Tom’s Story: a creative way back to being Tom
Allergies were part of Tom’s* life from Day 1. First it was breastmilk, but that was just the start of his journey. The list got longer and the reactions more severe. His mum will never forget how it felt to watch her son go into anaphylactic shock. It was his first birthday. He had an allergic reaction to the cake.
Dairy, wheat, eggs, soya, peanuts. Even dust. He was only six, but Tom hated being ‘the boy with allergies’. It wasn’t just the physical reactions. He was embarrassed. People were afraid to touch him. He couldn’t join in at school, go on trips, or play with friends. He stopped wanting to be around other children, to play and explore. It was safer that way.
‘He never went into a group until everything was sterile, or everyone knew who he was… It’s terrible, looking back and seeing how scared he was’.
When he arrived at Helium Arts, all Tom wanted to do was go home. But we always make sure our spaces are safe, and that paramedics – and parents – are nearby. It worked. For the first time, Tom had somewhere he could go and just be Tom. He wasn’t the boy with allergies here. Everyone was on the same team.
‘I’ve never seen anything like it. For Tom to be in a group and not have to worry. To see him knowing everything was safe… It was like a utopia for children’.
Group Greetings Game
The group made their own rules and set their own boundaries. First up? Paper hands! Decorated and mounted on sticks, they were the perfect way for Tom to meet his new friends.
Exploring the art of touch together, Tom was soon leading ‘Group Greetings’ and handing out high-fives, hugs and fist bumps. His eyes lit up when he was given a lump of sloppy, wet clay. He couldn’t wait to get messy!
‘It was absolutely brilliant… He made the funniest shaped cup. He loves showing it off. He’s so proud – telling the story of everything he did’.
Tom will always have allergies, but they are under control and he is learning to live with them. He isn’t embarrassed or afraid anymore. His family have stocked up on clay, and he loves playing with Lego, paint and glitter. You can see his work hanging proudly in the windows at home – a happy reminder of all he has achieved. Thanks to Helium Arts, Tom isn’t the boy with allergies anymore. He has found a way back to being Tom.
‘He’s not afraid to be with other children. He’ll walk up to them, talk to them. He wants to join in. I don’t have the words. It has done so much for his confidence and self-esteem. We are so lucky we met the Helium team’.
*Name has been changed.