Change that leads to better lives

Blog: Making it real

Alice McColl, Development Lead for Children and Young People, writes about how Time to Talk Next Steps is making the perception of normal teenage life a reality for young people with additional needs.

Alice blog web landscape Jan 23 01

Christmas provides a great excuse to watch TV as a family. Peeling ourselves away from the single viewer binge watching that seem to dominate our lives at other times. This year I watched several old favorites with my 15 year old. Stories of intrepid teenagers braving the odds to vanquish evil, young people uniting against a common foe (in some cases parents) and forming enduring friendships. Going through important rites of passage and putting adults straight on how things should be done and what really matters in life was central to much of our viewing – silliness, fun, playfulness and no school!

The social and confident nature of the children in these films is a far cry from the worry and anxiety my son experiences. Despite family plans, outings and ideas he often chooses to stay in his bedroom online. Venturing out is a big deal and represents risks that are more easily avoided.

As we enter 2023, leaving restrictions created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic behind, too many young people are lacking in confidence and feeling lonely and isolated. I notice how many of my friends’ children are struggling with their mental health. Feeling separate and different. Shying away from the academic pressure at school and avoiding social situations which seem uncertain.

At NDTi we set up Time to Talk Next Steps specifically to tackle these issues of isolation for young people aged 16-25 with additional support needs after a long period of isolation during the pandemic. Thanks to lottery funding we are able to provide light touch support virtually in whatever way suits a young person. They may be at school or college but lack confidence to connect with others, finding socialising really stressful. They become more reliant on their parents and carers at a time when they know that their peers may be developing independence. They feel different and uncertain about how to ‘fit in’ and it’s easier to stay in their bedroom where they feel safe.

We often meet parents who are at their wits end on how to move things forward for their child. Time to Talk Next Steps supporters provide a trusted person outside the family to chat with and build confidence not only for young people but for family members too.

Our partners Contact, a national charity providing support, advice and information to parents and carers, help us give tailored support to families, to navigate the world of ‘transitions’ across education, social care and health services. They support families to find out about new connections in the local area including supportive community activities, training and ways into employment with support. Above all this project aims to enable families feel more confident about moving forward by connecting with a supporter who is there to help.

Through Time to Talk Next Steps we have met young people who have avoided talking about themselves for a long time and seen them build confidence and go on to become regular attendees of our online peer support sessions. Others in the group are advising NDTi with ideas about how to improve our work and make it more inclusive to young people.

Quote image. Alice McColl, Development Lead for Children and Young People
"We work without labels. Young people don't need to have a diagnosis or Education Health and Care Plan. Time to Talk Next Steps provides a safe space for young people to express themselves and identify what matters to them."

We work without labels. Young people don’t need to have a diagnosis or Education Health and Care Plan (ECHP). They may still be at school or college or have been out of education for some time.

We believe that each person has gifts and talents which they may not recognise. This support provides a safe space for young people to express themselves and identify the things that matter to them.

We welcome direct requests from parents, carers and professionals and always ask that young people are aware of a request made on their behalf. If you know a young person who would benefit from Time to Talk Next Steps get in touch.

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