Nutrition is crucial to the well-being and progress of our young people and many come to us with very restricted diets or sensory difficulties around certain types of food.

Strategies are used to motivate students to eat a balanced diet and visual aids support the understanding of expectations around choice and quantity of food. Our team of Occupational Therapists support students who have sensory difficulties around meal times to desensitize and tolerate different experiences with gradual exposure. The team also support with adaptive equipment where needed to promote independence during meal times, for example providing students with adapted cutlery. All of our young people also regularly shop for food and learn to prepare and cook meals as part of the goal to be as independent as possible.

Many young people make huge progress during their time at Prior's Court, and one young person in particular who has worked really hard on his diet and exercise is Luke, a resident at our Young Adult Provision. When Luke joined he was only eating chips, battered chicken or fish, crisps and chocolate. Through perseverance and motivation Luke now eats everything from the main menu, which is a fantastic achievement.

Clare Gilmour, Deputy Home Manager commented:

"We are so proud of Luke in Dove Cottage, staff have worked incredibly hard to help Luke enjoy a wider range of healthy foods and exercise and he has taken to his new plan very well. Nutrition and exercise is a key focus for all our young people and Luke is a great example of how implementing individualised plans can lead to great improvements"

Luke has an individualised diet plan which allows him all his favourite foods but in moderation as well as eating from the main menu, which is a four week rolling menu. This was achieved by desensitizing Luke to many foods by asking him to put the item on his lip, then gradually over time moving onto the tongue, then into his mouth and finally finding ways to motivate Luke to try eating the item. This was done over several years and we are incredibly proud of Luke for making such a huge leap, and of course of staff working hard to support Luke's anxieties around food.

Luke completing Newbury Park RunAlongside Luke's dietary improvements, he has been encouraged to get lots of exercise and now enjoys a range of activities including walking round the track, cycling, ice skating, canoeing and swimming. Luke has also played golf and will give most activities a try. Most recently he has been to an inflatable water park in the New Forest which in Luke’s words was "absolutely brilliant".

Luke's progress has been so impressive that staff thought he may enjoy taking part in the Newbury Park Run, so he went along recently for the first time. Staff weren't sure how Luke would take to running and although he found it challenging, he was motivated throughout the run and completed it in 41 minutes 20 seconds. Luke's support staff are incredibly proud of him and will continue to work with him to improve his diet and exercise.

Read more about our approach to diet, exercise and other strategies to ensure the health of our young people makes a positive impact on their progress and life chances.