Guides and Children Intervenors, there would be a lot of lonely frustrated deaf, blind and deafblind people not realising their full potential.

The rewards of my role are seeing the people I support grow in confidence and achieving their goals in life, getting the confidence to go out on their own and not have to rely on anyone. I honestly believe I have the best job in the world!

From Support Worker to Children’s Intervenor, find out more the different job opportunities and varied roles available at Sense.

Diane Cardwell

Author: Diane Cardwell

Diane Cardwell is a Support Worker and Children's Intervenor for Sense. She supports adults and children with complex communication needs, enabling them to live more independent lives.

2 thoughts on “Being a Support Worker is about helping build confidence and communicating differently”

  1. As Ty’ s Nan and grandad, we are extremely grateful for all Di has done for our Grandson and also to Sense for having the sense to employ her! Di has made such a difference to many people, we can not thank her and Sense enough.

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