Being a Teenager Dealing With Mental Illness

‘My name is Lily and I am a young person who has been suffering with an anxiety disorder for most of my teenage life. At 12 years old I had my first panic attack. It was during a citizenship lesson and I remember everything down to what my teacher was wearing, the song that was playing and the smell of the classroom as we had just come out of food tech. It wasn’t triggered and I didn’t know what caused this toe-curling fear throughout my body, which made the whole event a lot more terrifying.

I asked my teacher if I could be excused from the class, as I wasn’t feeling well. I paced the humanities corridor with my heart beating at what felt like 1000 beats per minute. Then, my stomach started twisting, my throat became stuck in that stage where you feel as though you are about to cry and my breath became harder to catch. My ears started to strain from the inside of my body (as if my brain was an orchestra and I was the conductor) and my eyes started to fuzz before being rushed to the outside of the school where my teacher calmed me down and made me drink a glass of water.

I thought I had a terrible disease that had gotten so bad my body was dying. Those 10 minutes of panic changed my life and soon it became a pattern for that to happen every time I was in that class. Then a string of these types of events became more common until I was unable to attend school without having to leave lessons every 15 minutes.

It began to affect me outside of school one such episode was when I was out in London one weekend. I had been doing something that I’d enjoyed since I was a little girl, walking around Carnaby Street and getting something to eat with my Dad and brother. I couldn’t understand why I felt as though I was constantly on the edge of a cliff with someone repeatedly shouting at me to jump off (the someone being my anxiety and the cliff being my panic attacks).

I told my mum about this constant worry that I was dying and she spoke to me about my families’ history of mental illness and it was her decision to get me seen by specialists. I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder with a sign of moderate Depression at 14 years old.

And so began a cycle of seeing Clinical Psychologists, NHS doctors, countless therapists and psychiatrists whom all offered me different advice with an equally disappointing outcome. There was nothing that they could do.

This led me into a deep depression where I started to think that because nobody important seemed to care about my anxiety there was no point in attempting to get better. I started self-harming. Thankfully this didn’t last long (around 5 months or so) until my parents decided to, despite advice from my school and CAMHS, take me straight into Northwick Park Hospital to get some immediate action put in place. I was 15 years old and it was the worst my anxiety and depression had ever been. I left the hospital in the early hours of the morning with my parents determined to get me help.

I am so beyond thankful for my family. Members of my extended family started talking to me about their experiences with mental illness and most of them seemed as though they had overcome the challenges that were thrown in their way.

At this time, family became even more important to me, as I had lost friends who blamed my lack of interest in them on my anxiety and claimed it was something I was doing for attention. If you have a friend suffering from any kind of mental illness DO NOT say it is for attention. We already feel as though the outside world views us as people who indulge in self-pity please do not make us believe this even more.

The things I have missed out on due to my anxiety consist of: holidays, parties, my own birthday, baby showers, my GCSE exams, school trips, family get-togethers, prom and so many more.

All these ended in a similar way, me alone in my bedroom wrapped under the duvet with my mirrors turned back-to-front to face the wall and my curtains drawn. I was taken out of school and took 7 months to try and find something that worked for me. It was hellish and included doing lots of things I didn’t want to do (like travelling on public transport, leaving my house, going to see friends). Not to mention at this point I had been on anti-depressants for over a year and still the dosage was being messed around with.

This time a year ago I was just starting at an online school and I had no idea if my anxiety would ever improve.  I am sat here now as a 17 year old Lily who’s taking her GCSE’s this summer, going to the gym twice a week, doing volunteer work at my old primary school. I’m constantly doing things outside of my comfort zone like going to museums and art galleries. The other week I travelled on the bus for the first time alone and I went to the shops to buy a pot noodle! Now some people hearing this may think, “well, I was doing that when I was 9 years old that kind of stuff is easy!”. To those people, I say good on you. Good on you for not having to suffer to the extent that I, and so many others, have. Truly, be thankful. But to those of you that can relate and understand how difficult it is to start recovering from a mental illness (whether you have experienced it yourself or somebody close to you has) you deserve to be heard.

I really hope to prove to people that things will get better and life can taste sweeter. It’s so easy for someone to say, but coming from someone who used to turn their nose up at that phrase, just try to believe me.  Now things aren’t yet amazing; I’m still struggling every day at dealing with my anxiety and some days I wake up knowing that it’s going to be a tricky day. But just because it’s a bad day, it doesn’t mean that it’s a bad life.

Lily

Spotting The Signs of Eating Disorders

To coincide with Children’s Mental Health Week 2019, Healthy London Partnership are pleased to publish the Healthy London Partnership “Children and young people with eating disorders: Guidelines for primary care professionals”. The guidelines share advice about spotting the signs of eating disorders and when to refer children and young people (CYP) to the community eating disorders service (CEDS) for specialist support.

Eating disorders are complex disorders that can have many underlying causes which tend to manifest during adolescence. There are multiple types of eating disorders and it is crucial to recognise the symptoms early on.

Dr Ann York, Healthy London Partnership Clinical Advisor for Children and Young People’s Mental Health, said:

“We are delighted to publish these guidelines for primary care professionals. They have been created in partnership with GPs, eating disorder specialists and Beat, the UK’s eating disorders charity. GPs told us they wanted clear information on how to manage and support children and young people with a suspected eating disorder, so we are pleased to be able to share these guidelines and ultimately help young people and their families access the treatment they need.

The key message is that if primary care professionals suspect a child or young person has an eating disorder, they should be referred immediately to their local CYP CEDS.”

The guidelines provide an overview of:

·       Red flag symptoms

·       What to look out for and consider

·       When to refer and assessment timescales

·       Information which should be included in the referral

·       Contact information for the seven London CYP CEDS

The guidelines also include the Beat ‘Eating Disorder – Know the first signs’ resource, and information about Beat support services.

The guidelines are also included in the Healthy London Partnership Primary Care Children and Young People’s Toolkit here.

5 Ways to Christmas – SEND and Inclusion Blog

Created by Carol Allen and Jo Dilworth

There are many inclusive and multisensory resources on LGfL which you can use to support your learners’ creativity and communication in the run up to Christmas, and also during other religious festivals and celebrations. Here are some of our top 5 resources to engage all learners, including those with SEND and EAL this Christmas:

  1. 12 Days of Christmas – 12 really inclusive and fun activities created by one of our fantastic SEN advisors, Carol Allen.  Each activity on a different day before the end of term, so why not start within the next week?  View the powerpoint and the teacher notes.

2. There are some excellent symbolised activities, created by Widgit to support Christmas. If you are from an LGfL or TRUSTnet school, click on the links below to view and use a wealth of accessible and engaging materials with your learners with SEND and EAL.

https://www.lgfl.net/widgit/worksheets/seasonal/christmas-pack

https://www.lgfl.net/widgit/worksheets/seasonal/winter-pack

https://www.lgfl.net/widgit/worksheets/seasonal/winter-weather

3. As usual, Busy Things has produced a large range of Christmas resources as well as many others to support many other festivals and celebrations. Click on search when you visit the site to find out more or click on Special Events and Festivals.

4. There are 245 Christmas Tracks at www.audionetwork.lgfl.net . If you’ve had enough of the same old Christmas songs, search and download to listen to more. Why not use these to facilitate some creative writing this Christmas season? There are also a range of tracks which can be used during other festivals and events. Don’t forget The BBC Sound Effects to support too.

 

5. Many accessible and multimedia based resources on 6 World Faiths can be found at www.faiths.lgfl.net which have been created by Espresso. Visit this site to view some short videos and accompanying resources, including videos and activities for Christmas.

  

5 Ways to Support SEND with LGfL at the Beginning of the Academic Year

Written by Jo Dilworth, SEND and Inclusion consultant, LGfL

The beginning of the academic year is an extremely daunting time for many of our young people, and most especially for those with SEND and/or SEMH needs. With new staff, routines, classrooms, subjects, equipment and sometimes new schools to get used to, this time of year often causes a lot of anxiety. Early September is also really busy for staff as they work hard to set up and implement new interventions and to support new students and colleagues.

There are many LGfL resources and strategies that can be used to ease this transition and to support us all find our feet at the beginning of the academic year. You can use them in school (if you have an LGfL or TRUSTnet internet connection) usually without logging in or anywhere else with your LGfL username and password. Here are 5 resources to get you started:

1. Don’t forget that you have access to over 15,000 Widgit symbols and over 1000 accessible symbolised resource sheets via www.widgit.lgfl.net which are really powerful at this time of year. You can create visual timetables to scaffold learners’ days and to remind them of their routines and you can also make the school and classroom equipment accessible. Many of these resources have been pre-made for you. Just click here to download and view these materials and to make more of your own. It’s well worth sharing Widgit symbols to support every day routines, like getting dressed, with home to provide consistency and to support transition at the beginning and end of the school day, too.

2. At this time of year, many inclusion staff will be organising a range of Literacy and Numeracy intervention groups. Many schools have reported on how helpful Grammar Explained and Maths at Home are for these groups as well as the Literacy and Numeracy resources in the ever popular Busy Things (especially the phonics resource maker linked from the front page when in teacher view). These resources are visual, short, multi-sensory and humorous, and have proved a great hit with students and staff alike.

Once you get confident with these, J2E tools, especially J2Blast for spelling, times tables and arithmetic, and Multemaths are other excellent resources which really support Literacy and Numeracy skills.

3. Staff may be arranging Speech, Language and Communication support for learners with needs in these areas. The Widgit symbols may help with this, but don’t forget Look Think Do also includes editable social stories and visual supports to support learners with autism and ADHD.  The Helping to Change section might be particularly useful at this time of year. Thinking Skills for Life may help older students with Language and Communication Needs address topics within Relationships, Money, Citizenship, Leisure and Transport and this resource also includes some excellent Literacy and Numeracy resources for Secondary aged students. On Foot and other parts of the Transport section may be particularly helpful for  those newly independent on their journeys to and from school.

4. If you have students with SEMH issues you may find many of the new mental health resources are extremely supportive. Healthy Minds, for example, includes a range of 20 minute resilience activities as part of an ongoing programme and staff CPD materials are included. The thousands of music tracks at Audio Networks can also be searched to find calm, peaceful tracks to support relaxation time. More materials in this area will follow.

5. Remember that if you have any new staff, we have plenty of SEND and Inclusion online and live CPD available. The EAL materials at www.eal.lgfl.net enhance staff practice, whilst the young interpreter scheme at www.yis.lgfl.net helps you to implement a buddy support programme. EAL, SEND and Inclusion training, free to LGfL schools is also available via www.training.lgfl.net and there are many training courses every term which you can sign up to at no extra cost. Free LGfL training can also be arranged by contacting inclusion@lgfl.net.

Don’t forget you can also view and subscribe to our general LGfL Curriculum Blog and view our General Back to School with LGfL blog here too.

5 Ways to Support Reluctant Writers

Guest blog by SEN advisor, Carol Allen

For so many students, it is the actual initial ‘starting point’ that is the barrier to producing written text.  They need more than a title, or a question, to respond to.  Creativity of thought under pressure, combined with anxiety about their ability to produce an ‘expected’ result, can block progress and lead to displacement activities which frequently lead to behaviour issues. 

Many of the resources offered by LGfL, give opportunities for writing that have a clear starting point and structure, thus offering a secure way forward.  Out of the wealth of choices, here are five to get you thinking!

1.       Cookit! Will take your students into the world of menus and ‘foodie’ reviews.  Watch a video, read the recipe and write a review based on the details you have discovered.

2.      The SEN Assist FairyTales activities can be explored interactively.  These engaging tales offer differentiated multisensory activities to explore and which will help build up a word/idea/structure bank for personal writing.   These ideas can then form the basis of the written task.  

3.      The Widgit symbol selection can be used to create a story sequence of memory prompts to enable a student to recreate a rehearsed story in writing independently.  Once a starting point has been looked at, for example a photograph, video or story, the child can be encouraged to pick symbols that represent key points they wish to make in their writing.  These can be sequenced then used as a prompt for those moments when it is not clear what the next step should be.

4.      Audio Networks can be used to create a mood and set a tone for a writing session.  If you are trying to write in character, for example, as a gladiator in The Romans topic, playing the Gladiator music from Audio Networks will increase the sensory input and perhaps trigger a wider range of responses and ideas.

5.      Play one of the games in Busy Things Golden Time, then write the instructions for a friend to follow and complete the game easily.   This allows an engaging ‘hook’ whilst moving towards instructional writing for a purpose.

 For more info on LGfL’s inclusive resources, go to www.inclusion.lgfl.net

5 Ways to Teach the Romans

The Romans Blog by Carol Allen, John Galloway and Jo Dilworth

There are many resources within LGfL that will support you teach your learners about the Romans in an engaging and inclusive way. We have hand picked a few to help you get started.

  1. Why not use The Roman Pastimes symbol based book created by Widgit Software, one of a set of 6 simple books about the Romans, each created for 5 different levels of reader? This book focusses on many diverse areas of Roman lives that learners may be motivated by e.g. leisure and gladiators. All of the Widgit books are very inclusive as many history reference books have very busy pages with text and graphics inter woven. These books contain simple sentences and pictures, with each covering a separate topic. Each book has relevant vocabulary cards at the back.
  2. Within the multisensory and highly visual cross curricular resource, Busy Things, there are a range of structured writing frame activities on the Romans for children working at lower literacy levels. To fit in with the theme of Roman Pastimes, we suggest the Gladiators and Entertainment sheet, but any of these can be used to scaffold writing for learners.
  3. Audio Network includes a vast range of professionally recorded music tracks. For this topic, we suggest downloading the Gladiators music and March Imperial.  These tracks can be used to immerse learners in the topic, for musical reference, for physical marching activities (to support cross curricular links and PE) or as a sound track for own video and animation.
  4. The Romans In London resource is extremely rich in multimedia and excellent resources. It includes particularly motivating visual resources which may appeal to learners with SEND include the top trump style cards sets based on gladiators. The cross curricular top cards may appeal to learners with collecting habits, includes opportunities for competition and turn taking, enables learners to read for information in a motivating way and includes many maths activity opportunities. Multimedia including images and videos of Roman everyday items and dress also make other areas of Roman life accessible and enables historical references.  Viewing images and videos of Roman dress would be a great springboard for an engaging,  practical activity in your classroom as young people could dress in Roman outfits (i.e. sheets and towels!).Young people can see how Romans dressed using these resources before dressing up themselves and perhaps doing Roman dress labelling activities from Busy Things.
  5. This E2BN resource shows Roman recipes to help you really engage learners with the smells and tastes of Roman life through multisensory teaching. Images of Roman food and Roman cooking and eating utensils (via romans.lgfl.net) can be used as starters before making Roman food which would have many cross curricular links including DT and literacy.

 

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5 Ways to Support Learners with Autism

blog for World Autism Awareness Week by LGfL’s SEND advisor, John Galloway, and LGfL’s SEND consultant, Jo Dilworth

Autism, sometimes known as ASD or ASC, affects how people experience and perceive the world as well as their relationships with those around them. It is lifelong and those with autism are part of a spectrum, so their experience of life and their autism is unique to each of them.

5 Ways to Support Autism at LGfL:

  1. Look Think Do was created with and for many primary learners with autism who struggle with social communication skills. This resource includes editable photo and symbol based stories and skills sequences to support areas within Play, Say, Change and Helping Yourself.
  2. Thinking Skills for Life and Employability can provide social and other support for older learners as they prepare for adulthood, with topics including job finding, relationships and handling money.
  3. SEN Assist Fairytales and Early Shakespeare are familiar interactive, multisensory stories with online and offline activities which have been created specifically for learners with autism. They include motivators, are differentiated and incorporate specialist strategies.
  4. Widgit symbols are well-recognised for the support they provide in reading and scaffolding learning activities. Over 15,000 symbols can be downloaded for you to use in your own resources, with more than 1,000 ready-made activity sheets also available covering many areas of the curriculum, along with prompts and resources for supporting communication.
  5. Busy Things includes a range of activities and games to support all curriculum subjects for all key stages in primary schools. The engaging design of the materials motivates learners and encourages them to engage, including older learners working at lower levels.

There are many other resources to support learners with AUTISM. Go to www.send.lgfl.net to find even more.

Autism links

https://www.autism.org.uk  – The National Autistic Society is a British charity for people with autistic spectrum disorders, including autism and Asperger syndrome. The purpose of the organisation is to improve the lives of people with autism in the United Kingdom.

http://www.autismeducationtrust.org.uk  – The Autism Education Trust (AET) believes that all children and young people with autism* must receive an education which enables them to reach their individual potential to engage in society as active citizens (and that individuals, families and professionals are informed, supported and equipped to enable this to be achieved).

https://www.ambitiousaboutautism.org.uk  – Ambitious about Autism is the national charity for children and young people with autism. We provide services, raise awareness and understanding, and campaign for change.