Skybound Therapies near Haverfordwest, celebrates its 10th birthday this month

Skybound Therapies, a world-renowned behaviour analysis and therapy centre at Wiston near Haverfordwest, is celebrating two successes: it has reached its 10th anniversary and on November 15 was a finalist for the Award for UK Employer of the Year (2-49 employees): Accredited in the 2022 Investors in People Awards.

Skybound Therapies provides tailored support to help improve the quality of life for individuals with learning, behavioural or emotional difficulties. It was founded in 2012 by Risca Solomon, who first discovered behaviour analysis when looking for ways to support her foster brother Dan.

Risca first met Dan when she was 18 and doing work experience at a local special school in Haverfordwest. He was a four-year-old with autism and very challenging behaviour, which made his care difficult.

By coincidence Risca met Dan again when she took a pre-university job working for Barnardo’s. She was tasked with taking Dan to and from his respite care – but then the respite placement broke down due to his challenging behaviour.

Risca’s parents had been respite carers since she was 11 and they were registered with Barnardo’s, so Risca begged them to step in to provide respite care for Dan. They agreed on the condition that Risca provide a lot of support, which she was pleased to do – and after just a short while providing respite care, a change in Dan’s circumstances led Risca’s family to become his long-term foster carers.

Now aged 25, Dan is still with his foster family. His time is split between Risca’s home, where she lives with her husband and two children, and her parents’ home on the neighbouring farm.

Bringing Dan into her family changed the course of Risca’s life: she quit her plans to go away to university and instead started studying behaviour analysis while also undertaking an Open University degree in Psychology.

“As soon as I learnt about behaviour analysis, I knew it was what Dan needed, so I set about training in it,” she says. “Doing this alongside an Open University degree meant I could stay at home to help look after Dan, and fight for him to get behaviour analysis.”

She was successful, and with the help of behaviour analysis, Dan has achieved many milestones that had previously seemed impossible, including bowel control, riding a bike, and learning to speak.

Risca started sharing the family’s journey with Dan and behaviour analysis on YouTube, and people started contacting her to ask how they could access behaviour analysis for their children. At the time, people often had to travel abroad to access the support, so Risca decided to set up Skybound Therapies and offer behaviour analysis in Wales.

The business started with just Risca and one other behaviour analysist working in a portacabin, where they offered intensive five-day behaviour analysis programmes. These were a great success, so the business grew quickly and Risca decided to create a purpose-built centre on her farm.

Now, 10 years after Skybound Therapies began, Risca employs 38 staff including 10 board certified behaviour analysts. Families fly in from places as diverse as India, Belgium, Ireland and Scotland for behaviour analysis programmes and Risca’s team also travel to deliver behaviour analysis to many locations across the UK, including Cardiff, Newport, Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds, Yorkshire and Norfolk.

Risca now lectures internationally on teaching children with ASD, and Skybound Therapies is currently collaborating with the University of South Wales on a European grant funded programme to study the application of behaviour science in combination with certain speech and language techniques.

“It’s amazing how far we’ve come – and Dan was kind of the catalyst to all of it,” says Risca. “It was about giving him a better quality of life and now those values extend to all our clients – it’s all about the children. Skybound Therapies has evolved organically. Every day throws up new challenges and it’s all about being solution focused and continuing to grow and develop. We’re very much looking forward to the next 10 years.”