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Autism Awareness Week: Poetry provides escape for service user with autism

Posted: 01/04/20

A service user is publishing a book of poems after finding poetry has helped her cope with life’s challenges.

Amy Telford, 24, started writing poetry at the age of 11. Having just moved to secondary school, Amy was getting bullied and felt she needed to find a way to express her feelings.

“I couldn’t talk to anyone and poetry became an outlet for me,” she explained.

“Poetry was my way of processing my thoughts and feelings; like talking without actually having to talk.”

A book of 29 poems, ‘Autistic Female in a Neurotypical World’ covers a range of topics each one evoking a different thought or feeling that Amy has experienced.

“Some poems are deeper than others and some are more light-hearted but they all represent what I have learned from Autism Spectrum Disorder and how difficult the journey has been,” she said.

Being bullied at school had started to affect Amy’s mental health and she was twice admitted to inpatient units as a result.

Although her parents suspected she was autistic from a very young age, Amy was 16 when she diagnosed with autism.

Following her diagnosis, she was placed in a specialist autism out of area unit in North Wales, somewhere she loved and where was well enough to complete two college courses.

It was a further diagnosis of Crohn’s disease that led Amy to having a breakdown. She was moved into adult services up and down the country before arriving at Mitford Unit.

Part of Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), Mitford Unit is an autism inpatient service for adults. The state-of-the-art unit has been designed to allow for highly individual environmental adaptations to reduce anxiety and positively impact on behaviours that challenge.

It wasn’t long before staff discovered Amy’s talent for poetry and encouraged her to write more. She added: “Poems became a great way for people to understand what I was going through.”

Amy was discharged from Mitford Unit in February after a year and four months. She is now using CNTW’s community services and is enjoying her new life in her flat. She has even started volunteering and has joined a rock choir.

Amy said she would urge anyone with autism or mental health problems to get into poetry. “Even if you can’t write them, I find reading poetry really helps too,” she said.

“It’s really good for the soul and feel it would help others like it has helped me.

“For me, poetry has been a way for me to express my inner self and process the world around me. It’s given me a way to share my thoughts and emotions especially as I can’t always tell what I’m feeling or what my emotions are.”

Kirsty Charlton, Acting Clinical Manager at Mitford Unit, said: “We’re so proud of Amy.

“She has come such a long way in a short space of time, she has worked hard with the team to understand her autism and develop support strategies to aid self-regulation.

“We couldn’t be happier to see how well she is progressing since leaving Mitford.”

The book is currently with the publishers and publication date is to be confirmed.