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Welsh Business Heroes: Risca Solomon of Skybound Therapies

Making a difference is what it’s all about for behaviour analyst Risca Solomon and her staff.

And since opening for business a little more than 10 years ago, Skybound Therapies has been there for those needing help time and time again.

Skybound, based on a working farm in west Wales, provides bespoke treatment for children, adolescents and adults with behavioural problems.

Wanting to use her knowledge to help four-year-old foster brother Dan was the catalyst for Skybound and since then hundreds of individuals have been by the centre’s employees.

And it’s not just those in the UK who have benefitted from their expertise, with clients from as far afield as the USA, Canada and Australia on the Skybound’s books.

“I knew from the age of 11 that I wanted to do something in the field of disabilities to help individuals,” said mum-of-two Risca.

“I got a place at university to do learning disability nursing but while I was waiting to go I got a part-time job as a behaviour analysis therapist and absolutely loved it.

“From giving people care and a good quality of life, I suddenly saw that behaviour analysis was a whole science that could help these individuals achieve more and I was fascinated.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Q9Ff44x6vI

When Dan came into the family he was extremely aggressive, didn’t sleep and wasn’t toilet trained, but Risca realised what she was doing would help him.

After switching to study through the Open University and then a masters at Cardiff University, she secured funding for Dan and began working with another child.

Risca decided to share her progress with Dan on YouTube, and it was from there that Skybound came to fruition.

She added: “I started helping a few families just to get more experience with a wider range of children, and from the staff I was working with, which were the teams around these children, Skybound grew.”

Risca continued: “I was constantly told Dan would not be toilet trained, ride a bike or talk and actually the research says the opposite.

“I just dived into the research and read as much as possible, went over to the US, took him over to get evaluations and brought some of them here to teach me and the team around him.

“We began developing individual interventions, everything is bespoke, you individualise it to the environment the child is in and to their needs. It makes a real difference.

“We take children and young adults who have been told they won’t do this or that and the research enables us to be able to do that.

“There are programmes that can teach these individuals to do a wide range of things that many people didn’t believe they would do.”

After taking a few years to find her feet as a businesswoman, Risca, through extensive training, has assembled a team of highly-skilled professionals around her.

And while Covid hit Skybound hard to start with, the firm has recovered and gone from strength to strength under Risca’s leadership.

“I didn’t set out to be a businesswoman, I set out to help children,” she said. “The most reward I get is from seeing the children grow.

“But if I help the staff grow and develop more staff, I can help more children.

“Establishing our mission, vision and values has been key. Everything we do has to be in line with those, and that’s all about improving the life quality for the individuals and families we work with.

“Getting that extra support from business professionals has been fundamental to our growth and development.

“It’s been great to use the science that I trained in to manage and run the business.

“We have chosen to stay smaller because we do such bespoke interventions. Many of the individuals we work with have already worked with many others in our field.

“They haven’t been able to make enough of a difference to help them.

“We wanted to grow with consistency and quality, so we purposely slowed our growth down at times when we felt we needed to spend more time wit our team to grow their skills and not lose that clinical power we have to change lives.

“We always set out to grow slowly because quality is the most important thing for us.”

She continued: “We were hit quite hard by Covid because we do a lot of work in schools and residential centres and they closed.

“The guidance then came out and said most of the individuals we worked with were classed as vulnerable and we quickly had a lot of local authorities asking what services we could put in.

“We experienced a significant period of growth because we were able to step into the breach and help by sending our staff teams into the homes. We came out of it a lot stronger.”

Having taken ownership of the farm, the aim is to incorporate it into their work.

Offering positive behaviour support, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy, Skybound approach what they do in a very different way to how some view behaviour analysis.

“The research in the 1970s was punishment based and it’s not like that now,” she said. “We tell people you do it with positive reinforcement.

“There’s still a lot of ignorance towards what behaviour analysis is. It’s all about what’s socially significant to the individual and their family.”

Risca Solomon was speaking as part of the Welsh Business Heroes webinar series, a joint venture between NatWest, Landsker Business Solutions and Newsquest.

You can watch the full episode here.

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