Written by Sue Maidens - Programme Coordinator for Me2 Programme
Sarah is a 14 year old young lady who was socially isolated, struggling in school and had absolutely no interaction with her peers. Sarah has an autistic spectrum disorder. At the time of referral Sarah was struggling with social anxiety and refused to leave her house unless she was accompanied by her mum or dad. Sarah had no independence, very low self-esteem, very low confidence and very limited communication. Sarah did not make eye contact at all with me at our 1:1 induction session and Sarah’s mum answered on her behalf. Both Sarah’s mum and myself were unsure whether Sarah would engage with the programme. It did become apparent that Sarah would like to try a pilates group for her placement. This was a new activity for Me2 but Sarah’s mum suggested a group which was very close to where Sarah lived.
I approached the pilates group and they were happy to facilitate a placement. It was suggested by the lead instructor that Sarah and her mentor should begin by accessing 1:1 sessions with a view to moving to the group sessions. Sarah was matched with a 17 year old female mentor. Initially communication between Sarah and her mentor was challenging but they did form an immediate friendship. Sarah’s mentor used picture drawings and symbols to communicate with Sarah during their first meetings and gradually encouraged Sarah to communicate verbally. After 6 weeks of 1:1 sessions they joined the main group activity.
At the exit route meeting in June 2018 there was a really noticeable change in Sarah, Sarah’s Project Support Officer commented “Sarah and her mentor have definitely been our success story for the 2018 Me2 programme!”.
Sarah confirmed that she will attend the pilates group on her own.
Sarah said “The Me2 programme has helped me become more independent and confident. I am now able to do more for myself i.e. walk from school on my own to meet my mentor, attend recreational activities and confidently ask for support when I need it. I have joined the orchestra at school and will be attending some concerts in Italy over the coming months. I feel so happy. My mentor is a real friend and I cannot thank her enough for supporting me”.
Sarah’s mentor has been released from her Code of Conduct and the two of them meet once a month for a coffee and a catch up.
Sarah’s mum said “A breath of fresh air…..my daughter now has a life. Me2 has been a real lifeline and is overall absolutely brilliant. My daughter is a shining example of how the programme can change lives, she has definitely learnt some beneficial social skills which I am seeing her transfer to school”.
*Different name used for data protection purposes.