Skybound Therapies behaviour analyst Risca Solomon will be the subject of this month’s Welsh Business Heroes event.
With a head office and therapy centre in Haverfordwest, Skybound works with individuals with autism and developmental disabilities across Wales and the rest of the UK.
Skybound, started by Ms Solomon in 2012, employs 30 staff including behaviour, occupational, speech and language therapists.
They share a passion to improve the lives of individuals and their families, working with people of all ages and focusing on improving quality of life through improving skills, knowledge and expertise.
Skybound have contracts with local authorities throughout Wales and England, as well as working directly with families.
Heavy investment goes into the team’s training and the staff are at the forefront of the latest techniques.
Landsker’s Jeremy Bowen Rees will chat to Ms Solomon about her background and the inspiration for starting the business, and how she has scaled it in a sector full of small practitioners.
Other topics will include recruiting and managing a remote team and the challenges and rewards that running a growing successful business from a rural location can bring.
“My parents began doing respite and foster care for children with developmental disabilities when I was 11 years old,” said Ms Solomon.
“We looked after many children, some in wheelchairs, some with behavioural difficulties, feeding difficulties and more. I remember all of these children fondly.
“During secondary school, I completed work experience at the local special school. These experiences led me to want to become a learning disability nurse, but as I waited to start my university course, I began working in an adult’s challenging behaviour unit and then as an ABA therapist.
“Also, Dan, a four-year-old with autism and challenging behaviour needed a respite family.
“We began providing respite and I began work as an ABA therapist. Dan then stopped going home due to a complex situation within his biological family.
“Dan needed a long-term home and ABA was opening my eyes to how you could actually teach functional skills to individuals with developmental disabilities.
“That was it, I cancelled my university place and began a degree with the Open University.”
She added: “We also set about fighting to get Dan a full-time ABA home-based programme and eventually succeeded.
“Aged seven by the time we started, not toilet trained, no appropriate communication, severe challenging behaviour, disturbed sleep, no cooperation to do anything, every day was a struggle for all of us.
“But within months he began to use sign language, his challenging behaviours decreased, his appropriate behaviours increased, he was transforming before our eyes.
“The therapy was fun, engaging and made him happier than we’d ever seen him!
“We tried using ABA to teach him speech, but only managed to teach him three sounds, so my search began for prompting techniques that may work with him.
“We travelled to London, to Orlando to anywhere we needed to. At the age of 12, I had found the right combination and he began to develop speech.
“I showed everyone the progress on YouTube and then the requests began coming in for support from other families.”
“I was only just getting ready to sit my board-certified assistant behaviour analyst exam but people were asking for me to consult to their programmes.
“Skybound evolved from here!”
She continued: “I am so incredibly grateful for the amazing people who have supported me along the way and who make up our wonderful team of dedicated professionals.
“But more than anything, I am so thankful to the families, schools and local authorities who have trusted us to help them to do their best by the children.”
NatWest, Landsker Business Solutions and Newsquest have teamed up to deliver the series of webinars celebrating successful Welsh entrepreneurs.
You can register for the webinar, which takes place at noon on April 28, here.