Understanding her emotions - Lois’ journey to a more secure sense of self

  • Lois struggled with her emotional wellbeing, which affected her ability to make lasting relationships with her peers
  • Her Link Worker, John, developed a personalised two-year programme that would give her the tools to thrive 
  • The programme included support from West London Zone commissioned psychotherapist, Nikki, as well as LEGO therapy, to develop confidence, esteem, and communication skills

Adjusting to school and making friends can be a big challenge for young children. This was the case for Lois who was in Year 1 when she joined the West London Zone programme. Despite being a very confident child who was on track academically, she wasn’t always aware of boundaries, which made it difficult to form lasting relationships. 

The West London Zone programme uses teacher and parent insights, as well as data collected through a Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire – a wellbeing measurement tool – to identify the children and young people who would benefit most from support. Lois had low attendance, low emotional wellbeing and rated low in peer relationships – all affecting her ability to interact with her peers and build healthy relationships.  She was invited onto the programme along with her two older sisters in Years 4 and 5. Her father,  a single parent of three girls, was keen to get involved and enthusiastic about the support West London Zone could provide his children.

Choosing Lois’ goals 

A key role in the West London Zone programme is the Link Worker, who builds a trusted relationship with the young person and their families, and designs the two-year support plan that helps each child improve socially, emotionally and academically. 

Lois was linked with John, who immediately began spending time talking to her, her father, and teachers, to work out what support would benefit her most. John soon realised that the most important goal for Lois was to improve her emotional wellbeing and build better relationships with her peers. He hoped that this would then also have a positive impact on her school attendance.

Understanding emotions in creative ways

To support Lois’ emotional development, John organised for her to see West London Zone commissioned child psychotherapist, Nikki. These sessions were designed to equip Lois with the tools to communicate in ways that felt natural to her. She was encouraged to draw, to be creative, and to use other mediums of mindfulness and expression, all of which helped Lois to freely express how she felt.

Nikki also had meetings with Lois’ father, knowing that a collaborative approach to these sessions would encourage a greater understanding of herself. Similarly, Nikki spent time with John, as well as her teachers, making sure Lois was getting support from everyone; as well as helping Lois communicate to them how she was feeling. Lois wasn’t working in isolation – she was learning with others about what might be troubling her and affecting her emotions, and developing the ability to build stronger relationships with trusted adults, which could be applied to developing greater peer relationships.

"Lois was able to verbalise and reflect on her feelings after our sessions together.’’ - Nikki, child psychotherapist

Lego helps Lois grow in confidence

John also held Lego therapy sessions, an evidence-based set of activities that use children’s love of Lego to build their communication and team-building skills. Lois attended these sessions with a few of her peers, which not only developed her social interaction skills but importantly gave her a safe space for friendships to develop.

Creative opportunities to thrive 

As well as the schools-based Lego therapy, John also encouraged Lois to attend arts and crafts workshops with West London Zone Delivery Partner, Kite Studios. These Delivery Partners are local organisations who offer more specialist support, from maths tuition to circus skills. Kite Studios nurtures creativity and inclusion through art, and it enabled Lois to work creatively with her peers, using different materials and engaging with new techniques of drawing, painting, pottery and papier-mache. Classes encouraged Lois to listen and work well with others, and to problem solve in a creative environment.

Kite Studio sessions encourage working creatively with peers

Joining up support to other West London Zone programmes like the ‘Joy of Reading’ programme also meant that she had additional literacy support. This programme enables volunteer students from St Paul's Boys' Secondary School to visit and read with their younger peers, not only encouraging an appreciation of literature but also allowing for socialising with older children from other schools.

John is a constant presence throughout

Over the course of the two-year programme, Lois received regular one-to-one and small group catch-ups with John, all of which focused on her friendship and wellbeing goals. This time also included eating lunch with John and fellow classmates to develop her social skills, as well as playing at break and lunch times with new friends. In informal meetings with John, Lois would reflect on school life and discuss her goals, something that Lois looked forward to as she could discuss what was on her mind.

A family affair

Part of the strength of the West London Zone programme is that everyone is involved, from teachers to parents – without which, any improvement might be limited. With this in mind, John built a strong relationship with Lois’ father and had many conversations about the progress of all his children. This relationship continued outside of term time as John was able to link the whole family to opportunities in their community during school holidays. A particular favourite was the trip to London Zoo to see the penguins.

"John is always ready to talk and give positive feedback. John has been brilliant! Always a pleasure talking with him’’ - Lois' Dad

A more secure and resilient self

By the end of the two-year programme, Lois had made brilliant progress in all areas that she had initially required extra support. Her attendance improved and she was no longer considered at risk in her emotional wellbeing. The child counselling sessions with Nikki had really helped Lois with some underlying emotional challenges, and recognising Lois’ needs at this early stage meant that she now had a better understanding of her feelings and could learn to manage them. Lois had also begun to build strong and healthy peer relationships and was beginning to thrive in the playground as well as the classroom.

"’The best part of the programme was making the girls more confident to talk about difficult times.’’ - Dad

*Name changed and image unrelated

together, every child and young person can flourish.