A 10-year-old boy from St Peter’s is determined to create a space for youngsters living on the autistic spectrum so they can see they are not “alone or odd.”
John Pond, who last Summer completed a ‘250-mile’ bike ride for Young Minds mental health charity, lives with autism and suffers anxiety and hyper-mobility -a condition of ‘loose’ joints.
He says he was driven to create Complete The Puzzle social media pages because he could not find a support group for youngsters his age.
John, who was diagnosed aged four, struggled with anxiety and panic attacks during the lockdowns, leaving him too frightened to leave the house. He received support from Young Minds and became determined to raise funds by biking the 250-mile target around Thanet – although this was done late at night when it was quiet and the likelihood of bumping into people was small.
Mum Emma Mulvihill, who is a student midwife, told The Isle of Thanet News last year that due to her background of working with children living with autism, she knew early on John was on the spectrum.
She said: “I noticed when John was about 18 months old. Then at his two year check up I bought it up as he wasn’t talking, he said just three words,. He went for speech therapy and he was diagnosed when he was four.
“Everything has to be routine, he struggles when that changes and of course lockdown meant it all changed.”
The easing of restrictions has helped John to feel happier, especially with the routine of being back at St Peter’s school. But, he says, support seems to be playgroups for very small children with autism or helplines for older teenagers and adults.
He wants to fill in the gap with his Complete The Puzzle group which he hopes to expand from social media to a website and, eventually, in person meet ups.
He said: “I have struggled with mental health and self acceptance and always feel like I’m different and that no one understands me.
“Adults try to help but they don’t really understand because I can’t express myself very well and they can’t understand my feelings because they are normal.
“ I spoke to another autistic boy at school and was like he was only one who got it and he felt the same as me which made me think that there should be a place where we can talk to each other and help each other. But there isn’t anything, especially with covid, and some of us don’t like mixing in groups so I wanted to create a space for us.
“I’ve set up the media pages to help get the word out about what I want to do. My next step is a website. I want to have a blog where we can support each other and share things that help and things that make us sad so we know we aren’t alone or odd.
“ I want to have a space to link products that help with stimming, another section for mindfulness videos and activities, links to helplines and stuff for those who want help but don’t like talking to grown ups and then maybe run workshops for things like mediation or have monthly meets if people want to.”
John says the name Complete The Puzzle is because he thinks people his age find Autism lonely and confusing and he wants to change that and reclaim the puzzle piece so the big picture makes sense.
He says on his page: “There are lots of things to learn growing up but imagine trying to do that when nothing makes sense, not even who you are, and the only way you have of learning is by adults telling you who you are when they don’t understand either. The jigsaw isn’t a reflection of us being broken but that the pieces right now are a bit jumbled.”
He says the aim of the group is to ‘unscramble’ the picture.
Emma, who is also mum to two-year-old Oliver, said: “John has continued to struggle but the last few months he’s been working really hard and is now launching his own initiative for autistic children.
“Complete The Puzzle was launched on Autism Awareness Day (April 2). He’s noticed there is very little support locally for children of his age, it’s all either for younger or older children or run by neuro typical people who don’t fully understand because they aren’t autistic. He’s hoping Complete The Puzzle will give a space where children can talk to each other and support each other. This is something he’s done by himself.”
Or on Instagram @complete.thepuzzle
If you are able to help with the setting up of the website please message the facebook page
What is autism?
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.
There are many subtypes, most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. The ways in which people with autism learn, think and problem-solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged. Some people with ASD may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support or live entirely independently