We can all agree that the covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on our mental health and wellbeing. Even though children are less likely than adults to get infected with the coronavirus, the impacts of measures put in place to prevent spread of the virus on their wellbeing can not be ignored. For autistic children, this pandemic has placed additional burden on them as they grapple with communication and social differences.
In response to this, Autism Voice with support from the mayor’s fund for London and kitchen Social’s Lambeth and Southwark Summer of Food and Fun programme, Woodward charitable trust and Lambeth Aiming High foundation ran a six-weeks holiday hub for autistic children and children with learning disabilities.
The four-hours session, which will end on September 2, involved a two and half hours of structured physical activities and 30 minutes of food and nutrition education. Activities included building Lego bricks, free play, arts and craft, paintings, matching games and board games, indoor sports, basketball, and handball. The children also enjoyed a Food Matters workshop in which different aspects of healthy eating, choking awareness, sensory sensitivity relating to food smell, taste, colour and texture were discussed. Every week, children took home ingredients to make different kinds of food. There was lots of food to take home including breakfast boxes from School Food Matters.
The hub also provided respite for some parents like Mum Cedrina who noted “the hub allowed me to be free and get other things done which could otherwise be difficult with my son always around”. For Mum Kelly the hub helped her and her children to become independent of each other. “Before they started coming to the hub, both were very clingy, and I had wondered when that was ever going to stop”.
The hub also enhanced the experiences of the teachers leading the activities. “It has been a rewarding experience for me to see children enjoy themselves through games, food and just interacting with each other,” said Mr. Godwin. For Miss Augusta, the hub was fulfilling for both her and the children; “I gained experience on different facets of autism, how they arise and ways of supporting the children”. Volunteer Yeliz Kazim noted that the experience was rewarding and reminded her of what life was like when she was a little girl.
Both children and parents agreed the nutrition education was their favourite part and would like more of that in the future. Noting the effects the covid-19 pandemic has had on children’s play and interactive lifestyle, it was hugely enjoyable as Michael noted “I’ve enjoyed going to the park and mealtime with my friends”.