Friendships are a lifeline for young learning disabled people in lockdown

A group of Coventry teenagers who met in our Teenvine Plus intensive development programme long before lockdown, is reinforcing the bonds of friendship through a range of online projects.

Each young person has a learning disability, autism or both and Teenvine Plus workers Chloe, Coleman and Sarah are working with them to develop their networks, confidence and aspirations for a bright future.

Games at Grub Hub
Some people Grapevine has worked with enjoy gaming together

A few weeks ago we announced a new partnership with young people from the Belgrade Theatre’s youth project to record lockdown experiences in a kind of weekly diary format that is shared with the world as a ‘Coronavirus Time Capsule’. The initiative was started by London-based theatre group Company Three to help make young people feel less isolated and more connected during the pandemic. 

Connection is crucial at a time when relationships are playing a fundamental role in their learning and development – especially when statistics show a person with a learning disability is seven times more likely to feel lonely ‘a lot’ compared to someone without.*

Activists from Grapevine’s sister project, Coventry Youth Activists, have recently been raising awareness of the daily social isolation when you’re young and have a disability in The Guardian newspaper and on BBC World News. Their campaign #ThisIsJustOurOrdinary helps highlight the risks of returning to the ‘old normal’ as the crisis eases, set against a bigger backdrop of what all young people are experiencing at this time.

This week’s Teenvine Plus/Belgrade Theatre time capsule is particularly poignant in light of this because it’s all about friendships – in place pre-lockdown through the projects and essential during. How might these young people have managed without these connections? 

Catch up on all six videos so far in our Young People playlist on YouTube.

Gamers Nights

Meanwhile, Tuesday nights have turned into Gamers Night for the Teenviners. Pre-lockdown they’d arranged a monthly gaming community meet-up at Ziferblat Coventry involving consoles, Nintendo Switch and teens with and without disabilities sharing a keen interest.

The world changed so they migrated online, powered by this positive momentum. Now they’re organising their own gamers nights, non-console owners are joining in on smartphones and quieter members are contacted regularly to ensure they stay involved.

Coleman from Grapevine has been there in the background helping to build their resilience for when they don’t need us anymore to sustain their gaming community. When meet-ups on and off line can blend to make the best of both worlds.

Interested in becoming a Teenvine buddy? We’re always on the lookout for people aged 13-18 to join the fun, gain valuable experience and help bridge the gap between people with and without learning disabilities or autism. Email for details.

*Source: Mencap survey, December 2019.