About writing gyms

A writing gym is a mental workout to get words out onto the page. Participants are set a series of random writing tasks and over short period of time text and narratives will emerge.

Part of The University of Warwick and Coventry University working with cultural organisations leading upto Coventry City of Culture 2021, in June and July 2018 two writing gyms were organised for parents of children with autism, led by an award winning writer Chris O’Connell from Theatre Absolute.

The aim was to provide parents of children with autism the opportunity to come together and through art and drama, voice and express the emotional and social challenges that they face and overcome .

The research

Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience very high levels of stress, depression, anxiety and isolation which have a negative impact on their health, quality of life and ability to care for their children. Coventry & Warwickshire has the highest rate of pre-school and school age children diagnosed with autism outside of London.

Our self-management intervention called the Hope Programme empowers parents of children with ASD to manage their health and well-being. 300 parents in Coventry and Warwickshire have attended the Hope Programme and validated outcome measures have shown that many parents have reduced depression, anxiety and increased positive mental well-being, gratitude and hope.

The findings

We used the SHORT WARWICK-EDINBURGH MENTAL WELL-BEING SCALE to evaluate change in the parents’ positive mental wellbeing after attending the Writing Gyms. There was a meaningful change, the biggest improvements were parents feeling more relaxed ( 30% change), more optimistic (17% change) and thinking more clearly (12% change).

I have disabilities as well as my child and I find it really hard to be sociable. So when I can write and do arts it helps organise my feelings.

Contributions shared by the parents, thank you