Change that leads to better lives

Inclusion post lockdown

Thoughts from Ruth, one of the young people from our Time to Talk programme

Inclusion post lockdown interview 01

In your experience what can stop people being included in their community?

As someone with a hidden disability I would definitely say differences. I don’t think a lot of people are prepared to put up with differences from other people. It is difficult to strike the right balance between changing yourself to fit in and overloading yourself with masking. This can make me so exhausted spending my time pretending to be someone I am not. It doesn’t make me happy as a person. Society expects people to behave in a certain way to be normal. Differences can be seen as a weakness and it can be hard to show it can be a positive.

What have we learnt from lockdown?

Mental health difficulties are a lot more common than most people think. It has been very difficult for many families. A few children work better out of school. Most need the routine and security of school.

We have learnt that keeping in touch with families is really important.

It was also important for people to communicate more and listen and understand what you are saying. During lockdown, I thought my only option was to go into inpatient at one point due to experiencing severe suicidal thoughts. I was getting desperate from online bullying and couldn’t cope with my situation. My social worker understood and she found an alternative that gave me safety and a short break. It was a lot better and prevented me from probably having a worse experience.

What can we do differently to change this?

Things are getting better, disabled people are more included in books now. For example, think of Harry Potter there are no disabled young people in it. We need children to grow up with an understanding it is the norm to have friends who are disabled- that it is OK to be disabled, it isn’t different or weird. Finally, there are Barbies that are different sizes and shapes, different looks. There is a woman from York who created a doll with hearing aids and another who uses wheelchairs. She has managed to persuade some companies to invest in these dolls. If we can help normalise this, there will be less stares at the people who experience stigma. Kids who grow up with not just the stereo typical norm will be more accepting of others.

Until we see valid representation of everyone there will always be stigma and there will always be people who are left out. It is not good enough that secondary schools are finally covering this. By then young people have most of their views established.

Primary schools also need to include more education on mental health problems with a better understanding of how children can understand their emotions. There was a study that showed that boys by the age of 7 could only list half of the amount of emotions that girls could and most were to do with anger.

Schools need to crack down on bullying. There are still problems with young people thinking it is not OK to snitch. Some teachers don’t understand that drawing attention to someone’s disability can be unhelpful. Some teachers can struggle to make adjustments. In primary school my year 6 teacher used to call me out in front of the class for having a face of thunder. I didn’t realise I was scowling. Now, we can probably identify that this was an autistic trait not being able to mask well enough. At the time it made me feel very isolated.

Being open and not being ashamed has definitely helped me the most. People can't pick on you for something you are not ashamed of.

My experience was that self identifying was the most important thing. Explaining how I might react and how my TA could help prevent breakdowns made a big difference. My TA researched autism and found out some autistic people have sensory boxes to help to replace negative behaviour such as scratching or other self harm with sensory things. She made a space that was available to me with comfy chairs. a crochet rainbow blanket, food and drinks. She showed that she cared and that probably helped the most. She was empathetic and understanding. She helped me with energy accounting and had a mood board to help identify how I am feeling.

After talking to my work place they adapted where I work so I could work comfortably, as I was not overwhelmed by the noise and environmental stimuli.

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