The Arsenal Foundation has supported Integrated Therapy and Education to set up the PEPTalk Therapy Series, which provides a variety of specialised therapy sessions for families concerned about their child’s communication, language and learning. Aysha Taylor-Rivoire tells us how sessions at Emirates Stadium helped her son, Louis.
“I’m a north Londoner born and bred but only moved to Islington seven years ago, and I didn’t realise until then how involved Arsenal are in the local community.
“My son Louis was diagnosed with autism when he was three. Most autistic people have several challenges that present themselves in different ways, so there isn’t just one specific treatment. For Louis it affected his speech and language, which also fed into his sensory perception. There is a broad spectrum of sensory challenges. Some people can’t feel pain; others can’t stand being tickled.
“One analogy is that his sensory cup is fuller than other people’s. Before he was diagnosed, if we arrived at an event – a birthday party, for example – and he wasn’t the first one there he wouldn’t want to go in. Now I know it’s because the room was too loud and his sensory cup was full.
“We tried to find a therapist but the NHS is so stretched that there simply weren’t the resources for one-to-one sessions without having to wait for ages. I decided to go private and got in touch with Laura and Louisa at Therapy And Education, and it was on her mailing list that I discovered the sessions at Arsenal.
“The sensory rooms contrast dark and light and feature a lot of textures to help with sensory processing. Louis really enjoyed it.
“There are two other senses beyond the usual ones that affect people with autism: vestibular, which is your balance, and proprioceptive, which is your awareness of the space around you. These are the things that can make him hyperactive, and calming him down can be as simple as wrapping him in a big bear hug, or a foam mat! The sessions have given us coping strategies, so we recognise when he’s on edge and we can calm him. We also got a written report that outlines his needs, and that’s brilliant because we’ve been able to share it with his school and other professionals who work with him.
“Six sessions made such a difference. Louis is now more organised and controlled and we, his parents, better educated about his needs. With the NHS so stretched it needs other people to pick up the slack, and it’s fantastic that Arsenal help in this way. More people are being diagnosed all the time, and the more diagnoses, the fewer resources there are to deal with all their needs. That’s where Arsenal have stepped up.”
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