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Mental Health Awareness Week – an article by Kieron Lee

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I am writing this article for Anna Kennedy Online, to raise the much-needed awareness for Mental Health, this week, and every week. It is no secret that I have a diagnosis of Autism, ADHD as well as a Mixed Anxiety and Depressive disorder. You can imagine, that managing all of these is extremely difficult.

 

For years I have struggled with severe mental health issues; in 2018 I attempted suicide by taking an overdose, there have been similar events like this before. At the time I felt empty yet full of emotions that I just could not bear, I would describe autism and emotions like “Superman and Kryptonite;” emotions are my Kryptonite. I often question and have never quite understood the reasoning behind my sometimes-erratic response to events that have occurred throughout my life.

 

The way I feel is often overwhelming, I have strong feelings that lead to me being very emotional, almost like an empath is how I would describe it. Sometimes the world just gets too much, and I just need to come off it for a bit.

 

In times when I feel so low, I have my mother, who has honestly been my biggest supporter, critique, best friend, and rock that constantly holds me to the ground when I lose a sense of gravity. I have a lot of friends and even family that weren’t/are not lucky enough to have the relationship with their mum that I do with mine, and I will forever be so lucky for that.

 

Weeks when I do not feel so great you best believe I am able to write the best lyrical content, the ability to do that makes me feel so much lighter. I often “meditate” with the piano and a beautiful chord progression which is so soothing for the mind. Also, getting stuck into coursework really helps! But it is honestly, the love for music and the people that I am so lucky to have around me that keeps me strong.

 

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_image src=”https://annakennedyonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/05/IMG_7714.jpeg” title_text=”IMG_7714″ _builder_version=”4.25.1″ _module_preset=”default” global_colors_info=”{}”][/et_pb_image][et_pb_text _builder_version=”4.25.1″ _module_preset=”default” hover_enabled=”0″ global_colors_info=”{}” sticky_enabled=”0″]

 

I met the wonderful Anna and team back in 2016 whilst we were working on our superb charity album “Building Bridges”, which was a significant and memorable time in my life. Since then, I have continued to support and work with the charity.

 

Anna and all the team have played a huge part in shaping the person I have become today, and I could not be more thankful for the opportunities that have been given to me through Anna Kennedy Online, and their amazing work and I feel so proud to be a part of the AKO family. I am aware of the progress and huge difference that I have made.

 

If I can do it, you can too! Never give up. 

I would like to encourage everyone to spread love and positivity in a world that really needs it. Especially right now. I also ask that you try to be the best advocate for mental health that you possibly can be. Be super thankful for your neighbours, thankful for your friends and family. Most importantly be thankful for yourself and know that you have huge value. Try to appreciate the little things in life as much as you can even when you feel like it is impossible. Stay strong. Reach out when you need it. You are not alone.

 

For more information on mental health services, please visit: https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/mental-health-services/

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Mental Health Awareness Week – an article by Kieron Lee

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I am writing this article for Anna Kennedy Online, to raise the much-needed awareness for Mental Health, this week, and every week. It is no secret that I have a diagnosis of Autism, ADHD as well as a Mixed Anxiety and Depressive disorder. You can imagine, that managing all of these is extremely difficult.

For years I have struggled with severe mental health issues; in 2018 I attempted suicide by taking an overdose, there have been similar events like this before. At the time I felt empty yet full of emotions that I just could not bear, I would describe autism and emotions like “Superman and Kryptonite;” emotions are my Kryptonite. I often question and have never quite understood the reasoning behind my sometimes-erratic response to events that have occurred throughout my life.

The way I feel is often overwhelming, I have strong feelings that lead to me being very emotional, almost like an empath is how I would describe it. Sometimes the world just gets too much, and I just need to come off it for a bit. 

In times when I feel so low, I have my mother, who has honestly been my biggest supporter, critique, best friend, and rock that constantly holds me to the ground when I lose a sense of gravity. I have a lot of friends and even family that weren’t/are not lucky enough to have the relationship with their mum that I do with mine, and I will forever be so lucky for that.

Weeks when I do not feel so great you best believe I am able to write the best lyrical content, the ability to do that makes me feel so much lighter. I often “meditate” with the piano and a beautiful chord progression which is so soothing for the mind. Also, getting stuck into coursework really helps! But it is honestly, the love for music and the people that I am so lucky to have around me that keeps me strong.

I met the wonderful Anna and team back in 2016 whilst we were working on our superb charity album “Building Bridges”, which was a significant and memorable time in my life. Since then, I have continued to support and work with the charity.

Anna and all the team have played a huge part in shaping the person I have become today, and I could not be more thankful for the opportunities that have been given to me through Anna Kennedy Online, and their amazing work and I feel so proud to be a part of the AKO family. I am aware of the progress and huge difference that I have made.

If I can do it, you can too! Never give up. I am now on top of the world with an amazing new friend group, in the process of finalising my EP ready for release in the Summer (Keep your eyes peeled) and I am ready to start university next year, where I will be working towards achieving my degree in Popular Music. 

I would like to encourage everyone to spread love and positivity in a world that really needs it. Especially right now. I also ask that you try to be the best advocate for mental health that you possibly can be. Be super thankful for your neighbours, thankful for your friends and family. Most importantly be thankful for yourself and know that you have huge value. Try to appreciate the little things in life as much as you can even when you feel like it is impossible. Stay strong. Reach out when you need it. You are not alone. 

For more information on mental health services, please visit: https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/mental-health-services/

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Mental Health Awareness Week 2022

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It is the start of Mental Health Awareness Week this week and theme this year loneliness.

We can all feel alone sometimes, even when we are around other people. Longer-term loneliness can contribute to mental health conditions including anxiety and depression – making it difficult to connect with others. As a lot of services became accessible online throughout the lockdowns, it has become easier to connect with one another – as well as get access to mental health support.

A recent study by Boots that explores the changing attitudes of accessing mental healthcare online shows four in five patients (82%) would consider using digital services for mental health while 70% would prefer to talk to a doctor about their mental health or access therapy (72%) virtually rather than in person.

The number of adults experiencing depression and anxiety is still up on pre-pandemic levels, with an estimated 1.6 million3 people waiting to access mental health support on the NHS.

Unlike many physical illnesses, mental health issues cannot always be seen. Indicators that someone is suffering from mental health issues could include feeling sad or down for lengthy periods, withdrawal from friends, family and social activities, and feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Studies have found that increased loneliness in adults with autistic spectrum conditions is associated with increased depression and anxiety, and decreased life satisfaction and self-esteem, even when controlling for symptoms of autism.

Therefore, it is a vital area that needs to be addressed when considering how to improve the daily lives of adults on the autistic spectrum.

During this week we will be sharing articles from autistic individuals sharing their experiences.

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Children’s Mental Health Week
Article 5 by Phil Barnett

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Three lockdowns in one year – that’s a lot to cope with for any adult, let alone young people! Here at Kidz R Us, my youth theatre group in St Ives, Cornwall, it has been a year of ups and downs.

Most of the time we were really lucky that our group could continue to rehearse – as long as schools were operating then so could we. Our Kidz, from ages 6 to 20 could continue working towards the shows we had planned but last summer the government guidelines said that theatres couldn’t open and so we had to shelve our summer season of musicals – we were due to present three of them – Seussical the Musical, based on the Doctor Seuss books and the film Horton Hears A Who, The Queen musical We Will Rock You and another less-known musical comedy called Disenchanted that tells the story of six Disney Princesses whose lives didn’t end up Happily Ever After!

Obviously our Kidz were disappointed but they soldiered on in the knowledge that we would start rehearsals for our Christmas panto Robinson Crusoe and the Pirates. We had to do a lot of preparation to follow the guidelines and we divided them up into three different bubbles and had to put so many rules and regulations in place but our Kidz were amazing and just took it all in their stride!

We started off rehearsing for this and the whole cast were having a ball as most of their other activities were stopped and it was a joy to see them having so much fun and giving their all in the rehearsals. Then came lockdown three and everything had to stop.

In the first lockdowns we did quite a few things online but in this third lockdown our Kidz have been home-schooling on their computers all day so the last thing they wanted was to do more stuff online in the evenings.

So at the moment its all gone a bit quiet until the schools go back and we hope that we will then be able to start rehearsals once more and plan a series of summer shows again!

Phil Barnett
Chairman of Trustees
Kidz R Us

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Children’s Mental Health Week
Article 4 by Father son Mark and Chris

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My name is Mark, my wife Bev is a Charity Champion for AKO, and our 15 year old son Chris was diagnosed with autism, ADHD, Learning difficulties, Global developmental delay, and hypermobility.  He is an amazing kid, with passions about ships, and gaming, and he makes us laugh so much.

We have been trying to navigate our way through these lockdowns, and to be honest, the first one was easier for us as we had all of us fit and well, the second one was business as usual for us all, but this third one has knocked us for six.  We have all had to dig deep and think about each other and especially mental health, as this pandemic looks like it may be around for a while!

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For the past few weeks, Bev has been recovering from Covid, I myself recovered quickly, and although we had to call out paramedics for my wife which was scary, we both consider ourselves lucky to have been recovering at home, in our own bed. As a family we have always been a team, tasks / duties were shared between us, and we had a set routine which worked ok for us and Chris.

But this had to change during lockdown of course, and now add in to it Bev’s recovery.  I quickly learnt to do everything, I had to learn how to cook and actually did ok which surprised me, and of course we had to have a new routine.  This would affect Chris, in fact all of us, which had a huge impact everything.

I will admit during lockdown and Bev’s recovery, I wasn’t sleeping well at all, worse than usual, and the lack of it actually if I am honest made me shattered more so than I have ever been before.  I found it both mentally and physically exhausting, Chris is very capable, yet needs constant prompting and often a lot of physical help with things.

There’s so many things to think about, there might be a lockdown, but life still carries on around you.  It’s also a dilemma when you finally get those 5 minutes to yourself you wanted, and you really know that you need to sleep and rest, but also it’s your only you time you’ve had and you just want to really play your PlayStation game or watch a movie, often the sleep takes over and your ‘you time’ has gone.

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Don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining, as it’s my family, so I carried on, because I love them and because I knew it was the only way.  We were stuck in lockdown, and in a Covid household, we had no other option.

Home Schooling was also something to take into account, trying to make sure Chris had my support to do whatever he could, and attend online lessons when possible. Part of the routine that had to change was me ensuring I went through the next day’s events with Chris the evening before and first thing the next morning.

By trying to stick to a morning routine of getting up as usual, breakfast etc, then cracking on with home-school work was better than leaving it until later in the day.  I found by doing these things, it helped him to have a clearer picture of what was expected, together with the schools online system to show him, it all helped. I found by not rushing him, making him feel relaxed and having time to process what I was saying helped, and that it was ok for him to ask me or the teacher for help always.

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We also had a daily planner wipe board to use to list things that Chris could tick off when done, or we could tick off together to share and feel good about the achievements we had done on that day. Seeing lots of ticks against tasks helped Chris to see when it was ‘his time’ for his games and ships (one of his passions).

The only way to get through it for me was to look at the positives, we were at home, we had each other, and we could get through this together.  So, mental health is always important, and feels even more so during lockdowns and Covid.

Then I had to think about Chris, how was his mental health, how must he be feeling seeing his Mum like that, whilst being stuck at home not being able to go to school and see his friends. He didn’t really say much about it overall, except he once said ‘I’m getting really worried now.’

Both me and my wife spoke to him, we showed smiley faces and explained in small brief terms how we could get through this.  Chris started sometimes to help physically by helping walk his Mum to the bathroom, and little things like making sure she was comfortable in bed tidying the bed clothes around her. Chris seemed to smile and feel good about doing bits like that, it helped him mentally feel like he was part of the recovery. 

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Together with the wipe board tick system, the school online lesson and work planner, with ensuring he had a bit of time to himself to do things he enjoyed all has helped him enormously.

We always regularly ask if he is ok, and make him know he can talk if he wants to, it’s important that we remind him of this.  He’s not one for writing lots and had an input into this article of course, more so verbally, he said mental health is important, and it’s good to respect each other and to show you care, understand, and to always ask if someone is ok. He says he does miss school, but he understands things are different because of Covid.

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Through all this we also had an online college interview for Chris for a placement in September.

This is his last year at his special needs Secondary School, and to me this was another important part of ensuring he understood that although it looks like the world has stood still in some respects, school and life has to carry on somehow.

It was something on my mind on top of everything else, but as a parent as you all know you kind of go into automatic and be your child’s best advocate. 

For Chris, he said he felt good to have something to be excited about, and it was something for us to talk about, we looked online at the college photos and layout and used that as a special project to keep going back to.

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Through all this we also had an online college interview for Chris for a placement in September. To help both mine and Chris’ mental health, we already knew that exercise is important, and we found something we can do together even at home when the weather has been bad.

We got him a boxing speedball kit at Christmas, which we’ve put on the back of his bedroom door – and both of us have been practising on that to keep fit and have fun time together.  Chris also has his own mini exercises which he will try do now and then but the boxing has been a great source of fun.. for us both!

Stay safe everyone.

Mark & Chris

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Children’s Mental Health Week – Article 3

Why mental health matters in schools now more than ever by By Paula Talman, Founder, iSpace Wellbeing

 

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Covid-19 has placed a huge strain on the collective mental health of families across the UK. For children in their formative years, the impact could be colossal.

Government statistics¹ show that children are already more anxious and less satisfied with their life since the pandemic started. They’re spending less time with their friends and are worried about their loved ones getting ill. And while they might be grateful to be back in school after the challenges of home learning, they are now faced with a ‘new normal’ that sadly isn’t really very normal at all.

From worrying about where to stand and what they can touch, to the challenges presented by getting support from teachers who have to maintain a safe social distance, to only being able to mix with children in their bubble, make no mistake, times are tough for children in school right now. As someone who is passionate about protecting the wellbeing of children, this is extremely troubling.

The importance of mental health

It’s always struck me as unfair that the mental health and wellbeing of pupils has tended to play second fiddle to attainment, especially when the data shows the two are so closely linked. The National Child Development Study² showed that people who experience mental health challenges in childhood have poorer outcomes with qualifications and employment, and also with relationships, family and their health.

Last year I had high hopes that things were about to change. At a roundtable event that I attended, hosted by the Department for Education, the Government announced that it would become mandatory for all primary schools to teach children about relationships, physical and mental health as part of the PHSE curriculum from September 2020. It seemed that we might at last be about to turn a corner.

Then Covid-19 hit. This virus has put schools under enormous pressure and that’s something I have experienced directly through my ongoing role as a Director of Compliance, Health and Welfare at a primary school. While the Government’s decision to move the deadline for these changes to the PHSE curriculum is understandable, research shows that children struggling and teachers tell us that their pupils need support with their mental health right now.

At iSpace Wellbeing we’re 100 percent dedicated to improving the lives of children by giving them the tools and the knowledge to look after their mental health. That’s why we’re changing our business model to give every school across the UK free access to our proven and award-nominated iSpace Wellbeing Curriculum – so they can deliver the support children need at this vital time and protect their own wellbeing at the same time.

What is the iSpace Wellbeing Curriculum?

Put simply, it’s an evidence-based curriculum that’s underpinned by mindfulness, positive psychology and neuroscience frameworks and it makes learning about mental health and wellbeing fun. Through a new language, quirky characters and a variety of fun exercises and lesson plans, it provides a ready-to-go whole school approach to mental health and wellbeing, giving pupils the tools they need to know who and how to ask for help.

I’ve been working in child development, mental health and family healthcare for more than 25 years – over half of that in the education sector – and improving physical, social, mental and emotional health in children has always been a key focus for me.

Teachers are under a huge amount of time-pressure at the best of times and the situation with Covid-19 – including the new rules and regulations that are necessary to keep everyone safe – make the prospect of creating bespoke lesson plans on mental health feel even more challenging to our overstretched workforce.

At iSpace Wellbeing we’ve already produced more than 100 lesson plans covering KS1, KS2 and KS3 and these are being actively taught in 30+ forward-thinking schools across the UK that sit across both the independent and state sector.

Two of those schools were recently nominated for national Wellbeing awards for the way they have been able to support their pupils with their mental health and wellbeing – and our curriculum has been central to their success. We’re proud of this recognition and of successes like our recent appearance on CBBC Newsround, but we’re far more proud of the incredible five star feedback we receive every week from pupils, teachers and parents.

Mental health and wellbeing can feel like a heavy subject. Lots of people don’t like talking about their feelings and that can be the same for children. I knew that we needed a way to make learning about our feelings fun and to take away the threat of opening up about our wellbeing.

The iSpace Wellbeing Curriculum takes children on a journey across a Wellbeing Galaxy. Through their interactions the children learn new words like ‘niggles’ and ‘stressors’ that they can use to describe their feelings and worries. They also find out more about what can impact on their emotions with story-based lessons on what we call ‘brain science’ like ‘fight, flight and freeze’. Underpinning these fun stories and exercises are important lessons about sharing, friendship, physical and emotional health and anti-bullying.

It is on these magical adventures that children can pick-up what we call ‘backpack tools’ that they can use to help them to manage their emotions in challenging times. These can be exercises like ‘I Stop Pause And Calm Everything’ – the phrase that gives iSpace its name – breathing techniques, identifying which people they could ask for help to ‘land their rocket’ or simply activities that make them feel calm, like walking their dog or talking to a friend. These backpack tools form the children’s emotional toolkit and the curriculum helps them to understand when and how to use them.

How can I access the curriculum?

Up until now the iSpace Wellbeing Curriculum has been a paid-for service but, with everything that’s happening in our society, we cannot sit by and see schools struggle when we know we have a ready-to-go tool that can help them.

This month our board made the decision to change our business model and provide all schools with free access to our Mental Health and Wellbeing Curriculum – removing the previous charge of up to £2,500 per school. Going forward this evidence-based, proven and ready-to-go curriculum will be available to every school in the UK and Ireland at no cost.

Our organisation is incredibly passionate about the importance of good mental health in childhood and we’ve made it our mission to improve and protect the mental and emotional wellbeing of more than 50 million children by 2030. We hope that this move to free access will be an important step on this journey.

To find out more about how to register for our free Mental Health and Wellbeing Curriculum, which comes with full training, go to: https://ispacewellbeing.com/ where you can also access other resources such as resilience training and educational books.

Tips for supporting pupils’ mental health

Finally, I thought it might be helpful if I share a few little reminders of how we can help support our children during this challenging year.

Let children know they’re not alone – Research by the charity Young Minds shows that 80% of children feel the Covid-19 situation has made their mental health worse. It’s important that children realise that it’s ok to be finding things hard right now and that they’re not on their own.

Help them share their worries – There is lots of evidence that talking about our feelings helps protect our mental health, so providing a supportive and nurturing environment where children can feel safe to discuss their worries can be a big help.

Discuss self-care tips – Helping children to uncover ideas for things that will protect their wellbeing can be really beneficial. Being creative through drawing, photography or writing, being active by going for a run or playing sport or simply talking to friend could all be helpful.

Signpost to support – It’s so important that children understand who and how to ask for help. Spend some time helping them identify safe sources of support, whether that’s parents and friends, or charity’s like Childline, Action for Children, Barnardos or place2be.

References

¹ UK Government, State of the Nation Report 2020 https://www.gov.uk/government/news/effect-of-pandemic-on-childrens-wellbeing-revealed-in-new-report

²Mental Health Foundation, Lifetime Impacts Report https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/lifetime_impacts.pdf

³Young Minds, Wise Up Report https://youngminds.org.uk/media/1428/wise-up-prioritising-wellbeing-in-schools.pdf

 

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Children’s Mental Health Week
Article 2 – by Shayla Curtis age 14

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Lockdown can be a hard time for a lot of people: isolating, not seeing friends or family, missing out on things you thought you’d be able to experience at this time.

But for a lot of families, being stuck inside becomes almost impossible. Some children or adults who have additional needs may need to go to school and maybe aren’t get as much time learning as they need.

Routines can be essential to most people on the spectrum, and having these routines disrupted or changed can be incredibly hard for those who are used to having structure. As someone who has a sibling with autism, I’ve experienced this struggle first-hand.

My brother Cayden is five years old, non-verbal, and was diagnosed with autism and global development delay in September of 2017.

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Cayden has always been such a loving, cheeky boy with the most contagious smile, which made it even harder to see how different he’d become during lockdown and the affects that it had on his heart-warming personality.

Seeing him so upset and the seeing the impact of being deprived of all of his external support was heart crushing.

It started off as a few difficult days, which then became a constant battle to give Cayden the things he needed in his day to day life.

My younger sister Bonnie is four, and she also strives on routine and structure.

Around the time of the first lockdown, she was coming to the age where she could see the differences in her needs in comparison her brothers.

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This meant that often they were both becoming stressed and upset at the same time,  growing more and more angry off the back of each other as they couldn’t handle each other’s noise as well as their own feelings.

Being the eldest, I was able to see and understand the pain and the stress that my whole family were affected by, especially my mum. I felt helpless, as there was nothing I personally could do to help how by siblings felt and all I wanted was for everything to go back to normal.

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We tried new schedules, new toys or methods to help Cayden but we simply could not fill his need for sensory input.

By this point, my mental health started to take a turn for the worse as I was watching my whole world crash around me.

My family was at crisis point, and I could feel the light at the end of the tunnel becoming further and further away.

I wasn’t doing well mentally or physically, and on top of this I was struggling with keeping up with schoolwork, I was feeling different from everybody else and I just overall wasn’t getting the attention I needed to help me, because of how much pressure my parents and I were under to help Cayden, making it even more painful to get through the day.

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My life felt flipped upside down, and the only outlet I had was to get out of this situation for a while, so I went to stay in Ireland with my grandparent for two weeks to catch up on school and focus on building myself back up again and to have a break from the constant noise and stress that was now my home life.

Being away from it all for those two weeks gave me clarity, and I opened up to my mum about how I’d been feeling and told her that I thought I needed help and she supported me with that.

I came out of that first lockdown feeling like the bond I had with my mum was stronger than it had ever been before, after what we had just experienced together as a family.

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This made me realise that mental health affects a lot of people my age, and to piece myself back together again I needed to speak out.

Talking to people you trust always helps, and there will always be someone who will support you through everything.

So, remember to prioritise yourself as well as your mental health, because even when you think it’s impossible, things will always get better.

Shayla Curtis

 Age 14

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Children’s Mental Health Week
Article 1 by Lorcan

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Hi, I’m Lorcan, I’m 13 years old and my brother has Autism he is called Oscar and he is 7, and for me lockdown has been difficult because I can’t see friends or go to roller hockey practice ,but I also enjoyed it  as well because I don’t really like going out, I like being at home .

Home learning is very hard! Because sometimes when Oscar is not at school, he can get excited and can be loud, so I can’t focus.

My relationship with my brother Oscar is very good, he comes to get me if he needs help and if he ever wants to play, and he won’t wait .

When mum is working and Oscar needs something, I might need to step in and help, though there are somethings I need my sisters help with and she also helps me out a lot.

If I was going to give any tips to others who have brothers or sisters who are on the spectrum, it would be to do whatever you can and to make sure you make time for yourself to do something you enjoy to have your own time , go on the trampoline or in the garden or exercise, if you are feeling a bit stressed out and it gets too much because it can help you calm down and start again, it can get a bit too much with everyone at home and noisy and it’s good to take a little break and let some feelings out it makes me feel.

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