by Author Candida Wingate

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Rock Up and Onwards

Rock Up, where the challenges, at times, have been great - and the rewards have been even greater.

Rock Up has been running for two years now, during which time we've worked with over 100 young people.

Typically, those attendees include young carers, excludees, homeless or Looked After Children. Children on the autistic scale, with Asperger's or special educational needs make up a large number of participants and the level of chaos that pervades their lives is evident through their accounts of trying to claim benefits, applying for emergency loans, deciding what to do at school - or what they do instead of going to school.

As the project came to a close last week, a parent turned to me and thanked me for all that we had done for her sons. "This is what gets them through the week," she said, "Looking forward to coming here, it's been great for them. The tutors have been wonderful and I can't thank you enough for taking the care and interest you have over my boys."

And yet, I feel it should be me thanking her. I have learnt more from her lads than I feel I've ever been able to do for them.

I have watched as they made the transition from sitting there, carefully observing what the others were doing, before tentatively having a go. I've watched as they began to express an interest in particular songs - and then the look of triumph on their faces when they learnt how to play those very songs, and showed me how to do it.

I've observed them as they joined in - and then tried to unpick the reasons why they might just as suddenly withdraw. I've learnt how far I can encourage - and when that tips over into overwhelming pressure. I've learnt the difference between trying to support decision-making and offering too many choices.

Above all, it's re-enforced my belief in the importance of being in the 'now', in this instance with this particular individual, devoid of prior judgement or preconception and just to be there, alongside them.

Working with children in challenging circumstances is just that - challenging. But the rewards are amazing and I've loved being alongside them.