Supporting Adam to overcome his fear of water - FitzRoy
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Supporting Adam to overcome his fear of water

Published: April 5, 2024

When Adam moved into our Derbyshire supported living service, staff soon discovered that he was terrified of water, to the extent that he wouldn’t even get in the shower. Adam is autistic, had been in a hospital previously, and was showering once a week there, but the change in environment seemed to really set his fears off. Now, however, the patience and persistence of the staff have paid off and Adam has been able to conquer his fear and take his first shower in nearly three years.

Service manager Courtney explains: “Adam was so scared that he was convinced he was going to drown any time he saw water anywhere, and he really couldn’t cope with the idea of getting in the shower at all. We tried everything we could think of to make it less daunting for him. We had the shower changed to one with a hose, so he could pull it down and control the height of it for himself, rather than having to stand underneath the water immediately. We tried putting an appropriate seat in there, in case that made him more comfortable. But nothing was working and he was just as scared as ever.

“Eventually, one of our team members tried taking his shoes and socks off and getting in there and running the water over his own feet, to show Adam that it was OK and the water was warm. Incredibly, seeing his support worker going in first helped Adam overcome his fears and he was able to get in and have his first shower in nearly three years. He was so happy with himself afterwards – it was lovely to see. We were all so pleased – we’ve been doing our best with sponge baths, but there’s nothing like a proper shower.

“We don’t know what happened to trigger his extreme fear of water, as we can see in his notes that he used to go swimming regularly when he was younger and seems to have loved it. Having managed to face his fears and had a proper shower, he’ll now go and voluntarily press the button to turn it on and put his hands and arms under the water, which is extraordinary progress. At the moment, he’s in a routine of having a shower once a week but we’re aiming to get that to twice a week and eventually daily. We’re also carefully making sure that he’s comfortable with different staff supporting him to take a shower, so that it’s not only certain people who can help him.

“We’re also aiming to take him out and about to lots of places with water, so we can gradually build up his confidence around it. We’re hoping we can take him to the beach and get him confident with paddling, as he’s made so much progress already.”

I’m really proud of Adam for facing his fear and also the staff, who never gave up and kept thinking of other ways we could support him through it. By persevering and trying different approaches until they found one that worked for Adam, the team have empowered him to experience the incredible feeling of overcoming his fear.