Derek and Jared

Derek and Jared

The special bond between Derek and his community support worker Jared, who is also Deaf, is clear to see. Jared works with Richmond clients as part of the Deaf Mental Health Service and has been working together with Derek for a year.

Jared supports Derek by encouraging him to set goals and look for links to other agencies that may help him in his everyday life.

"We started off quite nervously," says Jared through an interpreter, "as we did not have a communication strategy in place for how we would work together. Over time we have developed a style that really works for us.

"Derek is autistic, so that requires me to be more sensitive to his language use. A lot of what I do is break down our communication and put it in a way that is more accessible to Derek. He is very visual and a talented artist so I try and use lots of visual cues."

All around Derek's house are intricate pictures that he has drawn. He is self taught and it is an obvious natural talent. "I love drawing," Derek says through an interpreter. He has a photographic memory and can look at a building and come back and draw it in extraordinary detail.

"When I meet Derek," says Jared, "we often just start off by catching up. We sometimes go to the library.

"When we talked about goals we decided to focus first on Derek's transport goals. We started off by driving and I pointed out the bus stops. We would then catch the bus together and now he catches the bus on his own. We have also developed a system for using trains and he now uses them. This has taken us about three to four months.

"We've realised that for Derek it is best to focus on one goal at a time.

"I'm really proud of what he's achieved with his transport. He has worked out how to do it himself. It doesn't matter that he is Deaf or autistic - with time and patience he has done it. It's having the belief that he could do it.

"I have also learnt a lot working with Derek. It has improved how I work with other people as I have had to think very carefully about how I have worked with him," says Jared.