Posted 09:37AM on Tuesday 09 June 2015
Earlier this year, we secured funding from the Western Health and Social Care Trust to deliver an Autism Outreach Service for children and young people. We are currently working across the five legacy council areas of Limavady, Derry/Londonderry, Strabane, Omagh and Fermanagh.
Ronan is 13 and lives in Co Tyrone. Ronan has been with the new Service for some months. Melissa Hanley, Support Worker, has been working closely with Ronan and his family. Here, she tells us how she has helped Ronan turn difficult behaviour into a positive hobby:
“When I first met with Geraldine, Ronan’s mum, she told me how Ronan would build up his frustrations during this day at school and, when he got home, he would present with behaviours which were difficult to manage.
I spent the early support sessions getting to know Ronan – discovering his talents, his passions and his hopes for the future. We built a rapport quickly when we realised we both shared a love of Liverpool Football Club. Ronan loved chatting about his favourite team and I kept myself updated on all the latest football news each week.
Ronan’s other interests are wrestling and boxing. Appreciating that boxing is a disciplined sport which requires concentration and complete focus, strengthens coordination and motor skills and would provide a constructive outlet for Ronan’s physical energy, I supported him to become actively involved in researching boxing clubs in his local area. Together, we found a boxing club located just 12 miles from his home. I contacted head coach, Neil, and explained to him a little about Ronan and his autism. Neil, who has been very successful in his field, with members of his club achieving Irish titles, European medals and representing Ireland in the World Championships, showed a great interest in learning more about Ronan and his needs. Neil told me that this was a new challenge for him but one he accepted with real enthusiasm. Neil invited Ronan and myself to his club to observe the training, explore the venue and meet some of the members, all of whom made us feel extremely welcome.
Ronan joined in the training the following week and left that day with a huge smile on his face. He chatted the whole way home about all the new friends he made and the new boxing stance he learned. He expressed his eagerness to purchase the required protective gear and to register the following week.
Ronan has gone from strength to strength since joining the club. The club has given him a sense of belonging, improved his self–confidence and provided him with an appropriate environment to release any tensions or stress he may have.
In the words of one of Ronan’s favourite boxers, Floyd Mayweather: ‘Everybody is blessed with a certain talent, you have to know what that talent is… you have to maximise it and push it to the limit.’
Focusing on Ronan’s passion has been a complete knock out. He has punched his way through the barriers and come out a champion!”