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The art of learning: Zach’s experience at Sheffield Children’s

8 year old Zach in his room with Thomas the tank engine
31 July 2019

This is Zach – he’s been rather busy with the teachers here at Sheffield Children’s; they’ve built his favourite train Thomas the tank engine!

Zach, who is eight-years-old and has autism, is in hospital for his neurodisability and intestinal failure. He is currently on ‘total parenteral nutrition’ (TPN) to get all of his daily nutritional requirements, instead of eating or drinking.

A love for art

Zach, 8 and therapy dog keegan

As well as receiving treatment, Zach has found a passion for a new hobby while staying at Sheffield Children’s.

His mum, Tricy said: “Zach’s teachers have discovered that he loves painting because they tailor their sessions for him. They’ve got him doing more activities than he ever did at school.”

One of Zach’s masterpieces was inspired by meeting with a new furry friend; Keegan the therapy dog. The two met for the first time in May as part of the weekly Therapy Dog Nationwide visits at the hospital. Keegan’s portrait is now on the wall in Zach’s room!

Zachs artwork of Keegan the dog

Treatment at Sheffield Children’s

Zach has been exploring his new art since he came to Sheffield Children’s in February and is now being looked after by a number of teams including a palliative care specialist.

Tricy said: “Since palliative care have been involved, Zach has been in less pain and it’s meant he can enjoy doing things much more – he’s an outdoorsy type and likes going to Western Park. Zach has communication difficulties but he always manages to get his point across!

“We’ve been coming to Sheffield Children’s since Zach was 18 months old. Since then we’ve been in the care of the specialist Gastroenterology, Neurology and Ophthalmology among others.”

Visiting Sheffield Children’s with autism

As Zach and Tricy have been coming here for a number of years, they’ve got some first-hand experience of how the hospital can care for a patient with autism.

Tricy said: “If you’re coming to an appointment, let them know first that you’ll need to use the autism-friendly room and they can accommodate you.

“It’s a quiet calm space so there’s no screen in that room to let you know when your appointment comes up, so a staff member on the hub will come and get you when it’s your turn. It’s much better because you’re taking a calm child in to an appointment and both of you will get much more out of it.”

While on the ward, staff will help replicate Zach’s sensory room at home and bring things such as a yoga ball into his room to help with his sensory needs.

Sheffield Children’s provides bespoke support for children with autism and their families when they come to the Trust. Teams at the hospital can work closely with the child and family before and during a visit to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as they can when they come for an appointment. Families can speak to

Zach’s love for art has been sparked by the Becton School teachers, who are Sheffield Children’s very own school who support patients across the Trust to keep learning while in hospital. We can’t wait to see more artwork Zach!

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