Challenging the stigma around Neurodiversity this Anti-Bullying Week

Challenging the stigma around Neurodiversity this Anti-Bullying Week

What is neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity refers to the different ways the brain interprets information. We are hopeful that more and more people will begin to welcome neurodiverse differences and strengths, rather than the stories that we sometimes hear about individuals being targeted for their differences through bullying behaviour.


Challenging the neurodiversity stigma

Instead of isolating people (often because neurotypical brains are the ones that people seem to be most aware of and used to), a focus needs to be on inclusion, understanding and valuing neurodiversity. We are all different and unique in our own ways and the brain develops in different ways; we are all equally important, and we celebrate difference because we believe that difference makes the world an interesting and better place. We need people who think differently; certain changes would never happen otherwise.


What do we do at CYPNS?

At The Retreat Clinics, we also have a Children and Young People’s Neurodevelopmental Service (CYPNS), which mostly works with autistic children and young people, and their families.

At CYPNS, we champion neurodiversity, spreading awareness and understanding of difference and encourage all to embrace it. As a team, we are focussed on improving our approach to assessment, support, and report writing as new information and ways of thinking arise. We are currently talking about the importance of neurodiversity-affirmative language and the importance of noticing strengths in all opportunities. Increasing awareness and understanding of neurodiversity is crucial to support the creation of anti-bullying environments.


How can we help?

Here at The Retreat Clinics, we can support your child and your family to make sense of an Autism diagnosis, from assessments to therapeutic support. Our Autism Assessment and Diagnostic Services and our Specialist Therapy services are available at our clinic in York and online.

Find out more here or get in touch by emailing

What to do as a parent when your child is suffering from bullying

We understand that it is never pleasant to think about your child or young person being involved in bullying, whether it be as the bully, victim or witness, but it is such an important topic to address.

What can I do?

The first thing to do is to talk to your child or young person. Explain to them what the signs of bullying are and explain you have noticed a change within them. Reassure them that you are there for them to talk when they are ready to do so.

If your child opens up to you, it is important to listen to your child calmly, offering support and comfort, as most children and young people may feel anxious, embarrassed or upset. If your child does not want to talk to you about bullying, then it is best to suggest that while you are there for them, they can also open up to another trusted adult and encourage them to do so.

For most children and young people, bullying happens within school. If this is the case for your child, you should contact the school to start a conversation about your concerns with their teacher, head of year or pastoral manager. Most schools have an anti-bullying policy and will not tolerate even the smallest cases of bullying; therefore, it should be picked up fairly quickly.

Even if it seemed to be a one-off incident, it is always best to inform the school especially if it was in relation to a protected characteristic. This may be because of a school-wide cultural issue that might need addressing. If your child is being bullied in relation to a protected characteristic then this is a hate crime, and therefore is against the law. You can report this to the police by phone on 101 or online.

If the bullying is happening online through social media or gaming, you are able to report this to the platforms as most have rules centred around online bullying. You can also report bullying videos that are shared online and request for them to be taken down.

How we can help

If you believe your child or young person is struggling with their mental health due to the bullying that is taking place, or their changes in behaviour do not ease through talking to them and exploring ways to help manage them together, then it may be time to seek professional help for your child. This also applies if your child or teenager themselves is a bully, as they may need support to resolve what is triggering this behaviour.

Here, at The Retreat Clinics, we understand seeking therapy can be daunting for both you and your child and that taking the first step can be hard. We have a team of professional and friendly child therapists who can work together with you and your child to design a bespoke and flexible treatment which works best for them. We have a range of children’s therapy services which are available for children and teenagers aged 4 to 17 at our clinics in York, Manchester and online.

If you would like to find out more about the support we can offer please get in touch by emailing

How to spot the signs of bullying

Bullying amongst children is a common issue within schools, outside of school and online, and of 2,347 young people (12-20 years) surveyed within the UK in 2019, 22% had been bullied, 27% had witnessed bullying and 2% admitted to being a bully.

It can be experienced both verbally or physically and take place at any age. Some children or young people might be bullying themselves, and this is often a result of their own unresolved, personal issues, which makes them choose to lash out at others.

Signs of bullying

Unless your child or teenager directly speaks to you about being bullied or has physical injuries or bruises, it can be hard to know it is going on. You may notice some changes in your child or teenager’s behaviour, which can be an indication that they are being bullied, such as:

There can be a few common indicators that your child or young person may be the one bullying others, for example if they:

Effects of bullying

It is never pleasant to think about your child being bullied, or worse, being a bully, but it’s important to be aware of the warning signs to try and help prevent both the short and long-term effects of bullying.

Bullying can increase the prevalence of mental health issues within children, with depression, anxiety and self-harm often continuing into adulthood. It can cause disruptions to learning, impacting their academic attainment which can have knock-on effects for future employment. The emotional impact of bullying can make it difficult to maintain stable relationships and might make your child or young person more likely to commit or be a victim of domestic abuse as an adult.

Online Bullying

Online bullying is often referred to as cyberbullying, whilst this type of bullying is online and therefore not physical, it may develop into in-person bullying, that can become physical. Signs of cyberbullying are the same as physical bullying however there are a few more that are specific to cyberbullying. Your child who may be a victim of online bullying, may stop using their device unexpectedly, become nervous or jumpy when using their device and have an increase in anger or upset after using their devices.

How we can help

If you are worried about your child or young person being bullied, then it may be time to seek professional help. This also applies if your child or teenager themselves is a bully and needs to resolve what is triggering this behaviour.

We understand seeking therapy can be daunting for both you and your child and that taking the first step can be hard. We have a team of professional and friendly child therapists who can work together with you and your child to design a bespoke and flexible treatment which works best for them. Our children’s therapy services are available for children and teenagers aged 5 to 17, at our clinics in York, Manchester and online.

Please get in touch by emailing

Movember and Men’s Mental Health

Life isn’t always easy, and it can often feel hard to open up about how you’re feeling and reach out for support – particularly as a man. But even when things seem tough, there’s a lot you can do to look after yourself and others.


This month is Movember, an annual event run by the Movember Foundation which  involves the growing of moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness of men’s health issues, and much more.


Who are the Movember Foundation?

As the leading charity in men’s health, the Movember Foundation have funded more than 1,250 projects across 23 countries, working towards a world where men take action to be mentally well and feel supported by those around them.

Their mental health and suicide prevention projects have been challenging the status quo, strengthening social connections and encouraging men to have conversations that matter.


What is Movember?

Movember is a global annual movement which encourages men to engage in their fundraisers during the month of November to raise awareness of men’s mental health and suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer.


What can I do to get involved?

This November, you can help raise funds and awareness of men’s health by signing up to their Movember Fundraisers:


What if I’m a woman?

While growing a moustache is left to the guys, women can also raise funds and awareness by signing up to all the other fundraiser campaigns or make donation to a ‘Mo Bro’ or fellow ‘Mo Sister’. As champions of the movement women can play a key role by rallying the men in their lives to join the movement, have important conversations and be proactive about their health.


Find out more

For reliable, expert information to help men cope and live happier, healthier, longer lives and to accelerate change by supporting the Movember campaign visit:


This month we will be helping to raise awareness about men’s mental health, and how important it is to talk about.

If you are struggling, or simply need someone to turn to, please get in touch by emailing or

Our partnership with the Ebor Academy Trust

We are delighted to be partnered with the Ebor Academy Trust, who run 23 schools across the region, supporting their wellbeing initiatives. The partnership will provide mental health support to the Academy through a bespoke series of training and workshops delivered our team of professionals who specialise in children and young people’s mental health.

We were pleased with the outcome of the first session of our Training Programme which began last week with a Wellbeing Leads workshop. The day provided an opportunity for wellbeing leads from the Academy to reflect on the challenges of their role and articulate what support they might need, develop their therapeutic communication skills with children’s and young people, and develop their knowledge of working with trauma in the classroom. It was great to receive such positive feedback from the staff at the Ebor Academy after the day:

“Really enjoyed it, it will make a difference to our children.”

“All people working with children would benefit from this training”.

“What an amazing place.”

At The Retreat Clinics, we can deliver a wide range of training and workshops for school staff across the education system. All of our training and support programmes are bespoke, tailored to the needs of any school community, and can be delivered in person or online.

To find out more about how we can support your school, students and staff click here, or get in touch by emailing or

Our Top Tips for managing Bonfire Night

For lots of families with children, Bonfire Night can bring anxiety and distress. Firework displays are noisy, unpredictable and, depending on where you live, can be relentless. This can be particularly tricky if you have a child who has a fear of fireworks, is neurodiverse, and/or has sensory differences.

Our team of child and young people therapists, in collaboration with families we work with, have put together some top tips for managing the Bonfire Celebrations.

If going to fireworks displays isn’t right for your family, trust your instincts. You can create your own traditions for Bonfire night. Perhaps you could watch a movie or do another favourite activity that will help distract from the noise outside. Maybe there is a playlist of music that is particularly calming for your child.

Explain to your child about the origin of Bonfire night, and safety around fireworks and bonfires. For some children, their anxiety is due to being worried about getting hurt or not understanding what is happening. There are lots of story books or information leaflets available that can support you to explain this in a child friendly way. For example; your local fire and rescue service website. Some people like to watch YouTube videos of firework displays to help prepare their child for what is going to happen. If you have a pet, consider including your child in helping the animal for Bonfire night. This could provide a great good opportunity to open conversations about anxiety or fear in a non-direct way and validate their experience.

Staying in or going out, involve your child/ren in creating a plan for the evening, encourage them to think about what they might be worried about, and what might help support them. If you are going to an event, try to find out as much information beforehand as possible to help inform your plan and consider in advance what your exit plan might be if things get too overwhelming.

Writing your plan out or use of a visual schedule is really helpful to help manage expectations and hopefully reduce anxiety.

Regardless of your plans, considering bringing objects that your child finds soothing, familiar or reduces anxiety. For example, certain items of clothing, weighted blankets, fidget toys or a comfort blanket can be helpful. Sometimes certain foods or drinks might bring a bit of extra comfort. For some families, just sticking to familiar routine as much as possible is the best way to reduce anxiety.

For children who find loud noises difficult, you might want to consider giving your child ear defenders. Ear defenders help to reduce noise, but you can still hear some noise, which can be helpful and reassuring. You could also consider noise cancelling headphones to play a soothing song or favourite audio book. Whatever headphones might work best for your child, it would be worth allowing your child to wear them ahead of Bonfire night so that they can get used to wearing them.

Do not under-estimate the importance of how reassuring it is to young people when you remain calm. The relationship you have with your child, and your presence will help them feel safe by just being close, relaxed, and present. You know your child best, and what will help provide them with additional reassurance.

If this is a tricky time for you family, it can be really tiring supporting and containing your child’s distress. If possible, get some additional support and integrate something into the day that will help recharge your batteries.


If you would like to find out more about the support we can offer please get in touch by emailing or

Supporting your mental health through our creative Art Therapy service in Manchester

Are you struggling to understand your thoughts, feelings, or behaviours?  Maybe a difficult life experience has been affecting your wellbeing, but it feels hard to put into words?

We understand how tough it can be to move forward when you feel a bit stuck in life, but we are here to help you find a new perspective by using creativity and artmaking to enable communication and self-understanding in a way that will words alone cannot always do.

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that allows an exploration of often complex thoughts, feelings, and emotions through the creative process of artistic materials. It can be successful in resolving emotional conflict, aid in changing your behaviour and help you to develop effective coping skills that feel right to you.

Unlike an art class, the focus of art therapy is not to teach artistic techniques, grade or improve your artistic skill. Instead, an art therapist will encourage you to explore and express your inner emotions, making sense of how you might feel, through the process of creating art.

Who can Art Therapy help?

Art therapy is designed to help people of all ages, abilities and stages of life.

Art therapy can help those who may by diagnosed or struggle with (including but not limited too):

What does Art Therapy at The Retreat Clinics involve?

Art therapy offers a non-judgemental, confidential, and supportive environment where difficulties can be expressed openly and unravelled together.

Available at our welcoming Manchester clinic, our highly qualified and registered Art Psychotherapist Chloe Sykes can provide art therapy on a one-to-one basis or in a group. Taking a person-centred approach, Chloe will be on hand to guide and support you throughout the creative process, supporting you to reflect and find the words to articulate how adverse experiences may have affected your wellbeing. Towards the end of the session, Chloe will encourage you to discuss the art you have created and any feelings that have arisen, this will allow you to analyse and search for themes and conflicts that may have been affecting your thoughts, emotions and behaviours.

Part of our art therapist’s role also includes working closely in partnership with person’s support network – this could include parents, carers and other health or social care professionals.

What happens to my artwork?

We will ensure that strict confidentiality is adhered too, this includes both clinical notes, artwork made and what you discuss during the therapy sessions. Our art therapist will safely store your artwork during the course of your therapy and discuss with you in your final session what you would like to do with your artwork.

How do I start Art Therapy?

For more information on our art therapy services please get in touch by using the form below, emailing or calling 0161 445 2099.

We can also provide art therapy at our York clinic.

Seasonal Affective Disorder: World Mental Health Day 2022

As the clocks go back, the days and nights get darker, and weather gets colder, it’s not unusual to feel a change in your energy levels and mood. Sometimes called ‘winter blues’, our bodies naturally respond to the weaker and briefer sunlight we experience, which affects our ‘body clock’ and prompts a slowing down.

Although the ‘winter blues’ can be felt by many, the term ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ (SAD) is often used to describe the experience of a smaller number of people for whom the seasonal change in mood causes more serious distress and disruption to their ability to function.

The signs and symptoms of SAD varies for different people and season, but if you have SAD, you might experience:

If you are struggling with these symptoms and think you may have SAD, then we can help with a range of different treatments and therapy approaches available, that we can tailor to suit your mental health needs.

We offer all new clients an initial consultation to explore your concerns and consider the approach to therapy that is likely to be most helpful for you.

An approach based on Cognitive Behavioural principles would be likely to consider the thoughts you have associated with seasonal changes to your mood and explore how these relate to your emotions, considering ways to re-evaluate these thoughts and to develop alternative, usually practically-grounded, ways of responding to the mood difficulties you are experiencing.

A more exploratory approach to therapy would be likely to explore the meanings and associations these seasonal changes to your mood have for you, understanding the difficulty they represent in a personal way, and exploring the possibility of developing ways of being through the darker period of the year that feel more helpful and healthy for you.

We know that this autumn and winter in particular, many people are facing significant financial pressure and we understand that the cost of ongoing, weekly therapy may not be a commitment that feels possible at this time.

Here at The Retreat Clinics our therapists are highly experienced and skilled in short-term therapy and brief treatment programmes, as well as in longer-term work. Our initial consultations ensure we understand your budget and can carefully consider with you what we can offer that is be a good fit for your financial budget, as well as your mental health needs.

All of our therapies are available at our clinics in York, Manchester and online.

If you would like to find out more please get in touch by using the form below, or emailing or

Parent-child therapy services begin at The Retreat Clinics

A new service which helps parents understand and support their children with a host of new techniques, has begun at The Retreat in York.

Understanding how to respond to children and address their needs is often challenging for parents, says The Retreat. There may be times when you just don’t know how to deal with a situation or talk to your children about something.

Child-parent therapists work with parents and children together, supporting them to know what to expect at each stage of their child’s development

Using activities to practice specific techniques, experts can help parents overcome difficult situations and confrontations, avoid stressful situations and have a more intimate bond with their child.

The Retreat’s parent-child therapy uses a number of special techniques, working with highly qualified therapists.

One technique, explains Jennifer Bailey, Clinical Lead and Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist, involves ‘Reflective Functioning’: “This is a way in which we can really support a parent’s ability to understand and engage with their child in very difficult situations. It’s the ability to imagine mental states in ourselves and others. Once we can understand this, we can really improve your relationship with your child.”

Reflective Functioning is the ability to imagine mental states in ourselves and others. Once we can reflect, we can understand our own behaviour and responses, the behaviour and responses of others, and how these interact and intertwine. We begin to understand the behaviour of children and their internal mental state. Once we can understand this, we can improve your relationship with your child.

The Retreat’s parent-child therapy is helping parents to:

Another useful technique used in parent-child therapy is guided observation questioning, known as Behaviour, Meaning, Feeling.

This technique involves watching your child and really noticing every tiny thing they do, moment to moment and examining what their behaviour means and what they are trying to communicate. Our therapists will guide you through this and help you recognise key behaviours in your child and what they mean.

The Retreat’s child-parent therapy sessions

Child-parent therapists work with you and your child together, supporting you to become an expert in your child’s overall development. We will support you to know what to expect from your child at each stage of their development

Using activities to practice specific techniques, we can help you overcome difficult situations and confrontations, avoid stressful situations and have a more intimate bond with your child.

For more information, please contact The Retreat, York on 01904 412551, email or go to visit our Parent-child therapy page.


Expert by Experience, Ronnie Pinder, discusses autism and the pandemic

A week before the UK went into “lockdown” I was in a large supermarket, struggling to catch my breath but still masking my anxiety from the people around me. When I say around me I mean surrounding, several deep and all scrambling for the last few items on the shelves. Panic buying has taken hold and social distancing is a term that hasn’t quite yet entered everyday vocabulary. I struggle at the best of times in supermarkets due to sensory difficulties, an unfortunate co-morbidity that often comes with being autistic. My brain often struggles to filter sounds so I hear everything and at full volume. I struggle even more with visual senses, often becoming dizzy, nauseous and disorientated. But today is far worse than anything I’ve ever experienced. The panic attacks, which I’ve had under reasonable control for some time, are now coming in waves. I can feel myself becoming detached from reality and I’m acutely aware that an autistic shutdown is rapidly approaching. Once I’m back home, in my safe space, I can try to relax. But that’s difficult. I can lock myself away in a quiet room for several hours to help my senses recover but I can’t escape the anxiety and fear. I’m fully aware that everyone is scared and anxious but we autistics can take anxiety to a whole new level. It doesn’t help being bombarded on the news with horror stories. You can turn off the news but it’s still everywhere on social media, often a lifeline for autistic people.

A few days later and my biggest fear is that my wife, a key worker, is still going to work to look after the children of other key workers.

Our two adult children are still going to work as key workers. Fortunately the government has just announced the closure of schools for the majority of students, meaning our three younger children who still live at home will be at less risk. Within a further 24 hours my wife is advised to stay at home as she is asthmatic. She feels tremendous guilt over this but I, perhaps a little selfishly, feel huge relief. All of this helps massively with my extreme anxiety. I’ve been literally terrified and on many occasions have found myself curled up on the floor of whatever room in the house is quietest. This doesn’t mean my sensory overloads and anxiety are under control now that I’m at home all day. Far from it. This is going to take some considerable time but at least at home I can manage them much better. Telephone calls from certain friends/colleagues have helped enormously as they are autism experts and understand what I’m going through. Of course I’m not alone in this. I’ve read online accounts from countless autistic adults who are struggling massively, going through shutdowns, meltdowns and extreme anxiety. I’ve read many stories of autistic children whose parents are struggling to help them cope with the changes in their routines.

If anything I’m playing down how this pandemic is affecting my health but in some ways I’m fortunate. I’m reading social media posts from non autistic people who are struggling with being at home and not being allowed to go to the pub or the gym. It’s like I’ve been practising for this my whole life. Self distancing and isolation? No problem! I’ve literally not left the house now for twelve days and instead of having a negative impact on my mental health, it has helped me enormously. One of our younger children is also autistic, she is also finding being at home no problem at all. Whilst we do both like our routines we also feel most comfortable at home. Being in the middle of a pandemic and on balance, this is the best place for us at the moment.

I’m being regularly asked for tips on how to cope as somebody who is autistic. The problem is that no two autistic people are the same. However, we do have a tendency to have intense interests and at times like this they can help our mental well being enormously.

I wake each morning breathless, dizzy, nauseous and sweating (how typical that we have a virus outbreak where many of the symptoms are similar to anxiety).

I’ve discovered that if I go upstairs, put on headphones and play my electronic drums that within around twenty minutes my breathing becomes more controlled and my anxiety lessens. The key is finding that interest that results in enough focus that you can temporarily forget the outside world. For me it’s also the perfect excuse to watch even more Star Trek than usual. It has also helped a lot by limiting my news intake to just one read of the headlines once a day. And, very importantly, stop reading all the dubious links that Karen on Facebook has posted. Once a day from a reliable source is enough.

The one good thing about having to stay indoors is all the time I get to spend with my children. We’re doing things we don’t usually have time for and it’s wonderful. The only thing I’ve drawn the line at is joining them doing the Joe Wicks exercises. The pandemic might not kill me but that man will! Seriously though, the things that people are putting online for children is amazing. People are really making the most of things and it’s not hard to see that it’s bringing out the best in many people. I’ve even found myself watching those Gary Barlow webcam duets and if his purpose was to make me smile then he succeeded. Do whatever helps, whatever makes you forget, however briefly. Above all, stay safe.

If you would like more information or require support please get in touch by using the form below, or emailing or