New equipment improves children’s lives

The introduction of new equipment for children with specific challenging developmental and learning disabilities, has not only helped to reduce stress and anxiety amongst the children, but has also reduced their need for medication in some cases.

NHS Western Isles recently invested in ‘Safespace’ technology to benefit children in the Western Isles who are on the autism spectrum, or who have extremely challenging behaviours. A Safespace is described as a ‘room within a room’ that can be used for people who may be at risk of harm in an ordinary setting. Each Safespace is custom designed, with both the door and windows aligned with those in the environment. It reduces the risk of someone harming themselves on walls, floors and furniture outside the Safespace.

To date, three children in the Western Isles have benefited from this innovative equipment installed in their homes in the last year and feedback has been excellent.

One local family commented: “We cannot believe the difference the Safespace has made to our son and our family. It has helped us hugely to cope with our son, and it has also helped him to cope with his difficulties.

“Some of the improvements we have seen are a vastly improved sleeping pattern as soon as it was installed, with no change to his medication (bearing in mind that previously he needed medication to help sleep), and it has also helped hugely in terms of hygiene around the home.”

They added: “For the second time since the Safespace was installed our son is now in the process of having his medication reduced. We would not have thought this reduction possible without the Safespace. As a family we have a happier, more contented boy since the Safespace was fitted, and it has helped massively with the management of his needs and difficulties, way beyond our expectations and hopes.”

Other benefits included reports that the Safespace was a ‘huge help’ during periods of anxiety and stress, whilst also helping to limit violent outbursts to a minimum. The client’s brother meanwhile reported that the Safespace is ‘very comfy, safe, and has a calming effect when you’re inside and the door is zipped’.

Another family reported that the night it was provided, their son and the family had the first good night’s sleep in 19 years and it has continued since. There are also less aggressive behaviours towards family members, which previously occurred on a daily basis, and can now be counted on one hand since the installation.

The local Home Safety Officer at Tighean Innse Gall has been trained in the installation and removal of the Safespace, which means that, if a child no longer requires the equipment, it can be re-installed, if it is needed, elsewhere.

The use of Safespace was recommended by the NHS Western Isles Occupational Therapy Department to provide a calming environment, to help reduce the risk of harmful behaviour and to decrease the need for medical intervention or transfer to the mainland.

Head of the NHS Western Isles Occupational Therapy Department Sonja Smit said: “Safespace provides enough space for a bed as well as space for a child to move around. If a child has a violent outburst the Safespace can be used to help manage the child’s behaviour. When a child feels a build up of emotion, they can take themselves to the Safespace to calm down. The use of Safespace has helped us to ensure we can continue to provide care for these children on the island, rather than them having to go to the mainland for care.”

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson said: “This new equipment has already made a significant difference to the lives of three families in the Western Isles. Not only has it reduced reliance on medication, it has significantly improved the behaviour of children with challenging conditions, and has vastly improved the quality of life for the children and their families. This is an excellent example of a patient focused development, which has exceeded all expectations.”