Sam's story

Posted on: 7th April 2014

Sam Woodhouse is a 19 year old man, who sustained a brain injury at birth. In September 2013, Sam started to work on an independent living trial (ILT).

“It's exciting for me because it’s a new challenge in my life and I love new challenges,” says Sam. “My family know it’s good for my future. They give me new ideas and are very supportive”.


The first step was to find suitable accommodation near to the family home in Oldham. Sam then worked hard to make the flat homely and reflect his love of travel. “There are no distractions so it’s easier to relax and I feel calmer,” says Sam, who wants to be able to live on his own in Newcastle.

Sam has a case manager who oversees the coordination of his rehabilitation programme and is supporting Sam and his family through the ILT process. “A case manager needs to be understanding, listen a lot and bring new ideas,” says Sam. “I know I can just pick up the phone to my case manager if I need anything. I've made a lot of progress since working with staff from JSP. They are very professional and do everything to help me fulfil my goals”. Sam particularly likes the fact that his case manager is “chatty” and shares his love of football.


Sam’s rehabilitation programme includes working with an occupational therapist (OT). “My occupational therapist helps me to learn general rules for living independently. For example, she sets out recipes in a particular way so they are easier to follow and she set up my cooker with coloured dots, so I know which element relates to which dial”. Since moving into his flat, Sam is developing his cooking skills and learning how to use his new hob to rustle up a variety of new meals. "My OT also found me a non slip mat so the chopping board doesn't move when I'm cutting up vegetables," says Sam.

Sam is also learning how to clean his flat, manage his budget and plan his weekly activities. “My OT helps me because she explains things in detail. For example, we’ve worked on laundry skills so I know how to put on a coloured or white load of washing. She explains little things like why I need to hang up my bath mat to dry so it doesn’t get mouldy”. Many of the strategies outlined in the occupational therapy programme are made into check lists so they are easy for Sam to use.

Under the guidance of his OT, Sam also works with two support workers. On Mondays Sam plans his weekly activities on his iPad. “Planning helps me see how much I am doing in a week and helps me better manage my fatigue”, says Sam. He plans in time to complete his laundry, carry out grocery shopping and design his weekly menu. “This helps me because I see how much food I will need and helps make sure that the food is used up and won’t go off”.


On Wednesdays and Fridays Sam works with his support worker, Sam Booth (Sam B). “I support Sam by being flexible and giving him the opportunity to try new things,” says Sam B. “By breaking up a task into sections, I have found that this helps Sam to achieve what he set out to do and gain confidence. The support I give to Sam constantly changes to fit with what he wants to achieve and the recommendations of the team. The team are very knowledgeable and approachable, and give me guidance of how to improve on my role with Sam”.

Sam’s support worker has noticed a big improvement in Sam since he moved into the flat. “He’s a lot more alert and works harder on life skills now. He looks and sounds more confident already”, says Sam B.

“Recently, we've been working on Sam's travel goals and he can now travel to Newcastle by train independently,” says Sam B, who has supported Sam to be able to drive to Newcastle safely by taking regular breaks and planning the journey to prevent cognitive and physical fatigue.

Working, travelling & the future

With his support worker there to assist him, Sam has travelled around the UK to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle, as well as through Europe to Barcelona, Paris and Lille – all within the last 18 months. For Sam, part of the travel training involves “learning to find my way around different cities using signs, being able to time trips and be aware of my surroundings. I made some new friends in Lille despite the difference in language and culture, which has really helped my confidence. I'm excited to be going back to meet up with my friends again this year.”

“For me, it’s not just about learning how to live on my own but also being able to travel independently. I want other people to know what they can achieve," says Sam.

The ILT also involves helping Sam manage his therapy time and his work roles. Sam has had to reduce his voluntary hours at the Salt Cellar café because he also does paid work at a local pub. “I really enjoy working in the pub,” says Sam, “I’ve been there for just under a year and I meet new people every week. I’ve made new friends – both locals and staff – and my eye contact and speech is improving all the time.” Sam worked his first shift behind the bar on 1st February this year and has some advice for pulling the perfect pint, "Take your time and don’t rush – get the head of the pint just right”.

Sam has stayed over night at the flat twice with support and is working towards staying more nights of the week and eventually on his own overnight. Sam has a long list of things he wants to achieve and is very motivated to achieve his goals. Watch this space for updates!