Saturday, 25 May 2024
Saturday, 25 May 2024

Talkback UK: All in the Line of Duty

Tony Flower writes

Can you imagine training rooms full of coppers on autism? Well, that’s exactly what Nicola and Sue have been doing throughout Berks and Bucks for the past year and a bit. Talkback’s external training on Autism Insights is going from strength to strength, and there’s more to come!

Here is what Sue and Nicola had to say when we caught up with them:

Sue – “Autism Berkshire commissioned us to do the sessions and they provided the PowerPoint slides. We delivered it in our own unique way and completed 37 sessions between August last year and March 2023. In each session, there were at least sixteen Thames Valley Police officers, ranging from PCSO to Sergeant. So, we’ve reached nearly 600 officers. Nicola has flourished. She’s certainly not the person she was when I used to e-mail and get one-word answers.”

Nicola – “One highlight for me is how much my confidence has grown. Especially with so many people in each session. And when you do external training, it’s people you don’t know. Each session was very different. Some groups were quite quiet and you wondered if they were actually there. Others were very interactive and really wanted to know about autism and to improve the service they provide.”

Sue – “One of the best sessions was when they challenged us a lot. Even though that put us out of our comfort zone, it felt good because they were curious about what we were trying to get across. We developed some very good relationships with the training officers at Thames Valley and they really appreciated our delivery. Autism Berkshire didn’t have anybody with autism presenting, whereas we did. Which is where Nicola came in.”

Nicola – “Initially, I was making sure I had all the notes – pages of this is what I want to say. I don’t think I looked at any of it when I actually started doing the training. Because of the nervousness of it being police officers, I wanted to make sure everything was perfect. But a lot of them were so light-hearted and liked the humorous side of our delivery. It made it a lot easier for future sessions after that.”

Sue – “We heard some challenging examples of what the police have to deal with, some quite violent. In those cases, you have to be careful, because obviously, that becomes a greater criminal offence if you start lashing out. But our aim was to think about the lesser situations, where perhaps you have to think – am I dealing with autism here? It’s where there’s been a complete misunderstanding and it’s not necessarily someone hitting someone, but they’re perhaps just causing disruption. It’s also the techniques they then use in the interview process. The interesting thing was that quite a few officers were saying – ‘Actually, I’m autistic, you know, I’m diagnosed.’ – or they were going through the referral process. A couple said they had ADHD too.” 

The training has expanded to managers and staff at other organisations, including Food Cycle, Sue Ryder, and Rethink (a recovery college in Milton Keynes). On the horizon is Flex Global in Chesham, and Securitas in MK. There’s also a possibility to work with the Football Association. Nicola and Sue’s presentation was central to the No Fear Conference in Bucks, a consultation on the employment of autistic people. Not only the challenges faced by the person but for the employer to see it from their perspective and make the necessary adjustments.

Sue – “Nicola and I know how to work together and we’re a bit of a double act. MK Recovery College just love us, so we’ve got another session there in December. We talk to older people who’ve been recently diagnosed, which has flagged gaps in services where there’s nowhere for people to go once they’ve been told they’re autistic. We’re doing something about that in Milton Keynes because Talkback is best placed to do so. The local mental health team don’t have that sort of facility.”

So far, Nicola’s contribution has been mostly online, but Sue is a big believer in giving Nicola the odd challenge.

Nicola – “I think it would be good to do a face-to-face training session, especially now I’ve done the staff day. I went with Sue to Thames Valley Police, now it’s just combining the training and being out and about.”

Sue – “We have recently run one in Bracknell with Adviza (formerly Connexions), to give them a better idea of autistic traits and signs, particularly if they’re interviewing people. Nicola has now done her first live presentation and absolutely blew everyone away!! She told them at the end of the session, that it was her first face-to-face and night and she got a standing ovation!! There were 17 careers advisors across Oxford, Bath, and Berkshire in attendance.” 

Sue – “Going forward we have Luke, another autism trainer developing his skills, which will add to our package and give us more than one person’s perspective of autism. It will be great if we can use Nicola to train the trainers as well.” 

Nicola – “One of the most powerful parts of the training is when I tell my story. Everyone loves hearing it. The more stories we can put out there the better because everyone has different experiences.”

Here’s what the customers said:

Jemma Wightman (Administrator) MK Rethink said:

“I found the Autism Insights course extremely useful and informative. The session was really engaging and both trainers were really knowledgeable. It was incredibly valuable having Nicola on Teams for the session too, as having that lived experience input was very helpful. It was especially important to hear her own personal story of living with autism to gain a better understanding. I have been to a few autism training sessions throughout my working life and that was by far the best one I’ve been to.”

Vinuri Fernando (Senior Peer Recovery Trainer) MK Rethink said:

“I found the Talkback training, co-delivered by Sue and Nicola, excellent in quality and delivery. Both trainers were very good at engaging the participants fully and demonstrated expertise and experience. They were attentive and approachable to participants’ questions and responded in good detail. Even with the use of Teams, Nicola was fully present in the training space and the hybrid delivery worked just as well. The lived experience voice of Nicola was modelling having hope, confidence and resilience, despite the challenges. She came across as really authentic in her training style, and honest in sharing her difficulties with ASD appropriately and in an efficient manner for the purpose of learning. Both trainers complemented each other and demonstrated a good level of rapport with the trainees too. This facilitated a good grasp of understanding Autism for the trainees.”

Abigail Pearson (Quality Improvement Manager) Duchess of Kent and Berkshire West Services Sue Ryder said:

“Sue Ryder has worked closely with Talkback to provide an online training module on learning disabilities. This was provided by a webinar that Talkback kindly designed especially for our staff. Sue Ryder care for people with a learning disability, but we also employ many people who have a learning disability. The training session talked about the definitions of a learning disability and how we, as Sue Ryder employees, can support a person with a learning disability. This training has been shared nationwide within Sue Ryder and has had excellent feedback. We value our relationship with Talkback and thank them for providing such an insightful training session. They were able to provide this training in a very short timeline.”

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