4th -10th October is Mental Health week.
Depression, Social anxiety, addiction, all well documented mental health disorders, all linked to and exacerbated by loneliness. Loneliness and social anxiety may be chronically intertwined, creating a vicious cycle of isolation and fear of isolation. Now throw non-verbal autism into the mix and you have a recipe for some serious potential mental health needs.
So this month it occurred to me – Dylan needs a mate.
Now this isn’t a need because he isn’t at school. This is a need because he ISN’T at school – there’s a difference.
When Dylan was at school he was absolutely terrified of the children he was schooled alongside. The noise, the unpredictability and lack of compassion sometimes from children within special schools terrified Dylan. There were known episodes of aggression and violence from other children which were put down to just being ‘one of those things’ with children with additional needs.
These incidents scarred Dylan mentally and physically. Now that Dylan isn’t at school he is confident, sociable, less fearing and generally more interested in the wider world than he was in a school environment. Dylan doesn’t need a peer. No Dylan needs a mate, like a friend. Someone to do things with, spend time with. To be a model for him with behaviour and to just ‘hang out’ really.
But where do you find such a thing – believe me, I have spent hours online, looking both locally and nationally for befriending services, voluntary services, even Duke of Edinburgh courses, colleges, youth groups.
What did I find? – A big fat nothing.
Now I don’t want to put an advert in the paper for a paid friend – although I understand that costs may need to be covered – But where do I find such a person? I really would think that there would be more people like Dylan out there who just needs a buddy for a couple of hours a month to go and get a Macdonald’s together? Someone who has an interest, has a bit of an idea that they may need to put in a bit effort before they get anything back and a bit of understanding. The ideal person would be someone like Josh. But not Josh.
To go and kick a ball around, go bowling, pop for a coffee, anything. Dylan wouldn’t mind what they did but I am becoming painfully aware that he would love to have a mate come and knock at the house for him and then go and kick a ball around at the park for an hour. He would adore it.
So far the search has been fruitless. But it’s not over.