Childhood hasn’t been easy for 10-year-old George Robbie, who has faced more challenges in his short life than most adults.
That’s because he has a severe anxiety disorder, ADHD, autism and Tourette’s. But it wasn’t always like that.
“George was such a happy baby but, as a toddler, I knew something wasn’t right,” says his mum Luana. “When he was six, we got his diagnosis and since he’s got older his autistic traits have become more obvious.”
All that was manageable until tragedy struck.
“In the same year he was officially diagnosed, there was an incredibly damaging incident at school, carried out against George by another student. Since that moment, he’s suffered horribly. He shuts down emotionally and he also struggles to trust others.
“When he was younger, he was much more confident and used to enjoy playing outside. Now with his anxiety and very low self-esteem, he barely leaves the house other than to go to school.”
Things are looking up
School has been tough for George. He’s now doing better and one week in particular changed a lot for him. More on that later.
“He was at his last school for two years but they didn’t understand him and couldn’t manage him, so they’d leave him to his own devices. He’s suffering academically as a result of that.”
Happily, a new teacher and a new school have turned things around for George.
“His new teacher tries so hard and George enjoys going in now. It’s the first school where he’s tried to build friendships and the teachers really try their best.”
School was also responsible for another change in his fortunes.
“There was a week-long bike skills and safety session. I emailed to say George couldn’t ride a bike and warned him that things might get difficult, because he hates new things, but he gave it a crack and essentially picked it up in one day!”
A sense of relief
It was also a huge weight off Luana’s shoulders.
“I used to blame a lot of his anxiety on myself, because I thought I wasn’t parenting right, but seeing him achieve something that I never thought he would do is amazing.”
As a single mum, Luana couldn’t afford to get George a bike to continue with his newfound skills, so she reached out to Satan’s Little Helper – we were only too happy to oblige!
On the right path
“It’s been amazing for him. He’s under the Buddy program and gets picked up every Sunday to go for a ride out around the lake. It’s been a really positive experience and he can’t wait for Sunday to come around!
“He seems so much happier when he comes home after being outdoors and the ride tires him out, so he sleeps a lot better.
“Normally Sundays were very anxious for him, as he knew school was the next day, but after the exercise he sleeps so well. It’s a huge bonus.”
Luana says it’ll also help him socialise.
“We’ve found out that one of the other Big Buddies in Queenstown looks after someone from George’s school that he knows. They also go out biking, so they’re talking about arranging a four-person bike ride and I think that will help get him out more with other people.”