After an acquired brain injury led to job losses and relationship breakdowns Mick is now finding a brighter future through helping others.

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A brighter future through helping others

Mick competed in martial arts at a very high level. It caused an acquired brain injury which resulted in memory lapses that led to job losses, relationship breakdowns, stress, anxiety and being formally diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in his 40s.

Mick was referred to Framework’s Brighter Futures service in Nottinghamshire which supports people with learning disabilities, Asperger’s or brain injuries to maintain their independence. He was soon doing what he does best – helping others – getting up early to support one of the other learners travelling to the Survival Skills for the Home sessions which form part of Framework’s Skills Plus programme.

Mick joined the sessions in September 2019 and quickly integrated into the group, enjoying being with people and building his confidence.

With the Covid lockdown in March 2020, Skills Plus trainer Kevin Rookes quickly realised the urgent need to support learners’ wellbeing and Zoom sessions were the answer.  Once again Mick supported his peers despite sky high anxiety levels, revealing impressive IT expertise to help others load Zoom and access the meetings.

Mick says: “I wouldn’t have got through without the Zoom sessions which were fun and we still continued to learn new skills.”  The sessions focused on practical activities such as cooking, measuring and weighing, dates on food, understanding Smart meters and basic DIY.

Mick remained positive at the start of lockdown, encouraging others to see this as an opportunity to learn some skills or try new hobbies, however after a few weeks Kevin noticed Mick was not caring for himself. Thankfully he continued to attend the Zoom sessions and interaction with others lifted his spirits.

With Skills Plus sessions continuing on Zoom, early 2021 saw the distribution of tablets to Brighter Futures learners who were digitally excluded and Mick also helped this process: he signed up to the LearnMyWay website to understand the training being offered to these new IT learners. Mick presented his findings to about 25 Brighter Futures support staff in a Zoom team meeting – a daunting task for someone with high levels of anxiety. However Mick’s enjoyment of learning and his passion to help shone through and staff were able to explain the LearnMyWay training programme in a more informed way.

Skills Plus face-to-face sessions restarted in June 2021 and Mick, like many others, was apprehensive however he enjoyed the sessions and rekindled friendships. The whole group has continued to benefit from Mick’s wealth of experience – explaining how apps work, identifying scams, promoting virus protection and online safety. This practical use of IT has been very beneficial for learners with limited IT skills or who were previously digitally excluded.

Mick is still working with Brighter Futures to improve his housing situation but the issue of digital exclusion highlighted during the pandemic has opened a new door for him to express his twin passions for IT and helping others. He is now applying to become an official Framework volunteer and progressing to the role of Digital Champion.

Kevin Rookes concludes: “Not many positive things have come out of the pandemic but seeing Mick become a Framework Digital Champion would be one of them.  He has the skills and passion to help new learners navigate a difficult and even scary digital world to make their lives more productive and rewarding, and this greatly increases his confidence and self-esteem. I am most grateful to him and wish him well.”