THE problem with first impressions is you only get to make one.
Preconceptions can be a huge stumbling block when you meet someone with a physical disability. You might not know how to approach, talk or speak to them.
The answer? The same as you would anyone else.
At MacIntyre, staff are aiming to cast aside the preconceptions created by people who don’t know how much hard work the people who visit them put into their everyday lives.
I was lucky to visit the centre in Great Holm and even luckier to meet some of the people who have made it the success it is today.
We started off our tour with a bite to eat in the cafe. Open to people across the city, food is prepared by staff members and learners before they meticulously adhere to health and safety guidelines as they clear things away and wash down their stations. MacIntyre has a dedicated team called Family Footings, a project which offers free training and one-to-one support for parents and carers of children with special educational needs.
The aim of the training is to give families skills and confidence when they interact with professionals involved in their children’s lives. There is more detailed information on the project’s website www.family-footings.org where parents and carers can find local events, read and share their stories and find out about Person Centred Thinking.
Anna Perry, Head of Operations at MacIntyre, Milton Keynes, said: “There is so much going on at MacIntyre, it’s a great time to get involved. We are excited about the refurbishments to our Learning Centre and Coffee Shop in Great Holm, and so pleased that we are able to make it suitable for people with all kinds of disabilities.
“We want the building to be a hub for the community. We are always looking for people to work with us, either through volunteering, fundraising or offering work placements or other experiences to someone with a learning disability. Go to www.macintyremiltonkeynes.org for more details.”
We carried on our tour by visiting the workshops, the drama hall and MacIntyre’s own pop group, Haddon Beats. And I was blown away with the level of professionalism in the music, the drama productions – including one very good episode of Jerry Springer – and the all round enthusiasm shown by the group and Senior Learning Support Worker, Louise Taylor, who has been with MacIntyre for around 20 years said people achieve amazing things.
She said: “We support our learners when they need it and encourage them to stretch their horizons. Sometimes we can leave them to set their own goals - just because someone is disabled doesn’t mean they are not creative or energetic or independent - and we love it when they come to us so proud of something they have achieved that they wouldn’t have been able to do a few months before.
In the coming months there will be another centre opened in Beanhill and tomorrow there will be a Meet MacIntyre event where people will be able to meet staff and the people they support. It will be running in the Moorlands Centre, Dodkin, Beanhill, between 10am and 2pm.
Public consultation on the Great Holm re-development plans will be held on February 22 from 5.30pm to 7pm and February 23 from 4.30pm to 6.30pm, both at MacIntyre’s Moot Hall.
Everyone is welcome to come and see the plans for themselves.