Recent research suggests that as many as 1 in every 6 young people will experience a level of anxiety that can be diagnosed as an anxiety condition at some point in their lives. In an average mainstream classroom this equates to 5 students, who may or may not be getting the help they need. Without support anxiety can quickly escalate into control conditions such as OCD and/or depression. Anxiety behaviours that we work with have sadly got to this stage and include extreme separation anxiety, panic attacks, anxiety induced tourettes, agorophobia and other phobic behaviours often towards writing, mathematics or even the sight of school uniforms or writing pens.
Sadly 50% of mental health problems which start in later key stage two are classed as 'established' by age 14. This rises to 75% by age 24. Early intervention is key, and disappointingly many of our students have not had this early intervention. We therefore work intensively under both a restoratative and person-centred holistic philosophy to reverse the damage.
We are happy to lend reading materials and other resources including weighted therapy for at home use.
The Nurture room provides a safe, calm indoor garden where students learn 'instant relief' techniques. These do not get to the root of the problem, but they are strategies to help them get through the day. Our nurture room staff are qualified to provide a really impressive list of interventions, including Indian Head massage, meditation, yoga, breathing techniques, physical techniques, sensory work, play based work, art based strategies and non-tokenistic mindfulness exercises. We have therapy animals too! We never push an academic target above a mental health one - of course we want to challenge and encourage, but anxiety is taken seriously in this setting.
The root of the issue can be fully assessed and investigated by our clinical psychologist. This then leads to a programme of support which may include counselling, solution-focused coaching (SFC) or psychotherapy. Alongside this other services such as occupational therapy or speech therapy may be involved. CBT is sometimes appropriate, but it depends on the level of control the young person is able to give up and their ability to rationalise.
Therapy is blended with learning, with all learning pitched in a growth mindset framework and plenty of time for individual student:teacher discussions around both the work and well-being
OTHER RECOMMENDED SOURCES OF SUPPORT
Our own parent workshops - we want to support parents to help their own young people
Courses for parents and professionals, plus wellness classes for young people, from big bear bespoke education (see www. bravura.info website)
Join Anxiety uk - they offer amazing support, including access to online counsellors. Their quarterly magaine is an excellent source of support and inspiration. website: www.anxietyuk.org.uk If you can't afford to join then borrow a copy from school as we subscribe.
Animals - many young people find talking to a pet easier than to a person. Many young people find a soft animal, or a pretend soft animal, a source of sensory comfort. Our therapy dog visits on Mondays and Wednesdays, whilst the rabbit is in on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Aps - there are lots of mindfulness ones out there, but again they require a degree of rational thought that may not be possible when anxiety is high. Something like 'Heat Pad' or 'Kaleido' (both free) requires no interaction or discussion of issues, and is non-directive but calming.
Bolster their minds during periods where they are calm - we highly recommend the self-help series of books by Gina M Biegel. These are based on both CBT and SFC principals, and can be worked on as a family; we all have anxiety and stress to some degree and normalising it is very important for your young person, as some level of stress is actually beneficial in life.
Don't forget the sensory. Even if your young person appears sensory adverse there may be some items of use such as aromatherapy or a a foot spa. We use a full range of physical equipment, weighted and sensory blankets and vests, massage tools and electronic massagers, diffusers and music throughout the day in our school. Our positive touch policy, which is accompanied by strict safeguarding rules, allows for Indian Head Massage to be performed in and outside of classes - helping students stay in class, listening to the lesson.
SOURCES OF HELP
These services are not associated with us. We are not responsible for the quality of service they provide, we are recommending them based on the positive experiences of some young people known to us. By inclusion in this list nor are we suggesting that we are in any way affiliated with these servcies.
ANXIETY UK - Support, online counselling, magazine, advice
Text line: 07537416905
Info line: 03444775774
A magazine packed full of useful articles around not just ASD, but the mental health aspects associated with it - fascinating reading and lots of signalling to specialist support.
Website provides support for young people, professionals and parents. Young people who feel they are having a mental health crisis can get instant emergency support by texting YM to 85258
OCD UK - advice, online counselling, support and magazine. Dedicated youth services.
PAPYRUS - suicide prevention young people's hotline 0800 068 41 41
An eating disorder support service - smaller than some of the bigger associations, but specifically aimed at young people.