Small Things

Small Things is a project we’re working on for our parent company, Northcott. It aims to create more opportunities for choice in the daily lives of Northcott’s accommodation customers, by improving the interactions between customers and staff.

Northcott has a lot of accommodation sites – 106 – so improving something as individualised and nuanced as communication or interaction is not an easy task. So we tried something different.

Small Things aims to improve the choice, autonomy and control of individuals with disability by using a human-centred design approach to practice leadership. Rather than implementing a large scale, top-down, practice change initiative, Small Things has been intentionally designed to be bespoke, multidisciplinary, peer-led, and fully customised around a team and the individuals with disability they support.

The project places two speech therapy students in a house to work intensively with customers and staff over four weeks.

The role of the students is to observe the day to day comings and goings of the home, identifying small moments where an interaction between the support team and the individual could be enhanced or fostered, resulting in greater choice, control or skill acquisition for the individual.

These small things could range from techniques such as offering customers a choice in what they wear, to identifying opportunities for assistive technology solutions, both high and low tech.

Maree Gemmell, the Residential Nursing Unit Manager at Condell Park said the new way of thinking ‘seeped’ into her team’s culture. Due to Small Things, Maree feels staff interaction with individuals is more respectful, with staff asking individuals more questions and taking the time to wait for answers.

“Small Things created an almost unconscious, but lasting change in the team’s attitude towards individual communication and choice.  I asked a nurse “how do you know if Anthony likes that spot on the verandah?” and the response was “because I can tell by the way he moves his head towards the sunlight and smiles, that is his way of making a choice” said Maree.

“What may seem like small, insignificant changes, are signs of huge potential for the individuals we support. Small Things has helped the team recognise that, and empowered them to support individuals to embrace their right to have a real choice in what they want.”

We’ve run Small Things in four houses and with COVID restrictions easing, there are  several more iterations scheduled for the beginning of 2021.