"I wish every day was a Youth Zone day!"

Yusuf, 13

Yusuf has Down’s Syndrome and Learning Difficulties and only joined MYZ after the pandemic. Before COVID entered our lives, Yusuf was a very happy child, a confident boy who used to sing and dance and communicate well, “the joker of the family”. Then during the pandemic, Yusuf’s dad died, and he was struggling to process the death and chose not to speak and stopped communicating, he lost his words and couldn’t make eye contact. During this time Yusuf also had to deal with lockdown, which further impacted upon his isolation, and he withdrew further into his own world which he had created for himself. Mum tried to get him out for walks and outdoor activities – but covid restrictions limited these opportunities. At this time Yusuf also left primary school and the familiarity of his teachers and friends and transitioned to secondary – too much grief and loss for any young person.
Although Yusuf was receiving support from other professionals to help manage his grief and rebuild his confidence and speech there had been little if any progress. It was through these professionals that MYZ was suggested to mum as an additional service to help with Yusuf’s speech and confidence. Mum was keen to see the happy boy who she believed was still in there before dad had died.
So, in July 2021 Yusuf due to his level of needs joined our safe space session, for disabled young people, on a Friday evening and some 1-2 sessions to build confidence and relationships. It took him a while to settle and there were many challenges due his continued lack of communication and some of his behaviours. However, after patience and a consistent approach to encourage Yusef to try using some small words rather than pointing or angry behaviours we started to see quick progress.
Over the weeks with positive reinforcement and a reward system in place Yusuf began to interact more, his confidence grew, and he was regularly engaging in conversation with both peers and staff. Yusuf now attends on our open inclusive sessions and interacts with over 100 other young people during the session. He is really popular, his personality really shines through, and he’s always arrives early as he’s keen to come and see us all. Mum is so happy to see him slowly returning to that happy, cheeky confident boy.