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Today I had the honour of meeting Anna Kennedy and being interviewed on her radio show. It was an honour because I am not an autism expert, I don’t have children of my own, let alone an amazingly awesome autistic child.
I’m a therapist with dyslexia and a chip on my shoulder. I struggle with long words and being talked down to because of my learning disability. All the therapies I had trained in, from cognitive hypnotherapy to CBT and play therapy, kind of work for some of the people, some of the time but it always felt like I was telling my clients what they should do and needing them to fit in a box. I wanted my clients to understand why they were, and where they were at, so they could take back control, but all my training made that overtly complicated.
The Ollie Model came about when I was asked to work with a child. My learning until that point would have been hit and miss and taken months to have any effect, if indeed it had any effect at all.
So, with that first child it began. How do you ask a child to be more resilient when they can probably spell the word, which is more than I can do, but they don’t have the concept of an emotion because its not something you feel and touch, its not tangible?
But what if all your emotions were like a football team and you’re the captain? What if they all have a role in getting you through your days? What if sometimes one of them gets big, takes over because it trying to get your attention?
This is how it started, by making your issue about a part of you, an emotion or super power. Ollie was born. I was then able to simplify why we have phobias, how we learn, how we get limiting beliefs that can plague our life and control our decisions.
The model was so effective. I was setting kids free of their issue within 4 or 5 sessions with the tools to deal with their emotions. Just by changing the language, I found the model to be just as effective with young adults and grown-ups.
Word spread, I had clients coming in from all over the UK, and I knew we needed more Ollie Coaches (named coaches because we give you the tools to be the best version of you that you can be). I wanted to train parents, teachers, carers anyone with a true passion to help other to be all they could be, to use the model, to become Ollie Coaches, so we launched our Ollie Coach training programme.
One school then another, then another requested the services of an Ollie Coach to work with some of their children individually. We started teaching teachers and parents to ‘speak’ Ollie so the children could use this new skill everywhere. Early intervention at Kent CC took us on, adoption and fostering organisations took us on.
The magic? We don’t fix or give advice. We empower and teach so we, as therapists, aren’t needed and people don’t need the label of being in therapy. We work with the whole family, because all behaviour serves a purpose and that behaviour was created to help in some way even if it presents in an unhelpful way.
Can it work with autism? Yes. We don’t change the model any more for an autistic child than we do for a child without autism, because the Ollie Model sees everyone as uniquely unique.
We are not autism experts so what’s our connection here. We recognise that the siblings of an autistic child can struggle because mums’, dads’ and the carers’ attentions and time is often hijacked by their autistic brother or sister. We recognise that mums, dads and carers are fighting so hard for their families to get the help they need that they don’t do the one thing that will enable them to keep doing that – put their oxygen masks on first. So, we now have a programme of workshops called Ollie Mums, designed to teach you how to take care of your emotional self so you can be all you need to be for the whole family.
Ollie is about intervention and prevention. A simple but oh so powerful solution to emotional well-being in all our kids, and the kids in all of us.
Alison Knowles is a hypnotherapist and the creator of Ollie and His Superpowers.