Layla’s New Chapter
When Layla first attended Dandelion Time, she disengaged and seemed withdrawn, in a world of her own. Layla, aged 13, had spent her life living with her Mum and older brother until being moved to live with her Dad Frank when she was 12.
Previously Layla’s mum Sharon had found it difficult to maintain a job due to the level of care which Layla needed in her numerous absences from school. Various difficulties and financial concerns led to frequent rehousing and it was a struggle for Sharon to provide for her children adequately. Over the years Frank had maintained an off/on relationship with Layla and her brother, but his relocating and a strained relationship with their mother meant he often lost contact. As a result, Layla and her dad now found themselves having to navigate their new relationship.
Layla was referred to Dandelion Time by her new school after they had observed her challenges in forming and maintaining relationships with peers at school. They had described Layla as “withdrawn from everyone” and “isolating herself”. Layla had a very low attendance at the schools she had previously attended which had impacted heavily on her social and interpersonal skills. She was developmentally and academically behind many children her age having not had the opportunity to socialise in a consistent way with others, often spending significant amounts of time alone.
During their first session at Dandelion Time, Frank and Layla spent time meeting other families and getting to know our team. It was noticed that as Layla became more anxious, she tended to withdraw more, making herself smaller and as least noticeable as she could. During mealtimes Layla would often refuse to eat or would only settle for a small piece of bread and butter. Frank had described to us his worries for Layla as she would only eat ham sandwiches that she had made herself and refuse to allow others provide for her. These set behaviour patterns were also apparent in other areas of Layla’s life, for example in refusing any help to wash her clothes. She would often become caught up in rigid, repetitive and compulsive thinking and behaviours which perhaps allowed her to maintain control and feel safer.
Guided by our team each week, Frank and Layla engaged together side by side in gentle untaxing craftwork activities to enhance their bond and promote their attachment. Over the weeks we started to see small changes for Layla, she began to engage with Frank without prompts and began turning to him for reassurance during their tasks.
She began to trust her dad more and begin to release her methods of control. Layla was also able to begin forming relationships with the other children attending, smiling quietly as she felt their acceptance. Frank and Layla spent a lots of time outside in nature, tending to the herb and vegetable gardens. Layla began awakening her senses, paying attention to the smells and textures of the herbs and flowers she picked which were needed when she made soap. We noticed how well Layla responded to the physicality of digging, getting her hands messy in the soil and nurturing plants to help them thrive. At times, Layla would even accept a little bit of help from Frank when tasks require two sets of hands. Layla and Frank appreciated the time spent together, tending to strawberry and tomato plants and Layla became joyfull in noticing how the plants grew each week.
In time, the strawberries and tomatoes were ready to harvest and Layla and Frank were given the task of collecting what they could.They used the strawberries to decorate a cake ready for dessert. During that meal with Frank’s encouragement, Layla decided that as well as eating bread and butter, she would try a strawberry and a little bit of cake! This marked a turning point for Layla and in her relationship with her dad, highlighting the trust they had formed through shared experiences. Layla was beginning to allow her world to expand ever so slightly, granting permission for her Dad to be by her side and knowing that he was there for her and she felt safe.
This is a composite case that is indicative of our work, names and images have been changed.