Matthew is 28 years old and he has been coming to Whirlow since he was 21.
Matthew and his family are local to Whirlow so have attended events on the farm since Matthew and his two younger brothers were young children. Matthew’s mum, Tracey, had spoken to one of Whirlow’s tutors, so they were already aware of Whirlow’s programmes before it was time to choose some adult provision for Matthew when he left school.
Matthew has Downs Syndrome and severe learning disabilities. He is deaf and sight impaired so wears both hearing aids and glasses. Even with these, communication is difficult for Matthew. He has an unstable left knee which he has had several surgeries on, and he can struggle to walk. Due to the level of support he needs, he still lives at home with his mum and dad. His two brothers have moved out but visit regularly.
Matthew attends the Post 16 Whirlow LIFE (Learning In a Farming Environment) programme once a week. During the rest of the week, Matthew attends other provisions for young adults with additional needs, but Whirlow is his favourite because he loves to be outside and working with animals. He would like to come to Whirlow more often, but Tracey drops him off and picks him up which has to work around her work commitments.
Matthew also loves football, he is a big Sheffield Wednesday fan, and cricket, plus walks with his family. He also loves cooking, singing and dancing, as has a particular love of musicals; collecting the programmes of all the musicals he has been to. He writes his own scripts too. He can do many of these activities at Whirlow during times when he’s not outside working on the farm.
Routine is important for Matthew and without it, he can become very anxious. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Matthew became extremely anxious and regressed, as without Whirlow and the other services Matthew attends, there was nothing for him to do. The virtual classroom and doorstep visits from the Whirlow team kept Matthew connected to the farm and supported his transition back to the farm once we were able to reopen.
Since coming to Whirlow, Matthew has grown in confidence as well as developing his independence. It has also had a positive impact on Tracey and the family as they can relax knowing Matthew is well looked after at Whirlow and that he enjoys being here.
Tracey hopes to be able to move Matthew into supported living in the next few years, but says it will be a long process.
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