World Book Day 2021 – Time To Share A Book

This week we celebrate World Book Day and to mark the occasion our Mentor; Fiona reviews 3 fantastic books which focus on mental health wellbeing.

World book day aims to change lives through a love of books and reading and as we at Our Place Support aim to change lives through our work it seems a great chance to suggest some books that can be shared with your children to help them understand their feelings and to develop skills that will help them through out their lives.

Change can be something that can cause anxiety in children and adults alike and so I have chosen three different books that all look at feeling worried, or anxious and offer suggestions on managing those feelings. So if you are sitting comfortably let me begin….

Little Meerkat’s Big Panic by Jane Evans

Little Meerkat has always wanted to be the lookout for his Meerkat friends but when he gets to take his turn doing the very important job he finds it very overwhelming. Along the way he meets Elephant and Monkey who help him understand his feelings, find ways to feel calm and solve his worries.

The book is beautifully illustrated and explains the triune brain – how our brain processes information to keep us safe, how we store and retrieve memories and feelings and how we plan and problem solve; in a way that is easy to understand.

Little Meerkat’s Big Panic offers many words for all the feelings explored and asks the readers to look for sensations in their bodies  that can accompany a worry or a change. In the main story the characters practice calming down together and there are more suggestions in the back of the book to help. It is a great starting point for understanding why we feel anxious and how we can start to learn to manage it.

No Worries by Dr Sharie Coombes

No Worries is an activity book in a  range of titles by Dr Sharie Coombes. This is a book you can dip in and out of and complete different pages as you feel the need. It encourages children to be mindful – a way of focussing on the present moment to help manage big emotions – by colouring and drawing their thoughts and feelings.

There are pages that prompt children to share their worries, express their moods and it explains ideas using drawings and short chunks of text. This makes it particularly accessible for children who prefer to be doing rather than reading. Some of the suggestions include making worry jars, challenging negative thoughts, questioning how true the worries really are and making lists of things that help. This is bright and engaging and gives a lot of practical ideas.

Stuff That Sucks By Ben Sedley

As the back of the book says “Sometimes life sucks” and knowing how to deal with the thoughts and emotions we have when this happens is what this book sets out to do.

Using ideas from Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT); it bases it’s suggestions for helping yourself on understanding what matters to you or your values. It first walks through the big feelings like anger, sadness and loneliness and how they can make you think and behave. The illustrations are cartoon based but mature, striking to the eye and give a real sense of power to the book. Having explained the big feelings this book then moves on to help you identify your values so that you can use these to find ways to accept things that can’t be changed and bring yourself more energy to focus on the things that matter to you. There are many suggestions to find ways to be present and calm through grounding ideas such as listening to music and it explores breathing techniques that can help you feel calmer anywhere. It is a really easy to read and understand book and one which would appeal to older children, teens and adults.

Those are my three suggestions for books to encourage positive mental wellebing, all the authors have other content that can  be found online, for example on  YouTube, which means you can find out more about their techniques and ideas once you have read the books.. We would love it if you would share your thoughts about both these books and any others you have used and found helpful. Tag us into your feedback using @OurPlaceSupport on any of our social media channels.

Happy reading and relaxing!

Fiona 

Supporting Childrens Mental Health

To mark Childrens Mental Health week which is taking place between 1st – 7th Febuary our Mentoring Scheme Coordinator; Beth Thomas writes about childrens mental health, the covid-19 pandemic and offers some free resources for families to use to help children express themselves and encourage families to talk about mental health.

Beth Thomas has a wealth of expereince in supporting children and young people with mental health challenges and is currently studying a Masters degree in Child and Adolescent Mental Wellbeing.

Supporting Childrens Mental Health

Whilst we are approaching a year of lockdowns, masks, hand sanitisers and social distancing, it comes as no surprise that many children are experiencing issues with their mental health. A national survey conducted in June 2020, identified that 80% of youth participants struggled with their mental health during the first lockdown, Young Minds (2020). We are now in lockdown three.

Collectively, children and adults united, many of us are tired and drained. Nights are darker and the weather cold and dreary. School closures and home-schooling has hit many households like a wild tornado as parents across the country fight a losing battle against long divisions and fractions, tearing their hair out with frustration trying to work out the difference between past perfect tense and past perfect continuous tense (Yea, I have no idea either!).

And who would have thought that a flurry of snow across the nation would have bought so much joy? Even if it was short lived, to see so many families out and about, creating snow models, snowball fighting, sledding, smiling and laughing together – it was a lovely sight, and a welcomed tonic in what is an extremely difficult time for many.

 It is understandable that many children will be experiencing an array of mental health challenges throughout this period. Over the past year, the Our Place Mentoring Scheme have supported those experiencing trauma, those that have experienced the loss of loved ones, many of whom have not been able to say a proper goodbye because of restrictions. We have seen an increase of referrals identifying children who are struggling with low moods and increased anxieties, an increase of those children experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviours, and those who are struggling with the lack of structure and uncertainty that lockdown brings. We must also bear in mind that these challenges are in addition to the issues that children were experiencing in a pre-COVID world. The lack of social interaction and being stuck surrounded by the same four walls seem to have only amplified the existing challenges faced by children. In addition, children who may not have had any previous issues with their mental health are finding it increasingly difficult as days, weeks and months continue to roll into one.

Image: @charlesmacksey Instagram

However, like many periods in our lives, the whirlwind of Coronavirus will pass.

 To quote the fabulous Charlie Macksey:

This storm is making me tired,” said the boy, “Storms get tired too” said the horse, “So hold on”.

In essence, we just need to hold on to our hats and ride out the storm.

We must also remember that we are currently living through a global pandemic and there is no right or wrong way to feel. In fact, many of us, children and adults alike, are ‘just winging it’. There will be days which are filled with laughter, fun and excitement, where kids can be kids and not worry about the stressors of life or the dreaded ‘C’ word. In contrast, there will be days where even the smallest of tasks will seem like a climb up Snowdon against the elements and life itself completely overwhelming, and this is perfectly OK and normal. Most certainly you are not on your own.

Think of Mental health as a journey. It is a continuum, children will move along the spectrum of mental health, times where they feel good, times where they may feel low and times where they may experience anxieties or stress. This is a good starting point to discussing mental health with children. Think of it as a squiggly line, there are ups, there are downs and there are times when we feel, well ‘meh’! And that is fine! Letting children know that there is no ultimate ‘end goal’ of good mental health is a great way of not only encouraging conversation but it also removes the pressure of thinking that they must feel a certain way to be ‘normal’.

Image from: www.solvingbehaviour.com

 When it comes to supporting children with their mental health, another key factor to remember is that behaviour is communication. Children may be disciplined or labelled ‘naughty’ and so forth, for behaviour that may be deemed challenging, such as anger, tantrums, crying, or withdrawn. However, by seeing behaviour as an outcome then we can recognise that there is something else going on beneath the surface – very much like an iceberg. Verbalising thoughts, feelings and emotions can be difficult, even for adults, so we cannot automatically assume that children can do the same, especially when they may not have the vocabulary or skills to do so.

With this in mind, allowing a child to express themselves is a good way of promoting mental health. It sounds simple and pretty obvious; however, children often lack the platform to do this. Taking time out the day to allow your child to express themselves, their thoughts and emotions (whether happy, sad or angry) will have a positive impact on their overall mental health. In addition, we must also ensure that when a child does share their thoughts and feelings that we ensure that these are validated, even if we struggle to understand them ourselves.

As the expression goes “It’s good to talk” and giving children a specific platform, in a safe, non-judgemental space allows them to practice effectively communicating their thoughts or feelings. Every child is different, which is what makes them so wonderful. Allow your child to express their feelings through play, art, dance, or talking, whatever mode they choose, and why not join in? By normalising the conversation around mental health and joining in with your child you are helping to remove the stigma and barriers that often prevent children from speaking up about their struggles.

Free Resources

To support you in talking to your child about mental health take a look at our free easy to use resources below which look at talking about emotions – expressing ourselves! and mood monitoring.

Express Yourself

Rollercoaster Mood Tracker

Managing change through the Covid-19 pandemic

By Kelly Round (Our Place Support CEO)

Our Place Support have been delivering established face-to-face support services for 9 years including a Mentoring Scheme, Advice Service and Training Scheme, most of which are delivered from our Community Hub facility.

Naturally, the 23rd March significantly changed how our services could be delivered and we had some challenging decisions to make as Directors, in order to ensure we could continue supporting our service users and remain financially sustainable!

Considering Change

Like many organisations, we had briefly considered offering our services online over the past two or three years, but it had never become a priority. As the waters were so unchartered, it seemed as though there were enormous, insurmountable barriers, not only regarding our vital human interactions, but also relating to our policies, procedures, the cost of IT changes, and the safeguarding of our service users. After having ‘parked these issues’ as considerations for the future suddenly they were all we had to think about! As Directors we spent many an hour discussing how we could continue to support our service users safely whilst also maintaining our organisational values….it is here where we began to change!

Change brings challenge and elements of loss.

When we begin to do something differently it’s important to recognise what we are losing as a result and what that means for everyone involved. With this in mind we knew we needed to pivot our service delivery but that this had to be carefully managed to ensure we brought everyone along with us on this journey – our team, our service users and our partners.

The culture within our organisation was key to managing this change and our first priority was to be certain that our staff, volunteers and service users would all feel safe, supported and valued as we made this transition. So, to support our team we:

  • Began regular remote meetings on Zoom in order to encourage confidence in the tool and build new skills.
  • Hosted peer training sessions to test out technology and resources together
  • Made it fun! Trying out games and hosting quizzes!
  • Provided choice, options and flexibility wherever possible

As a result of the encouragement and support our team gave to one another combined with their passion and generosity to continue to support those in our care, we were able to completely pivot our services within two weeks of lockdown and resumed essential support to our service users.

Our Training Scheme was no different and inspired by our remote support offer our Training Facilitators refreshed our accredited training courses making them suitable for online delivery and by May we were delivering our full Level 3 Award in Mentoring Practice online and now able to reach learners across the country and few a few across the world reaching people in Jamaica Portugal and Italy!

Digital Inequality 

As we have rapidly adapted to remote service delivery, we have been careful to recognise the impact digital services have on inequality, particularly in areas of poverty and disadvantaged- not every child, family or adult has the technology at their disposal to access remote support. Just one support session requires wifi/data and a laptop/tablet or mobile device. I recall a fellow social entrepreneur refer to the term ‘Data or Dinner’ in relation to digital poverty, whereby parents are sacrificing a meal to buy data for children to access home learning.

To ensure our support remained accessible we looked at each project and where necessary each service user and asked:

  • Does remote support meet the service users needs?
  • Do our service users want to engage remotely?
  • Are there any risks associated with service users accessing remote support?
  • Do service users have the technology to engage in remote support?
  • How does this change impact the wellbeing of our service users?

After careful consideration it was agreed that our services would be delivered in a number of ways to ensure everyone has access to some level of support.  Our Mentoring Scheme offered sessions by Zoom or telephone and all mentees received posted resource packs. Our Advice Service provided telephone and email support and our Training Scheme moved to a full online delivery method with hard copy learning materials bring posted to learners homes.

Whilst remote support has an absolutely valuable place in the future of support services, as organisations we have a responsibility to ensure our services are accessible to all and that a move to remote working doesn’t create barriers and exclusions for some of the most vulnerable members of our communities.

Thank you team Our Place!

The willingness of our staff and volunteers to ‘try’ new ways of working, to be creative in their roles and to trust one another has been overwhelmingly heart-warming and definitely the key to our success in remote service delivery.

A huge thank you to our Directors, Staff and Volunteers for their ongoing support and encouragement along with the time, passion and energy they continue to give to Our Place Support and our service users.

My Journey as a Mentor with Our Place Support – Claire Pankhurst

In 2018; after working in offices most of my working life, I decided I wanted a change in career to something more rewarding.  I did some research and discovered Our Place Support and their role in providing mentors in schools – for children who needed additional help with their emotions or circumstances, and this sounded exactly the kind of thing I wanted to do.

Having children myself, the thought of helping those in less fortunate circumstances or who had had to deal with upset or trauma at a young age really appealed to me so in September 2018 I went for an interview with the Our Place Mentoring Scheme and then enrolled on their Level 3 Award in Mentoring Practice.

By January 2019 I was a qualified Mentor and placed in a local school to support 2 children. These mentoring relationships lasted right up until Christmas 2019, as the Our Place Mentoring Scheme offer long term mentoring support allowing Mentors to really get to know the children and young people and walk with them on their journey to making positive changes. Following the Christmas break I was allocated two new mentees in a different school and it was at this point, when I began forming these new relationships that I realised that being a Mentor was not only about bringing hope and sharing helpful strategies but it meant being someone a child would look forward to seeing each week, a friendly consistent face who they could feel comfortable talking to and having fun with –  over the last few years I have grown in confidence as a Mentor and  become more creative and equipped with resources, strategies and ideas – I really enjoy planning my mentoring sessions, ensuring our sessions are impactful but fun and engaging and not seen as another school lesson.

Mentoring Through Lockdown

In March 2020 things became more difficult as we found ourselves having to adapt in ways we never imagined in order to continuing our mentoring through a pandemic and national lockdown. We began to offer our mentoring sessions via Zoom and after accessing training with the team, participating in some practice sessions and taking advice from my own children (!), I’m now confident in supporting my mentees via Zoom and enjoy making the most of online resources including interactive games and the Zoom interactive whiteboard.

These are strange times we are living in but I feel very glad that we have been able to continue our work with children which has become even more important in the current circumstances, and becoming a Mentor for Our Place was one of the best decisions I have made!

Group Mentoring with Our Place Support – It’s A Heart Thing

Group Mentoring with Our Place Support – It’s A Heart Thing

Here at Our Place Support our mission statement is to ‘Help People Make Positive Changes in their Lives’. There are very many ways in which we do this, one being the delivery of mentoring sessions to small groups of children and young people; to support and encourage a positive mental health and wellbeing.

Our Mentor; Debbie Clarke, has played a significant part in the development and delivery of our group mentoring. In this blog Debbie reflects on her experience as a Group Leader working in schools across North Birmingham.

  ‘The Kindest of Hearts have felt the most pain’

(Anon)

It’s been a fair few years since I tentatively walked into one of our Primary schools with the first ever group work offering for Our Place – Self Esteem and Confidence, a Pirate Adventure of island hopping in order to discover the treasure we have within ourselves. I will always remember the small group of bright-eyed youngsters who came to discover themselves – keen and full of energy they threw themselves with all their heart into the learning and the activities, the games, and crafts. They opened up, explored who they are, with such honesty, it humbled me, they shared experiences, explored their hopes and dreams and looked to each other as they became vulnerable in speaking out their individual stories.

They were forgiving and understanding of my first session nerves and since this was a pilot – they were keen to give feedback on their experience and loved being involved in changes, tweaks, and further development.

The children are all at secondary school now heading towards GCSE’s and A levels, but they remain in my heart because of how generous they were, in a time of need for them. Looking beyond themselves, they gave of themselves – collaborating to make the group work better and better for others that would follow. The memory of each big open and generous heart has been a great learning for me and changed me as much as the course had changed them

Doing It Together

‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together’ (African Proverb)

Since then we have designed many more group work sessions, being responsive to need and keen to support our schools and community. They have been built as team, in collaboration and always run as a pilot before we fully launch. Learning together with the children and young people we support, partnering with schools and being supported by our creative and dedicated Our Place Team. We have found this to be absolutely key in this process of developing new and supportive material.

You see we are in all of this, for the deepening of relationships, building of community and for the long haul. I have found that things of the heart take time, healing too, is not a quick fix but done together, over time cultivates and nourishes a richer and more fulfilling, healing journey for all. And I include myself in this.

And Now

‘Do it now, sometime ‘later’ may become ‘never’ (Anon)

Heart and partnership are ever more vital now. The changes we have experienced have grazed, bruised and for some cut deeply. Change creates Loss. With the uncertainty around us the ‘now’ takes on so much more significance. So, a new group work material has been nurtured over the time of full lock down, that will look to supporting children and their emotions and well-being in this strange here and now.  I’m excited about this piece of work and for the future of group work but also wondering how we can ‘do’ this, with the limits we now live with. It will take creativity, it will take partnership, it will take collaboration, it will take Team and it will take Heart, all of which, I know, from lived experience, we have in buckets full.

So right now, I have hope for the enfolding and future delivery of group work because I have Team, I have Relationship and all together WE have Big Heart for the courage and compassion it will take.

Our Place Support Launch New 2 Year Business Strategy

September 2020 – Launch of our new Strategy

Our Place Support has seen a lot of changes over the summer of 2020, just as almost everyone in the country has but also the world.  Like most businesses we need to adapt to a new way of working and our team have been busy making changes to the services that we offer to make sure that we can continue to help the people who need us.

As part of this important work, we have reviewed our Strategy to make sure that it still does what we need it to and in this blog, we will share important information about what we plan to do over the next 2 years.

What is a Strategy?

A Strategy is a fancy business word for a plan to achieve a number of tasks over a period of time.  We have developed a 2 year Strategy which will run from September 2020.  It is important to develop a Strategy because it will help us prioritise what we need to do and it will also help us to make sure that we are working on the things that matter most.

How did you develop the Strategy?

We have taken a lot of information from client feedback, from our staff and volunteers but we’ve also looked at what is happening outside of Our Place and the impact this is having on everyday life such as Coronavirus, the economy and the possibility of people losing their jobs.  All of this has been brought together to develop our 2 year Strategy.

How long will your Strategy last?

A Strategy can be developed for as long as you want it to be but at Our Place, we have decided that a 2 year period will help us plan effectively but will also allow us to adapt because everything in the world is changing so quickly especially because of Coronavirus and changes to the economy.

What does your Strategy include?

Our Strategy sets out what is important for us to focus on in the next 2 years, especially in light of the strange times that we live in.  Our Strategy focusses on the following key areas:

  1. We will focus on making our services better.  Our Community Hub will continue to be COVID safe and we will continue to offer training and safe community focused services either face to face or through the use of technology
  2. We will make sure we tell more people about what we do and we will ensure that we have the right staff and volunteers in place.
  3. We will have a greater focus on making sure that we have enough money to keep providing our services to the people who need them.
  4. We will make sure that we work closely with funders and engage with partners.
  5. We will make sure that we use technology better so that we can help more people.

Who will deliver our Strategy?

All of the Directors, Staff and Volunteers at Our Place Support will contribute to making sure that all of the things detailed in the Strategy are delivered.

How can I become involved in Our Place?

Our team are really important to Our Place Support and the work that we do to help people across Sutton Coldfield but also further afield.  We are always looking for new people to be part of our team so if you are interested please take a look at our volunteering opportunities.

We hope you found this blog useful but if you would like any further information, please contact us on the above details.

Danielle Williams Celebrates 1 Year at Our Place Support

Today our Admin Coordinator Danielle celebrates a year at Our Place Support.

In this blog Danielle shares how the term ‘Variety is the Spice of Life’ really does reflect her role and provides many wonderful opportunities for her to engage with the local community as well as coordinate the administration of our community focused work.

When I joined Our Place Support 1 year ago, I knew it was the right time for me to get back to doing something that I love and invest in our local community. I have always been a community focused person and have worked with a wide range of people in delivering play work to youth work and being involved in community focused events.

Last August I had been a stay at home mom for a year; I got to do the school run and settle my little girl into reception at school, I had a whole year of making memories with her and living the school mom life. It was a fantastic time for me and one I am extremely grateful to my husband for enabling me do, but I knew something was missing, something for me – a way to get my brain working again as well as a social aspect. I have fantastic friends and family but there is something different about having a work family that I knew I was missing.

I have always followed the fantastic work of Our Place via social media and have worked alongside Kelly our CEO many moons ago in previous roles. I just happened to stumble across the advert for the admin coordinator role, it sounded perfect – a few hours a week, a community focus and what stood out for me was that I would still be able to do school pickups!

It was a weird feeling being the ‘newbie’, learning new systems, frantically trying to write down as many notes as I could and meeting lots of new people (We have a big team here at Our Place!) but on my first week I instantly felt at ease, everyone was lovely, there’s a huge sense of pride and passion from everyone at Our Place and the skills and knowledge that each and every member of the team hold is amazing, what really resonated with me was everyone’s genuine passion for supporting the community – to me this just shines through!

As coordinator of the volunteer admin team I spend much of my time with 7 amazing team members who undertake a wide range of tasks to keep Our Place and our projects on track from data management and analysis, to HR and resource preparation. Working with the team has been wonderful, their dedication to turning up each week is second to none, and I find their commitment as volunteers invaluable – I love chatting to them all – maybe sometimes too much… but honestly that is one of the best parts of my role – spending time with my team, knowing what’s going on in their lives and how I can help them or develop their skills at Our Place. It’s an absolute pleasure to have such a unique team and I certainly couldn’t do my role without them.  Thank you all for your hard work and dedication over the past 12 months!

Variety is definitely the spice of life, each day at the Hub is different and this is why I enjoy my role so much. Over the year I have been involved in a number of community projects including coordinating and supporting events, attending and facilitating voluntary sector networking meetings where it’s been refreshing and encouraging to see so many Sutton based services joining together to support local people and leading projects such as ‘Colour for your Community’ which saw some fantastic artwork sent in to Our Place Community Hub during lockdown, connecting our community at a time of isolation.

I find it great how Our Place encourage team members to explore and follow new opportunities, to think outside the box and and trial new things – I have even done a link for local radio station ‘Switch’ promoting the work we were doing during lock-down and sending a special thank you to all Key workers – something new for me!

Of course, a large amount of this time has been spent working from home under lockdown restrictions and coordinating our team remotely – it’s been a challenge to say the least, getting everyone on zoom and trying to order new laptops when there’s a shortage across the whole country but I wouldn’t have wanted to work for another organisation during a worldwide pandemic, we’ve had fun, laughed a lot, had endless new technology problems and I even have the office phone in my living room but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The past 8 months have also been a challenging for me at home with my Dad being diagnosed with cancer at the beginning of 2020 – the Our Place Team have been nothing more than amazing, letting me swap my working days and when the COVID pandemic hit I was the first one to work from home to protect my whole family, I will be forever grateful for you all for keeping me and my family safe, but having a reason to get up in the morning knowing the work we are doing is helping others – this is the reason I am proud to work for Our Place Support.

If you get nothing else from reading my insight into my role take this – do what makes you happy, work for an organisations that values you, that invests in you and makes work enjoyable because for the past 12 months I’ve not felt like I’ve been at work Its been a joy and long may it continue.

Thank you Kelly & the team for believing in me and giving me the chance to join the Our Place family.

Lockdown Laughter

Our Place Support and FOLIO Sutton Coldfield have come together to highlight the wonderful stories of community cohesion and kindness which are happening all around us as we navigate through the challenges brought by the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Together we invite you – the community of Sutton Coldfield – to share your stories! We want to know about the moments that have made you laugh and the acts of extreme kindness that have touched your heart and together we will create ‘Lockdown Laughter and Covid Kindness’, a collaborative record of positivity, to document one aspect of this historic time. Whilst we mourn the losses and acknowledge the immense difficulties of life in lockdown, and in no way wish to diminish the challenges we have been facing, research shows that capturing and appreciating the positive and good things we experience helps wellbeing and gives us hope and optimism at a time when it is really needed.

We are also looking for submissions of artwork and photography documenting Lockdown in Sutton Coldfield. Perhaps you have been taking documentary photos you’d like to share. Perhaps your family has been creating artwork to as a way of finding calm and joy during these days. We’d love to be able to include these in our broader documentation of how Sutton Coldfield residents responded during Lockdown.

Initially we will gather stories and artwork/photography to publish online, but we hope to be able to create a book and library exhibition of stories and memories as the project develops.

To submit a story, please complete this submission form and email it to enquiries@ourplacesupport.org. To submit a photo or artwork, please create a digital version of it (a photo take on your phone perhaps) and email it to enquiries@ourplacesupport.org. Please note that we may not be able to include all submissions in possible publications, depending on the numbers received.

You information will be held in line with the Our Place Support privacy policy which is available at www.ourplacesupport.org

If you/your business would like to support this project (through sponsorship or in-kind support) we would love to hear from you. Please email Zoe on chair@foliosuttoncoldfield.org.uk, if you would like to discuss how you can support this project.

Autism and Lockdown

Lockdown has been a difficult adjustment for many people. There are many articles about how mental health is impacted by isolation itself and concerns about health, family, money and the future have raised uncertainty and anxiety for many.

For adults and children with Autism this can be a particularly difficult time.

Autism affects how people perceive and interact with the world and can make social interaction and communication difficult.

Autism is a spectrum condition, which means that each person is affected differently. Anxiety and overwhelm are often things that autistic people experience, and this makes lockdown and the uncertainty it brings potentially even harder for them.

Part of helping to keep overwhelm and anxiety to a minimum is routine and structure. Having daily routines in place and knowing about changes ahead of time can minimise these feelings and allow time to adapt to the ‘new’. Lockdown coming so suddenly would have caused a huge sense of anxiety for some autistic people, especially as all daily routines changed with no school/work and no going out to see people.

The fact that there are no definite answers to how long we will be this way and when things can start to look ‘normal’ again will add another layer of anxiety too. Having no answers means not being able to plan ahead or give the unhelpful thoughts that can come with anxiety an answer.

So what does overwhelm look like?

For children overwhelm can look like anger, sadness, needing more reassurance or cuddles, not settling to tasks or being argumentative and challenging.

For adults it can include limited communication, no appetite or overeating, poor sleep or wanting to sleep all the time, difficulty concentrating or becoming obsessed over certain things.

What can help?

So, how can we support and help this feeling of overwhelm and anxiety when we can’t give the usual solutions?

It means being creative with your thinking, having time to listen and reassure and upping any sensory or calming activities to help offset some of the big feelings that are there. Below are some suggestions for ideas and support to help in this hugely unusual time.

  • Create a new routine that suits the way you are living now. Having times for study or work and times set aside to be creative and active can help create a sense of security and calmness. Keeping to a regular bedtime makes a difference too. Being tired makes it harder to manage big emotions.
  • Use a visual time table. These can be downloaded or you can draw one as a family. Using symbols and displaying it somewhere you can all see it helps with the feeling of what happens next.
  • Be active. This doesn’t mean having a walk, although if it doesn’t cause anxiety then being outside can be very beneficial to overall health. Dancing and yoga can also help to burn off the restless feelings or calm a busy brain. There are some excellent children’s yoga stories on YouTube that can be fun for the whole family to join in and aren’t about being still but encourage calm breathing.
  • Look at how sensory needs are being met. Having a warm shower or bath before bed can help sleep. Using weighted layers on the bed can feel calming. Big bear hugs or rolling up in a blanket can help ease overwhelm. Using headphones to create space and quiet in a noisy busy house can help. Fidget toys and stretchy items can help with restless hands.
  • Create a calming box or bag with things that comfort and support when overwhelm is happening. Maybe a glitter calming bottle, favourite toy, book or pens to draw or write feelings, squashy toys or slime, ear plugs or chewing gum. Put it in a quiet place that the person can go to for some calm time.
  • Stay in connected with friends and family but be sensitive to the fact that this may be hard via video or phone as social cues can be harder to read and it can add anxiety.
  • Be aware of how long it can take to process new information and limit access to news. It can take time to process ideas and each person’s needs are individual to them. Allowing time to process information can help manage overwhelm. Be aware that there may be a need for extra talking time about things at first.
  • Use social stories or videos to help convey information. There are a few available now regarding Covid 19 that can help explain what is happening. This is an example https://carolgraysocialstories.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Pandemics-and-the-Coronavirus.pdf
  • Be flexible with how you communicate. It may be easier to discuss things via text or make mind maps of ideas than to try and talk about them.

If you are looking for further information The National Autistic Society have produced some helpful information on Coronavirus to support adults and families. Take a look at their website https://www.autism.org.uk/services/helplines/coronavirus.aspx

Article written by by Fiona Hill

Announcement from Kelly round, Our Place CEO

Wonderful news!  Our Place Support launches new website!

As well as all our Mentoring, Advice and Support services, we have also been building a brand-new website!

What’s new?

Since January, Kelly, Beth and the team have been poring over plans, discussing designs and editing content, to try and make this website as informative and user friendly as possible. Whilst our old site had served us really well, we thought an update was due and would provide an even better showcase for our services.  One of the new additions – that we are most excited about – is the inclusion of a “News” page.  Since forming in 2011 we have had some amazing experiences, incredible successes, and invaluable learning, so thought it was time to share with you all!  This page is all about news, events, anecdotes, information, changes and updates – we plan to keep it nice and busy and chatty – and hope you’ll get involved too!

What will feature?

As well as News, you will see our declaration of Core Values.  Establishing these was a great team effort – plenty of flip charts were involved in their creation – and we are very proud to have them so clearly displayed. Our new “About” page gives more information about our staff members and their roles, whilst our “Training” page now gives clear learning outcomes and prices for each course, as well as a direct route to booking. Regular viewers of our site will notice that we have some excellent new additions here, which are well worth taking a look at, and booking. Our Mentoring, Consulting and Advice Service services have also been re-vamped, as have our meeting room profiles and volunteer services. You may also note that we are inviting Work Placements for College and University Students.  In the past these have been invaluable to us, as both sources of help AND learning.  There is also a dedicated “Staff Portal” so that everyone can keep in easy communication with each other. As we are a CIC, we are always keen to raise money for the maintenance and development of our service provision, so, on many pages you will see a “Donate Here” button, making contributions even easier to facilitate.

Can we contribute?

Yes! We are always keen to harvest news skills and experiences from the community, to benefit the community, so just drop us a line or phone us to talk about your talents!  Your financial donations are also very welcome indeed thank you!

In summary

We have tried to create a site that is a great ‘shop window’ for our services and skills, informs staff and community alike, and is regularly updated with news and information.

Why not have a look, and let us know your thoughts – it’s pretty much YOUR site anyway! https://www.ourplacesupport.org Thank you.