Jo Field says her daughter’s biggest wish in life is to make friends. It’s been something 21-year-old Bridget has struggled with in the past, she has communication difficulties and dyspraxia.
But since moving into a flat cared for by Hohepa Canterbury, Bridget has fulfilled her wish.
She’s not only gained friends, but she’s more independent and that’s what she wanted.
“In the beginning of 2018, Bridget told me she wanted to go flatting.
“I was initially shocked saying things like ‘oh my gosh, you won’t cope, you will need me…’ all these silly things - because I’ve protected her for so long. But it was what she wanted so we spent a year looking into it, talking and researching.”
They found out about the services Hohepa provides and visited the facilities. By the end of the year, Bridget was offered a space in a flat with four other young women.
The flat has 24/7 care, but offers the flatmates plenty of independence. There are 33 homes at Hohepa campuses and in the community, all offering different levels of care, catered to who they are caring for.
It was a slow transition for Bridget, for the first few weeks she stayed one night, then two but Jo says she’s very lucky Bridget wanted independence away from home.
She spends six nights a week at Hohepa, but sees Jo every second day and stays over on a Friday.
Until the age of 14, Jo didn’t know if Bridget could comprehend anything. She couldn’t speak or communicate but they discovered she was understanding everything and had taken everything onboard throughout her whole life.
“The big key to the door that opened her communication through a writing technique.”
Bridget was writing, with a teacher guiding her hand - but while looking away the teacher felt Bridget guide her instead.
“The word was botanical after a recent trip there. So that was a wow moment, and from there Bridget was guiding the teachers hand to write words.”
She was tested on reading and answer questions through writing, she knew all her maths.
“She had all this knowledge, but only then discovered the means of getting it across.
“That was like, oh my gosh, because it meant I had someone I could really communicate with and connect with on a deep level.
“She would tell she loved me and I was the best mother in the world. Full on connection.”
While there have been some challenges for both Bridget and Jo to overcome, the team at Hohepa have always worked alongside them.
“On the whole, it is going extremely well. There are always going to be challenges and nothing is going to be perfect but Hohepa have been so willing to sit down around the table and sort out issues, we’ve had a couple of meetings, all discussing how to get things working for Bridget.
“I get emotional at the time, thinking all these people have Bridget's interests at heart.”
For Jo, the last six months have been an “emotional rollercoaster”.
“Now that she’s not with me 24/7, I have time now to think and reflect about my other children.
“I’ve just gone to Perth for 10 days to see my son for the first time, isn’t that fantastic. He’s been in Perth for five years and I’ve never been able to go and visit him.”
She’s found a new sense of freedom since Bridget left home.
“That means for me I can get out of bed, have a shower, eat breakfast, go for a walk - I don’t take those things for granted because I’ve never had them before. Life for me is very different, so to have the ability to do that is huge.”
Along with Jo’s change, she’s noticed Bridget’s become more independent.
“She steps up from what she does at home, with the expectations and role models at Hohepa. Some people have said to me they notice Bridget's speech has improved.”
Just last week, Bridget and her flatmates visited Jo for lunch.
“I save all the special things that she writes… this is what she wrote on Friday to her friends ‘I am so pleased you’re here, I have never had any friends here as I can’t talk but I love that you are here’.”