17 February 2021
Venture Arts Public Engagement Assistant, Amber Okpa-Stother, is a crucial member of the Venture Arts team, advocating for people with learning disabilities and representing Venture Arts by doing public talks. Being autistic herself she talks passionately about the need to celebrate difference and recognise the many great things people with learning disabilities can contribute.    Unable to carry out her role as she normally would over the past year, Amber has thrown herself in to a number of activities and has supported our artists at home through her bi-monthly e-newsletter, 'Hello', sharing stories and interviews and keeping our artists connected to one another while our studio is closed.   She has been a hugely positive influence at the organisation throughout this difficult time and as such has written a blog post listing her top tips for maintaining wellbeing during the pandemic.     Hello, my name is Amber. In this blog I am going to be giving you tips and advice of things you can do which might be helpful for you to do at home while we are in lockdown. Amber leaning against a banister smiling at the camera.

1. Cooking

Doing some baking is a good distraction. You get to see the finished result of what you have baked and also you get to try a delicious cake out that you have baked. You can find recipes online. Learning new recipes to cook is a new skill, which you could try out at home and you can treat your family with what you have learnt to cook.  I am also holding a virtual baking challenge for the 'Warm-hearts Winter Challenge' for Venture Arts as I have been getting into baking so wanted to create a fun challenge that I would enjoy and everyone else would too.  

2. Exercise

One suggestion that you could do to keep active is maybe you can try and bounce on a trampoline. You could try doing runs - this might really help your mental health if you go running and also walking. Going on cycle rides is a good way to explore new places and keep active. You could go along to simply cycling which has accessible bikes and is something fun for you to enjoy.  

 3. Video Calling

To stop you from missing your family and friends you could FaceTime them and maybe you could set up Zooms to do with them. Doing this will mean you are still able to interact with your family and catch up with them about what they have been up to.    

4. Relaxation Activities

Doing arts and crafts and mindfulness colouring books really helps as it means that you can keep busy and get focused on something and it takes your mind off being stressed. Doing jigsaws can also really help as it means you can focus on something when you do them you can focus your mind on them. Listening to music really does help for people as well as it is a good distraction.  All these creative things are a good way to relax and focus on something you want to achieve. I also started doing yoga in the second lockdown, which has really helped me to forget about my worries and makes me feel relaxed. Yoga is something you can try at home which you can do by watching videos online, and it might help you to feel the same as me and relax.  

5. A New Skill

I have been learning sign language in lockdown and this has been fun to do. I have really enjoyed it. I think that learning sign language will help me communicate with people who are deaf and I think that this skill will be really useful for me to have. I can have fun as well teaching it to other people.    

6. Social Sessions

One thing which has really helped me during lockdown is doing all the social sessions that Venture Arts run, such as the disco, the social group on a Tuesday and Wednesday. This has really helped me during lockdown as I have got to still see my friends over Zoom, which I would not have done if it were not for Venture Arts.    

7. Having A Routine

Writing down a routine of what you can do each day might help as it means you know what you are doing when, and it means that you can look forward to doing your favourite things each week. Changing a routine can be hard but when you develop a new one it means you are flexible, which is a good skill to have. I write a schedule each week for work and I find that this helps me a lot as I know what work I have to do when.     Amber's approach has made a huge difference to how someone with autism has dealt with the challenges the past year has brought. Her tips are of course great advice for anyone, learning disabled or not! Thanks Amber - we look forward to sampling your new baking skills once the studio reopens. 
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