The reason behind my volunteering is I’m hoping to add a third degree to my collection, in Occupational Therapy. The volunteering is invaluable experience to help me gain access to the course, as many individuals may be in a similar situation to Des, with learning difficulties or other disabilities.

A typical day for me and Des is at the gym. However, this differs on occasion to vary up the session for Des to limit boredom and monotony. Des leads the session for us as much as possible however his communication is limited due to him being electively mute so communication is non-verbal; written, hand gestures and body language. Des controls the session through answering questions about what he would like to do within that session – such as ‘shall we do cardio first or weights’? Or perhaps questions around what exercise he feels like doing. Des is fully capable of working all the machines and stops whenever he is tired. Each session is composed of a cardiovascular workout and some strength training exercises. Des enjoys the strength training the most – and it shows – he puts in a lot of effort.

Des has shown great progression from day one. Improvements in fitness are undeniable and his confidence in the gym is growing despite struggling with anxiety issues. Recently Des verbalised with me which demonstrates he is becoming more comfortable in my presence. It may be that the security he feels with me allows him to feel at ease in such a busy environment which involves interaction with strangers. This trust we have built up is further supported by the fact that all gym sessions are arranged verbally by telephone. Des may find this easier as there is no one-to-one direct interaction, but talking on the phone helps us develop a relationship on which we can build during our exercise sessions.

Des’ motivation to attend the gym and enthusiasm during attendance are promising signs in the short time we’ve known each other and reinforce the idea that exercise could have a significantly beneficial influence on his daily mood and wellbeing. I find working with Des hugely rewarding. Knowing that my work is positively affecting another person is highly motivating for me and is the primary reason I have chosen occupational therapy for my future profession.

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