Keeping focussed on his goals – Ollie builds his emotional resilience

  • Ollie was struggling academically, had an autism diagnosis, and had low self-confidence at school
  • His Link Worker, Fardowsa, created a goal-orientated plan to support Ollie's journey, focusing on emotional wellbeing and communication skills
  • Ollie is now able to regulate his emotions more effectively, talk to his teachers more confidently, and better focus in the classroom

Every child that West London Zone works with is different, but they have one thing in common – their needs are not considered great enough in one particular area, but combined, they have a range of risk factors that could require more serious intervention later. 

Ollie, in Year 3, was one such student. He struggled with his confidence and emotional wellbeing; he was at risk academically, working below age-related expectations in literacy and maths; and he had also been diagnosed with autism, which made communicating with his peers and teachers challenging. All these factors combined led to a young person at the tipping point of need, a potentially spiralling effect on his school experience. 

Building a picture of support

By using teacher insights, data, and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire – a wellbeing measurement tool that looks at a child's social and emotional wellbeing – West London Zone is able to identify each child's collective needs and provide holistic and tailored support, with the help of their Link Worker. Ollie's Link Worker, Fardowsa, spent time building a comprehensive picture of the type of support he would need. Through conversations with teachers, parents and Ollie, she discovered that he found listening and focusing challenging and struggled to interact with his peers. Although he loved P.E., he was disengaged in lessons and lacked trust in adults at school. 

Ollie loved P.E., so his Link Worker arranged more activity-based sessions to help build his confidence

Armed with this understanding, Fardowsa created an individualised two-year support plan, with a number of goals in mind. These included improving his emotional wellbeing, building positive relationships with adults and peers, and developing his social communication and interaction skills. 

Linking with specialist support 

With the support plan created and the goals decided upon, Fardowsa could now start putting the pieces into place. She began to organise support sessions with West London Zone Delivery Partners – specialist charities which work locally to provide additional experiences and opportunities to engage children and families in the area. 

Fardowsa first linked Ollie to Speech and Language Therapy (SALT) with Hackney Learning Trust, a service that supports children with a wide range of needs, from language development to communication difficulties and autism-related speech issues. Ollie also attended weekly counselling sessions with child psychotherapist, Nikki Jecks, who worked with Ollie to help him find ways to communicate that felt natural and authentic.

Keeping the goals in sight

Knowing that Ollie loved P.E., Fardowsa also arranged more activity-based sessions to help him build his confidence. He joined a circus skills workshop, And Circus, to allow him to experience and achieve skills not usually found in school P.E. classes. He also attended drama workshops with Tie Dye Drama, a local organisation that helps young people to engage with contemporary issues, encouraging social and emotional wellbeing through role play and open discussion.

    Tie Dye Drama engages children in contemporary issues through drama

The common theme throughout these support sessions and activities was that Ollie's goals were never lost sight of; each activity and support session was linked to create a well-rounded programme, laying the foundations for improved confidence and a more positive experience at school. 

A shift in Ollie's mindset

By attending SALT and child counselling sessions, Ollie was able to develop various skills to help him address wider issues. In these spaces, he could practise completing tasks by following instructions or by finding someone to help him if he needed assistance. They also encouraged him to identify when he and others were feeling positive or negative, discussing his emotions in a safe space.

Weekly counselling sessions helped Ollie to communicate in ways that felt natural to him

These incremental changes to Ollie's mindset began to take hold towards the end of his second year on the programme. He was now able to focus for up to an hour during his SALT sessions – a significant improvement from when he struggled to stay focused for just 10 minutes. His counselling sessions were also providing him with the tools to communicate more effectively. This was a great achievement for Ollie as he was now finding it easier to ask for help and make friends, boosting his confidence in building relationships and breaking down his mistrust and disengagement. 

Family involvement is key

Whilst making good progress at school, Fardowsa regularly communicated with Ollie's mother, both in person and on the phone, updating her on his goals, support sessions, and progress. As they had a trusted relationship, Fardowsa was also able to link Ollie's mother to additional local opportunities in the community. This included a local sports centre, Greenhouse Sports, which engages children in different sports and improves physical wellbeing—a great way to foster Ollie's love for physical activities outside of P.E. lessons.

A significant step in the right direction

By the end of the two-year programme, Ollie was no longer at risk in his emotional wellbeing, a significant step in the right direction for Ollie's school journey. He was also able to understand his teachers' expectations and communicate with them when he needed help. He can now engage positively with his peers and remain engaged in class. Most importantly, he developed the ability to self-regulate and understand his emotions, which will have a knock-on effect in the classroom and beyond. 

“When Ollie first started therapy he had a limited capacity to recognise or regulate his feelings. When we would check in at the beginning of sessions using the ‘Feelings chart’, the only feelings he was regularly able to identify in himself were hunger, thirst and body temperature. Over the last year, his emotional literacy has grown significantly – such that he can now recognise when he is feeling sad, angry, disappointed, anxious and even overwhelmed. This increased capacity to recognise his feelings has enabled him to gain a greater understanding of himself and also to share with others when he is struggling, and is beginning to help him increase his self-regulation capacity.”

Nikki Jecks, child psychotherapist 

together, every child and young person can flourish.