Josh has ADHD, Aspergers and sensory processing disorder. He is 7.
Josh is only going to school for 2 mornings a week as the school found him difficult to cope with and are trying to get a statement for him. He has run away from school before, is disruptive and impulsive and not good with lots of other people or noise. His mum was worried about his self-esteem and confidence and especially his relationship with his older sister charlotte. Josh is often the focus of the family and Charlotte feels left out and is becoming withdrawn from the family and angry towards Josh.
The family had tried a bit of fishing with Josh before and he’d enjoyed it so much the SENCO suggested he attended an Angling4Education course.
Being outdoors in nature and the quiet helps to calm Josh down. The A4E staff have worked with Josh on his emotional literacy and getting him to communicate without being angry or frustrated. He’s also learnt that with fishing you have to be patient and things like catching a fish don’t always happen when you want!
He’s also learnt to be more self-sufficient and take responsibility for himself. He’s now dressing himself and his mum thinks he’s learning the basic stepping-stones for his future personal development. He now thinks before he acts or reacts.
Through getting to know the family, A4E referred them onto our Short Breaks Family project which was really successful. Josh was able to tell them what they should be doing and help them with fishing. He’d never done anything like this before so his confidence has really grown. He also got a chance to interact with his sister in a positive way and she got to see him doing something that he’s good at and knowledgeable about.
The family have really bonded since going on the course. They were able to spend fun time together in calm surroundings and have a break from some of the problems they’d been having at home. Josh’s mum felt like she’d been on holiday!
Josh’s sister got to meet another girl whose brother has behaviour issues and his mum found meeting other parents really supportive and a good way to share experiences and information. She also felt she could relax as the other parents were all in the same boat and wouldn’t be judging each other, plus the staff were very confident in how they worked with the young people. Watching the A4E staff work with Josh was very helpful. She felt like they understood what the family were going through and how to handle Josh and support the whole family. She picked up some tips on how to communicate with Josh, and deal with his behaviour.
“It was more helpful than anything Social Services or the school have offered us. They suggested star charts and how to set rules but then left us to it. None had spent time with us as a family or backed us up and helped us learn how to actually deal with him. This is the sort of thing we needed 3 years ago before we hit breaking point. It made a difference for me just to have someone behind me who understands us as a family. We all got counselling but not in an obvious way”
Since the course Charlotte has joined in with the family more. The course has made her face some of her feelings and the family are now able to talk about them and work through them. There has been a massive improvement in Josh’s behaviour which will hopefully help him at school. He never liked reading before and his literacy was in the bottom 2% for his age but he now reads fishing magazines and writes a list of everything he catches. On the course he was able to see the behaviour of other children like him for the first time and the family talked about how the other children could have behaved differently and the effect they were having on others.
Josh’s mum thinks the A4E courses would be really helpful for other families like theirs; not just with children with disabilities or behaviour problems but also families who are having issues with bonding and getting on. She believes doing this course together starts to open families up and teaches them ways to understand and communicate with each other better.
She thinks the One to One course works really well, especially as a form of respite care for the family. What would be good is if there was a follow-up session to see what progress everyone has been making and for the families to stay in touch as well as get more help on issues that have come up.
Josh’s mum was able to get the school to pay for the course. This was because they couldn’t provide the compulsory 20 hours of education in school. She thinks this is a fantastic way for schools to provide alternative education to children who need it and has the potential to help lots more families.
John is 10 and was diagnosed with depression. When John first attended one of the Angling4Education disability days he had been diagnosed with depression and suffering from low confidence and low self worth. When the family saw the poster advertising the A4E sessions and suggested Josh attended, he was unsure and nervous because he would not know anyone. Fortunately participants are allowed to take friends along to the sessions in order to encourage attendance in situations like this and also to enable children and young people with disabilities to enjoy activities with their friends who may not have disabilities.
The fact John as he was able to bring a friend along enabled him to feel safe in the knowledge that he would know at least one person and really helped him settle in. After arriving on the first session it quickly became evident that John would not only excel in the activity but also thrive in an environment which he would be challenged but feel safe and very well supported.
John got so much out of the first session, mum immediately booked him onto the next session on his own. This was the best thing John could have done as he thrived with the opportunity to develop his independence and get to know lots of other children and young people with disabilities.
Coming from a busy household with two sisters, John particularly enjoyed the quietness and the tranquil nature of the sessions. The sessions have also enabled John to understand some really excellent life lessons. Most importantly John has learnt that sometimes things which happen in our lives are out of control to a certain extent. This is certainly the case with fishing as sometimes due to conditions and other factors out of our control, the fishing can be very difficult. However if you work hard, do the right things, remain patient, you are in the end rewarded in fishing, something John has been able to relate to in his day to day life. Adam now feels much better prepared to deal with every day frustrations and things not going to plan.
John has continued to flourish as in individual and grow in confidence the more sessions he attended and it is was a natural progression for him to be offered the opportunity to be a young volunteer instructor. Mum felt this was really important moment for John:
“He opened up more and more and his confidence grew. You amazing people gave him the opportunity to become a young leader and this has helped him more than you know. He feels worth something and like he is actually valued. As much as we tell him how much he is at home I don't think he believed us until someone outside of home showed him he was capable of more”
A4E were able to collaboration with the local Scout group which John had begun to attend by providing evidence of his leadership duties and he was able to gain his instructor badge, the first of its kind to given out to anyone at his scouts group in 6 years. This made him and the family incredibly proud and further boosted his confidence. In order to get the badge John had to demonstrate huge amounts of knowledge including safety rules, fish types and habitats, and his own thoughts and feelings about fishing. Some of this knowledge John researched outside of our sessions something which has enabled John to further develop his independence skill.
The sessions have given John a real positive focus in his life, which he looks forward to every school holidays. By allowing John to grow at his own pace has also been able to develop his leadership skills and now feels confident enough to address groups of up to 15 participants when we do session briefings and activity demonstrations. Also by supporting children and young people with a huge variety of needs, John has been able to develop his empathy skills and has developed a fantastic ability to relate to participants in a very effective way. John has now become one of the most important members of the Short Break Team and has been instrumental in engaging children and young people struggling with anxiety and confidence. This has given him an amazing feeling of self worth. This year we will be collaborating with the Angling Trust and other agencies to provide John with some accredited leadership learning opportunities. We also aim to collaborate with some of our venues to open up opportunities for John to fish independently.
The volunteering John has done on the sessions has also given him the opportunity to take part in something away from his two sisters. This has been important for the whole family because they get a break from each other and John is able to come back home and talk proudly to the whole family about what he has been involved with in each session and what he has learnt. John stated:
"When I help out with A4E session it makes me feel calm and happy and I feel like I'm being useful, the people there are nice to me and it makes me feel normal, not like everyone hates me. I really like going and being me”
In between sessions John has also been fishing with mum independently and has taught her how to fish, which has enabled them to have important time to bond and get away from the day to day stresses of life. It is also really important that John and mum feel confident they are fishing in way in which keeps them safe but also importantly insures that the environment is protected and there are no negative impacts on the environment. This is a consistently strong message that A4E are able get across to its participants who are contemplating taking up the sport independently.
"“I am so appreciative of the work you have done with John and he has formed a great bond with the whole staff team and who are fantastic role models”
Craig is 12 and was referred to the KS3 Engagement Programme by his Think family key worker due to difficulties with his transition from Primary to High School. The schools were reporting that Craig was finding himself in regular conflict with teachers and peers, which in turn was having a hugely detrimental impact on his academic progress and general well being.
Although Craig was motivated to take part in the programme from the beginning, the programme was initially hugely challenging for him. Many of the issues he was facing at school were emerging on the project, as he found himself in repeated conflict with other participants. We were able to deal with these situations in a non punitive/restorative manner to help develop his understanding of what was going wrong. Craig was supported to continually reflect on these situations and he slowly learnt different ways to interact with his peers and deal with conflict.
Craig has grown to really value “Catch Up Time” where he would check in with the group about how his week had gone and talk through situations he had dealt with well and what situations he had struggled with. As the project went on not only did Craig become more at ease with the group, he also reported far less conflict at school.
The activity side of the project enabled Craig to experience achievement at a time when he was getting very little positive affirmation. Since the project started Craig has become far more active outside of school and now takes every opportunity he can to get out in the natural environment with friends and family.
In Craig’s own words:
“I never thought the project would be as fun as it was and it has helped me in so many ways. I have learnt to articulate my thoughts and feelings in a clear way rather than getting upset and rude. We were set personal goals which for me included dealing with conflict and getting on better with my peers. I have got so much better at dealing with conflict as I was always getting into arguments with my teachers and class mates, which would end up with me getting sanctions such as detentions and exclusions. I feel like I get on so much better with my peers and friends now and feel like I have learnt what friendship really means. The course has also helped me build my confidence up”
We maintained good communication with mum and dad throughout the project which enabled us to develop a greater understanding of the issues Craig was facing at home. Regular contact meant we could gage if the intervention was changing anything for Craig and also communicate the work we were doing. Craig’s dad stated after the programme had finished:
“Craig would come home and talk so positively about the project and we have certainly noticed the difference in his behaviour at home. He talks more to us about how he is feeling and now sorts situations out at home in a more mature manner. He also talked to me about how he feels like he understands more about what friendship is and how to maintain friendships. The project has been great for Craig”
In our final catch up session 6 months after the project had finished, Craig reported to be feeling really happy with how things were going. Craig talked incredibly articulately about the strategies he uses to defuse situations and had some excellent advice for other young people that were having problems with peers. Craig’s school Pastoral leader stated:
“We were not sure how Craig would react to the A4E intervention as he was struggling so much at school particularly with his peers. Although at points I know he had a difficult time on the project we are so pleased with his progress now. We recently had a review meeting for Craig and it was all really positive and he is doing so well. Apart from the odd incident Craig now gets on with his teachers and other peers really well”
Hannah was referred to the KS3 Engagement Programme by her Social Worker due to her suffering from severe anxiety and depression. She had not attended school for 6 months and was becoming increasingly isolated. These issues were having a huge knock effect in the home environment where Hannah was finding herself in regular conflict with her parents.
Unsurprisingly Hannah was very anxious about attending the course on her first day and she needed a lot of reassurance and support to get her to a place in which she could step onto the bus. Staff and young people worked hard to make her feel welcome and Hannah settled in amazingly quickly. Hannah responded really well to the discussion based aspect of the course and became increasingly articulate and confident in talking about the issues and emotions she was contending with at the time. “Catch Up Time” became a safe place in which Hannah could share information and not be judged, get support/advice from both staff and other young people and also find out that there were in fact other young people going through similar things to what she was going through.
Hannah will be the first one to admit that she had an extremely low opinion of school and was adamant she would never go back when we first met her. With various interventions including a session around aspirations, Hannah started to change this attitude. By the end of the course Hannah’s attitude to school had transformed and she seemed desperate to get started.
It was important to us that when Hannah did go back to school, she was better equipped to deal with the challenges that she had faced in the past. So an important part of our intervention was around supporting Hannah in developing the towels and resilience to enable her to work through and deal with conflict with her peers. Previously situations had escalated to such a point, that school became unmanageable.
Another important element of the course with regards to Hannah was building her belief and confidence in herself as herself esteem had been shattered over the months of not being at school. Hannah stated:
“I joined the group in the third week and felt really awkward and anxious as I had no idea what the project was going to be like and didn’t know anyone. By the afternoon I had been made to feel so welcome by everyone and felt really part of the group. The project really helped me when I was in a really difficult place. I got so much support from staff and other young people and felt ready to get back into school by the time the project had finished”
At various points along the way Hannah had wobbles on the programme with her anxiety. We were, however able to work with dad to support her at these points and Hannah ended up achieving 95% attendance on the programme. Dad was very supportive of our work and stated:
“The project was brilliant at re engaging Hannah in education as by the end of the 12 weeks for the first time in 6 months she was talking about wanting to get back to school as quickly as possible. Previously she was adamant she didn’t want to school again and just wanted to get a job. Hannah has had such a hard time and this project was exactly what she needed to get her back on track”
We kept regular contact with the school Hannah was enrolled with but hadn’t attended for six months. Hannah’s positive engagement in the course and the information we were able to feedback about her progress and her changing attitude towards school enabled them to put together a multi agency meeting to discuss the education options moving forward. We were quite clear that we felt that issues were irresolvable at her current school and that she was motivated for a new start at a different school. It was decided at the meeting that this was the correct route to go. For various reasons there was unfortunately a delay in this process and by the time we had our first catch up session, 3 months after the course had finished, Hannah had still not been allocated a school. We were able to lease with relevant agencies and dad to moves things forward and a few weeks later Hannah was finally allocated a school. A month after Hannah started her teacher stated:
“Hannah settled into the school really well and quickly made friends. To date her attendance is very good and she is doing well in her Maths and English. We also set her up with nursery placement one day a week which she does well in seems to really enjoy”