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Not all disabilities are visible and to look at 14-year-old Kian you would be forgiven if you didn’t realise the struggles he has faced and still faces to this day. However, thanks to the dedicated work that Everyone Can have provided, Kian now has a place he feels safe enough to begin to challenge himself and engage in his community.

The staff at Everyone Can will never forget the first time they met Kian, we greeted him with a smile and a hello and you could see the fear in his face as he hid behind his mother. Little did we know at that point he had been hyperventilating outside before coming in. This lovely child had lost trust in everyone apart from his parents. His mother, Serena, didn’t expect him to stay long but with some encouragement and reassurance he sat down and played a game and since then, Kian has never looked back. It may have taken little steps and some days he would need some extra reassurance from staff or a quiet room to sit in but now Kian loves the centre and looks forward to coming every week.

At 2 years old Kian was diagnosed with Autism, he also has learning difficulties, sensory processing disorder and an anxiety disorder.

Kian’s disabilities affect his daily life and the ability to access the things he enjoys most. He requires routines and schedules and can become extremely distressed if there are unexpected changes to the smallest degree. Things that are not in his control such as traffic can really upset him and ruin his whole day. Kian is a wonderful, sensitive, caring boy with a huge heart, though due to his sensory difficulties he struggles with crowded or noisy places and gets nervous about people coming too close to him and invading his personal space and so being outside of the house with his brother and parents can be extremely difficult if not well planned out in advance.

Sadly, after an unsuccessful transition to High School Kian, had a breakdown. He became mute, suffered with depression and was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and had to be withdrawn from school and become home educated. He also became afraid of others and felt unable to leave the house for months, someone simply saying ‘hello’ to him caused him fear. Serena, Kian’s Mum explained that “he’s always been an active, thrill seeking boy who likes to try new things” but had now become too anxious to leave the house, let alone socialise with other children.

Kian now walks into the centre a completely different child to the one we first met, he is starting to regain trust in people and feels at ease with the staff and volunteers. With Kian coming every week the staff are able to get to know him, understand his disability and recognise the signs for when he may need extra support.

Serena said “I believe him having the centre to attend has made a huge difference to his confidence outside of the centre too. He likes the staff and he feels the staff like him too, which is brilliant for his self-confidence. He will try and engage a bit more with people and he is willing to try and get out and about a bit more in the community. He takes huge pride in the fact that he attends Everyone Can. He talks about it a lot and really looks forward to the sessions.”

Serena now sits back and watches with a smile on her face as he has chats with the staff and other gamers, knowing he is truly relaxed there. Kian even tells her to leave him to it if she’s cramping his style!

Although Kian has trust in the staff, he is also slowly gaining trust in his fellow gamers at the centre and making friends. Before he started at Everyone Can he couldn’t bear to be around other children but now he will sit with other children and happily play alongside them. He is even engaging in conversation with a handful of children that he now considers as his friends.

Serena found that a lot disability activities offered mainly sport which is not always appropriate and not what all children want to do. Kian has always loved gaming and now the fact he can enjoy playing whilst making friends, growing in confidence and regaining trust in people is truly life-changing.

From a boy who couldn’t be around children, hated busy places and feared being too close to people to the boy we see now who comes in each week into a busy room with dozens of other children is incredible. The fact that he also speaks and plays with others and even gives the occasional hug to staff is almost unbelievable and just goes to show how far he has come! He is a pleasure to have at the centre and the changes we’ve seen in him make what we do here at Everyone Can the most rewarding thing in the world!