Brain in hand - personal technology for independant living

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Hazel, 23, is autistic and has a learning disability and lives with her Mum and Dad in Fareham. She volunteers at a community café and also a local charity shop, sorting through donations.

Hazel can get extremely anxious being out on her own and especially travelling on public transport, and so her parents used to have to take her to and from all her activities. She can also forget important information, such as remembering to take her medication, and so Elizabeth and Adrian make sure to remind her. Her disabilities mean she needs lots of help and support organising herself and interacting with other people.

To take the pressure off her parents and to encourage Hazel’s independence skills, Hampshire County Council gave Hazel Brain in Hand support software. It offers personalized support that Hazel can access from her phone.

Hazel added all of her weekly activities to the app and was then able to put in problems she anticipates may happen over her day or week connected with the activities into her Brain in Hand. She was then able to calmly think of all of the solutions she knows will help her tackle the problem, but would forget when in the moment and panicking. Topics range from what to do if a bus is late, or advice on what to do if no one approaches her to talk at a social activity. Ideas for what to do in these situations she can quickly and discretely see from the app on her phone.

A traffic light feature also gives Hazel and her parent’s peace of mind, as if her anxiety gets too much or she is just overwhelmed by a situation, she can press red and a support service from the council will be in touch to help her. Every few hours, an alert sounds and traffic lights appear on her phone; Hazel is prompted to indicate how she is feeling by pressing green, amber or red, which is fed through to the support team. If she presses red a member of the team will phone to see how they can help. Elizabeth says “It’s comforting that someone is checking on her every few hours.”

But Elizabeth especially likes that the software supports Hazel in developing her independence, be it going on the bus or taking her medicine, which is very important.

Since using Brain in Hand, Hazel’s independence has grown. She can now travel on known and regularly used public transport on her own, is often able to get to her voluntary jobs by herself and anxiety around public transport has been reduced to a level where she often feels able to do this. This has had quite an impact on her self-esteem. It’s also made a difference to Elizabeth and Adrian’s life; once or twice a week it’s given them up to two hours when they no longer need to escort Hazel to activities, but also the joy of seeing Hazel’s independence skills grow.