Former Royal Navy Air Engineer, Kathleen, 34, from Hornchurch, Essex has autism and Post Traumatic Stress Reaction (PTSR). After years of being a serviceman, Kathleen is very used to being self-reliant, but in certain situations, she finds it hard to cope. She has a strong network of support, including her husband, Mark, her mother and friends. But there are times when they can’t immediately support Kathleen, especially when Mark is away at sea with work.
Since 2015 she has been studying surveying and mapping sciences at the University of East London. Kathleen knew she would find student life hard, living without the order and procedures Navy-life provides. She would have to cope with the chaos of life.
So using her Disabled Student Allowance, Kathleen chose to use Brain in Hand personalised support software. It would help reminding her of deadlines or tasks, give her instant access to her own solutions when she faced problems and enable her to request input from others if she struggled in a new or difficult situation.
A specialist trainer, Laura, worked through Kathleen’s aims and challenges, and set her up on the Brain in Hand system to ensure she could best meet her goals. It was “a really positive experience”.
Since first using Brain in Hand, Kathleen has faced three challenges where she pressed red to request extra help. Kathleen calls these ‘load’ events, where she becomes overwhelmed and unable to function as she normally does.
One of these events was when she was undertaking some surveying work. Kathleen recounts:
“The campus was very noisy. People study architecture were cutting metal nearby, aeroplanes were flying overhead into City Airport, and people were asking me questions. I was tired and started to experience a sensory overload. I said to my mate; I’ve got to walk away. By the time I got away from the noise I just couldn’t think. In my Brain in Hand I had a problem called ‘Load’ which gives me the sequence of events that I need to do to calm down. For example; to get some water and food on board.
“If my brain isn’t functioning, Brain in Hand gives me the ability to operate when I don’t have my support network around. I know that I’m not alone.”
“When faced with problems and my tutor is there, I can also just show him my Brain in Hand, so that he knows what help I need. All of my problems and coping strategies are included on my Brain in Hand, so I don’t have to say anything, I can just hand him my phone.”
The ability to review her usage history is particularly valuable to Kathleen, as her PTSR can wipe her memory. With Brain in Hand, she can look back over her day or week and see her anxiety levels and also remind herself of which problems she faced and when. She shares this with her husband, mum or specialist mentor. She looks to spot common links between issues that can then be dealt with and make sense of both the event and the “aftermath”. Kathleen explains:
“With Brain in Hand I can really understand and analyse what’s going on. I can start to see ‘combat indicators’ that I can do something about. I can talk about these later with Mark or friends and make changes for next time. Data management and information leads to better strategies.
Brain in Hand gives me a lot more freedom and a lot more confidence. It also has benefits for Mum and Mark. It’s like having somebody else to help and reduces the stress on my family. This is a big relief to me, to have another mechanism to cope with problems that don’t have to involve them, so they have to worry less about me. It’s like having an invisible buddy that can help you and get you through it. It takes the strain off of them and can helps me when they can’t.”
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