This story contains information which some readers may find distressing. It’s important to note that Daisy Chain is not a crisis service, and this individual received crisis intervention and mental health support prior to attending Daisy Chain. Names have been changed.
Ava, a 14 year old autistic young woman accesses our placement service 2 mornings a week as accessing school full time was not conductive to her wellbeing. Ava enjoyed primary school but struggled with the transition to secondary school which, towards the end of year 7, started to have a serious impact on her mental health.
Ava’s Mum, Sharon, has shared more about Ava’s story with us in her own words.
My concerns started when Ava transitioned to secondary school. Due to Ava’s masking, the outward signs of her struggle were difficult to see at first but gained rapid momentum as the pressures of attending a mainstream secondary school increased. The first sign I noticed was a reluctance to go to sleep and remain asleep throughout the night. She became unsettled at home and displayed agitated behaviours such as ripping clothing and other people’s belongings.
In March 2022 Ava made a serious attempt on her life, resulting in a hospital admission. We had hit rock bottom. We received support via Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and followed a rigid safety plan at home.
Ava was socially isolated, would not leave her bedroom or communicate with others and was unable to be left unsupervised at any time. The safety measures in place had a further negative impact on her mental health. She was frustrated that these measures had to be followed as she had no independence and limited privacy. I was on high alert and Ava knew it. Our home was not the relaxed space it once was, there was a tense feel to it as I rigidly followed the safety plan, which did not support Ava’s mental health needs, but kept her physically safe.
The months that followed were a blur, an interim review was held in July and extensive changes to her plan were made and submitted. By the end of that term, I made the decision that in order to protect her mental health she would not be returning to school. This decision was not one I took lightly.
A dynamic approach to her education was taken and Ava now accesses a local specialist autism provision based on a farm (Daisy Chain) in addition to her other support and completes schoolwork sent home from an external provider whilst she awaits a place at a specialist educational provision.
Ava’s time at the farm is calm and ordered and she is consistently prepared for change through social stories and visual aids. She is provided with 1:1 and small group support that focuses on managing her anxiety and developing coping skills and independent living skills, which is provided by highly trained staff.
She also thrives being around her neurodivergent peers. Ava looks forward to her sessions and has positive engagement with 1:1 support and is producing a high-quality of work. Her attendance is high and she has started to plan for the future and will now talk about what job/college course she might like to do.
Ava is slowly beginning to recognise her own needs, and her risk-taking behaviours have reduced to the point that she is now able to access our local area independently.
Ava is also able to have unsupervised periods at home and is engaging in her chosen interests again such as arts and crafts, baking and cooking. Ava has a better self-image and sense of worth.