I joined MacIntyre No Limits Oxfordshire in February this year. I have been very lucky to work with some amazing young people and one of them is Lucy. I have been supporting Lucy in her home where we have been building a relationship together, learning to understand Lucy’s needs and helping Lucy to trust me. During my visits we have been improving Lucy’s communication, reading together and investigating the Tudors.
Lucy is a 17 year old girl who has been out of mainstream education since she was 12. She has experienced some educational tutoring in hospital, but otherwise her entire life has been her home, that she shares with her mother and sisters. Lucy has many reasons for not attending school. She has struggled with extreme bullying and, despite changing schools, she never felt safe there. Lucy has anorexia, dyslexia and hyper mobility. She is also on the autistic spectrum. Her anorexia is associated with various and numerous compulsive behaviours that leave her imprisoned in her home. She only feels safe at home as that is the only place she can control some of the things that terrify her.
Lucy is very keen to gain an English GCSE with an ambition to eventually work with animals. Lucy has been receiving support from No Limits Oxfordshire in her home for the last academic year. In order to help her progress next year, we asked Lucy to visit the No Limits MAP College building before the end of this term. We knew this would be a huge challenge for her, but our hope was that she would be able to focus on this success during the summer holiday break.
Lucy arrived with her mum and sister for moral support, but immediately felt unable to get out of her car. She was distraught not only because of the task, but also because of the worry of not being able to do it. She had put a lot of pressure on herself and was already exhausted. It was a warm day, so we encouraged her out of the car to simply cool off. I explained to her that we had a meeting room ready for her, and that I had cleaned and set up the room for her myself. We reassured her that she would be able to access the building through a side door, which would lead her to the meeting room, without accessing the communal areas of the building.
Over a period of 30 minutes we moved closer to the MAP building one step at a time, using continuous conversation about all sorts of things to keep Lucy moving. We did not talk about how far we had walked or how far was still to go, but tried to focus Lucy away from her anxiety about the task. We talked about the plants and flowers in the college gardens and set goals for Lucy to simply walk to the next pretty shrub. Once we reached the building, I explained what she would find on the other side of the door. We had ensured that there were no other people in the corridor and the route to our meeting room was clear. We waited until she was ready and then she was able to enter the building and walk into the meeting room.
After a rest, Lucy was able to talk and, with the help of her mum, she was able to tell us how she felt and explain her hopes for next year. She asked to see our sensory room and spent over half an hour exploring the room. She used the controls for the lights and touched the sensory materials, enjoying the feeling of the weighted blanket. The most amazing thing was that she was able to relax and really enjoy the space and was curious to discover more, despite her anxiety.
Lucy was in college for 90 minutes. She made it into the building at her first attempt and was happy while she was here, albeit she was also controlling her anxiety. Seeing her smile with pride was just so heart-warming. She was very proud of herself and we hope that this success will carry her forward to next year and beyond.
Lucy is not the person’s real name
Community Learning Facilitator
No Limits Oxforshire and Wiltshire