Jesper Hållén has devoted his working life to finding different ways of providing support and improving the lives of people with autism and developmental disorders. It’s a question of democracy in his opinion.
“I focus on the fact that every human being has equal rights and that should also apply to people with developmental disabilities or autism, who can easily be overlooked.”
Jesper teaches at Lära and runs courses in autism and developmental disorders as well as supervising groups of staff who work with people who in addition to disabilities also have challenging or compulsive behavioural issues.
He has spent many years working with people with autism. It started, almost by chance, when he was studying care and a company had a work experience placement but only for a male student.
“I was the only man, so I was the one who took up the placement. It was a facility that worked with people with autism. I found it exciting and continued to work with autism,” says Jesper.
He did this at places such as the Törngården Autism Center – a private facility that opened in 1994 and eventually became part of Solhagagruppen, which is now Nytida. His many years of practical experience have been very useful in his current teaching role at Lära.
“Many of the people I meet find it difficult to provide support to those with challenging behaviour. But this means they also have difficulty in carrying out the teaching duties that are the basis of their jobs,” says Jesper.
His most important task is to confirm to the people he is teaching that the work they are doing is good and right, but also to give them an “aha-experience” in the way things work for those they are caring for and the difficulties they face. Jesper points out that when people are not behaving as expected it has nothing to do with the way they have been brought up. Neither are they behaving badly because they are being selfish. It is all because they have a serious disability.
“I usually say that the people we work with should stay in the mainstream,” he says.
Jesper wants to teach a new approach – that it is the staff who must adapt and use different methods, such as adopting a low arousal approach and reinforcing positive behaviour.
“We have so many different ways in which we can express ourselves, but these people can only express themselves physically. Co-workers who attend our courses are given the tools they need to help the recipients of care to have a better life. Because it’s not just about changing or removing behaviour – it’s also about the person feeling better afterwards,” he says.
Jesper’s commitment to his target group and his job is massive, but even he sometimes needs to focus on something else. When he is not at work, he often relaxes by sailing or exercising at the gym.
“These are activities for which you have to focus on the here and now, which is relaxing and clears your mind.”