Can you make a house a home (and a world of difference) by thinking out of the box?

To be a great support worker, one of the talents you need is out of the box thinking, so today, let’s see if you have that ability… 

Betty (not her real name) needs colour in her life (well, on her walls).  

Beige, battered and cluttered. Betty let us know she wanted a clean sweep through body language, noises, and facial expressions. Clearly, it was time for a refresh.   

Yup! Home makeover time! 

What a massive upheaval for anyone, so can you imagine what it might be like for an autistic person?  

Familiarity helps Betty make sense of the world, so for her home to have a complete overhaul is a big thing.  

Let’s imagine for a moment that you are Betty’s support worker… 

What question are you asking yourself? 

If it’s… 

“How can I make it happen with as little distress as possible?” 


“How do I make this a great experience for Betty?” 

Then congratulations!  

person we support at kitchen table smiling with thumbs up
*person we support at a kitchen table, smiling with thumbs up.

Here’s how Julie (Betty’s Key Support Worker) and team did precisely that: 

“We observe Betty’s reactions and facial expressions. For example, we know that Betty hates clutter by the way she gets agitated and pushes ornaments.  Part of the revamp involved moving her TV, so she has a direct view and more enjoyment. It is difficult when someone can’t let you know verbally, this is why we rely on a team approach and speak to Betty’s family when considering these things.” 

So, because Betty doesn’t use words to communicate, Julie and her team had to think outside of the box to: 

  1. Speak with Betty’s family and team to gather ideas.
  1. Find and book a suitable decorator. 
  1. Work with the team to support Betty in choosing colours for her lounge, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen walls. 

 And voila! The paint plan is ready! 

Sounds easy enough, you think? That was just the planning stage. What about getting those brushstrokes into action?  

Betty needs autonomy. Living with others did not work out for her, so now she has round-the-clock one-to-one support in her own home, so as you can imagine, a stranger uprooting it for several days would cause her significant distress and anxiety.  

So how can Betty’s home be redecorated when she needs it for familiarity?  

It’s as clear as pre-paintbrush water that Betty should not be at home during the makeover, so how about a holiday?  

Hmm… Betty’s only known holiday got cut short, it was just too difficult for her. 

 It’s time for Julie to produce a big dollop of out-of-the-box thinking.  

“There’s a farm lodge just down the road and Betty loves Horses!” – thought Julie. 

This way, Betty stays local, which means she can have some of her furniture and immediate support team with her, with the rest of the team only a call away. 

What a brushstroke of genius!  

Even so, for this holiday to succeed, it needs precision planning.

Julie and the team set out to find the right place for Betty, and the lodge had three things Betty loves: 

  1. Ample space to mooch around in.
  1. Lots of windows to see the countryside and people watch.
  1. Horses, and a view of them from the bed, what a great motivator for Betty to get into bed.

Back home, Betty does not sleep well in her bed. She is often awake, finally falling asleep in her big blue familiar rocking chair. 

Something else she can now have with her! 

On the day Betty got in her car, she smiled all the way to the lodge, all the time at the lodge, all the way back from the lodge – and hasn’t stopped smiling since! 

Not only did Betty return to a newly decorated home with a smile way more extensive than the Mona Lisa, but her life has gone beyond her familiar four walls. 

Betty loves the lodge so much that we will bring her back repeatedly.  

What could have been a distressing time turned into a relaxing, happy and successful holiday – finally.  

Betty is 70 – yes, 70. 

Julie’s creative out-of-the-box thinking combined with careful planning made a house, and a holiday, a home for Betty.  

That is why the role of a support worker is a creative one, where you get to make a world of difference, but you will need to think outside the (paint) box. 

Ready to put your creative thinking into action?  

Take the quiz here to see if you have that outside-the-box thinking thing required to be a great support worker, just like Julie and her team. 

Inspired to join us? The Dimensions group (which Discovery is a part of) is awarded as one of the UK’s Great Places to Work and Best Workplaces for Wellbeing by Great Places To Work (2022)