Children North East is working with North Tyneside Cultural Education Partnership (NTCEP) on a new social prescribing initiative. It’s aimed at increasing connections between the education and cultural sectors as well as raising awareness of the cultural offer in the borough and supporting schools to use the Arts to meet their wider objectives. Eleven-year-old Holly is just one of the young people to have benefited from this partnership.
Having a sibling with a disability can be a positive experience, however there are times when it can also be quite stressful.
For Holly, 11, her five-year-old brother’s autism can mean her mum’s attention is sometimes taken up dealing with his challenging behaviour and this was particularly problematic during lockdown.
So when Holly was matched with a sessional worker from our Young People’s Service, it meant Holly could enjoy a bit of fun and relaxation and her mum, Megan, wasn’t worrying about focusing on her son and her anxious eight-year-old daughter to the detriment of Holly.
Molly, who began as a volunteer peer mentor with Children North East before getting paid work with our charity, quickly acquainted herself with Holly’s varied interests which encompass sharks, sketching and cooking up a storm in the kitchen!
“Holly was quite quiet at first, but we had a couple of meetings and the second time, she opened up and was really quite chatty. We got on really well,” Molly said.
“As well as doing art and cookery together, we did quizzes online. I made up little quizzes about sea life (Holly is really interested in marine biology) and we both made shark posters and told each other about our chosen sharks!”
Before restrictions were tightened again late last year, Molly and Holly were able to go for walks on the beach at Whitley Bay where Molly encouraged Holly to practise her drawing.
This picture of St Mary’s Lighthouse is one of her works of art. However as lockdown came back into force, Molly had to find creative ways to keep Holly interested that didn’t involve in-person activities. They began meeting over Zoom and decided to make a cookbook together.
“We came up with loads of ideas for things to bake – cupcakes, brownies and rocky road. It was really nice. I got a parcel delivered with all the cooking things in and a folder of the recipes. The rocky road was great – we shared it with my grandma and she took some to my great aunt who was shielding.”
Holly loves art and so Molly delivered a pack of arts and craft materials to her home so she could enjoy drawing, in between their cookery sessions.
Mum, Megan, said:
“I massively appreciated Holly being involved in this, especially in lockdown. My son has autism and his behaviour can be challenging. It can consume a lot of time so to have something just for Holly, something special just for her, at a really hard time in my life and their lives, was fantastic.”
“Holly and Molly really gelled from the outset. All of the things Molly did weren’t just ‘on the day’ activities – there were the arts supplies which meant Holly could be absorbed in her drawing and the cookbook meant we could bake something together too. It really just helped to know Holly was looked after and having enjoyment at a time when there was very little to do.”
As for Molly, 22, who has left Children North East now to concentrate on her final year of a Psychology degree at Northumbria University, she says she got a great deal out of her sessional work.
“I began as a volunteer peer mentor but then gained a paid post. It’s really rewarding. I think this project helped Holly quite a bit because she was able to chat and just have some time that was just concentrated on her. She’s a really lovely girl and understands that her sister and brother need that extra attention. I felt she really came out of her shell.”