The power of ‘No’ – Martin’s story

Imagine a situation where you’ve been working with a gentleman you support for decades. You’ve built a great relationship, but he has never uttered a word. Then, one day out of the blue, he does… how would that feel for those supporting him, and how do you think it happened?

Martin is a gentleman we support at Apple Tree Court who can be described by his support team as a quiet person. Locality Manager, Rebecca says: “I had never heard Martin say anything. Never.”

Rebecca used to be his care manager in the LD Social Work team (and completed his annual care reviews) before Martin came over to Discovery in 2017. It’s clear she knows Martin well, as she tells us he is 79 on 1st May this year, but with the same conviction as a family member, she doubts herself for a second, checks his file, and reconfirms.

As Rebecca explains, on one recent ordinary night at Apple Tree Court:

“Everyone was munching away on fish and chips, Martin didn’t want any but he was happy to come and sit with us. I sat with Martin and I stroked his hair to move it out of his eyes, talking to him about when his Mum used to catch the bus to come and visit him with her shopping bag full of sandwiches.

“We had that conversation for a good ten minutes; he was smiling, holding my hand and keeping eye contact…”

And then what happened next was truly remarkable…

“When a colleague asked him: ‘Martin, would you like to home?’ Martin smiled, looked at the other colleague who asked him, and said a clear ‘No’.”

Rebecca thinks that “Martin is a peaceful man, and [that] the conditions were just right for him” to say the word.

What were the conditions?

On that remarkable evening:

  1. It wasn’t a noisy environment.
  2. There was no background noise.
  3. No white noise.
  4. It was a nice peaceful, relaxed comfortable evening.
  5. A significant seizure that morning may have triggered a reset.
  6. There was sensory stimulation, e.g physical touch, eye contact, the smell of fish and chips, etc. 

The power of ‘No’

‘No’ is one little word, made up of just two letters, but it is far from insignificant, so imagine the power for someone who has never uttered it – in 79 years. Or, for at least the time he’s been known at Apple Tree Court, since the late 2000s.

Martin made a choice and communicated it to us using a word. And now, his team are questioning his gestures and sounds in a new way.

What do Martin’s support workers have to say?

“When supporting Martin, he made sounds and mouth movements I had not seen or heard before, they were as if he was going to speak. I am really excited to spend time with Martin, to observe and encourage the new sounds and words he is communicating.

“I feel amazed and joyful he has chosen to share his speech. He has great eye contact and his eyes follow you around his home. I am delighted to be given one of his wonderful smiles with his eyes twinkling.”

And another said:

: “I have had the opportunity to support Martin for over seven years, during which time he has moved home twice and experienced some significant health issues. In true Martin fashion, he has taken it all in his stride. He generally makes his needs known using body language, eye contact, smiles, and vocalisation.

“I was excited to hear that when asked if he would like to return home after a social activity, he was able to say ‘No’. I have never known him to say this! How amazing – let’s explore what else he might be able to say!”

On this inspiring turn of events, Rebecca concludes:

“It is easy to not give people we support enough acknowledgement or credit for things that they can do that we’re not aware of.

“We have always seen Martin as a quiet, elderly gentleman who likes the peaceful routine of staying in, having a predictable bedtime and doesn’t make demands. Why do we think that? What do we need to do differently? How do we support Martin to carry on? Even if ‘no’ is the only word he ever says.” 

Are you inspired by Martin’s story? Would you like to spend your days making a difference to someone’s life? Then you can see our available roles across the county here.

The Dimensions group (which Discovery is a part of) has been officially accredited as one of the UK’s Best Workplaces by the Great Place to Work Institute for four years running. Additionally, in 2022 we were recognised as a UK’s Best Workplace for Women, and a UK’s Best Workplace™ for Wellbeing – an accolade we were pleased to re-awarded in 2023.