The Shirlie Project – Mathew’s story

Mathew is a young lad who has Autism and who attends Nairn Academy. He engaged in the Bigger Picture programme with the Shirlie Project and this is his story.

I attend school at Nairn Academy and like all other young people I was being asked what did I want to do when I left school. All I knew that I wanted to do was to work at Cap Gemini to earn money to pay for the practical things in life such as bills etc. but my dream was to be a writer. I had written short stories which I rarely let people read and I had no Idea if they were any good or not. I met my job coach Jemma from the Shirlie Project and she talked a lot to me about my dreams and aspirations and a programme called The Bigger Picture. I didn’t know really what that meant, but Jemma was nice and I was happy to spend time with her.   We always went out of school to talk and we did fun stuff such as 10 pin bowling. Jemma introduced me to Moniach Mhor which is a creative writing centre north of Inverness. At first we just went for visit but I really liked the place. The people were creative, knowledgeable and interested in my writing and I let them read my stuff. They liked it which was great. I had my I-Plan and lots of people attended. Actions such as spending more time at Moniach Mhor, attending creative writing courses and how I get there and becoming a peer mentor were identified and my friends and family were happy to support me. In the summer I attend a residential course which meant I could focus solely on my writing. I have learned so much. I am much more confident in my writing ability and am attending a sci-fi writing course at the end of the year. A few months on I write a blog and am studying for my Highers at school. I leave next summer but the future is something I am now really looking forward to and I am so glad I took part in the Bigger Picture programme.

Mathew is an example of what is being achieved through the Bigger Picture programme. The Shirlie Project have engaged with all schools in the Highlands and have worked with 120 young people throughout the last 3 years who were on the Autistic Spectrum and who were in transition from school. Transition means different things to different people and for Mathew his dream of becoming a writer was what is important to him. For other it can be becoming more engaged in the community or supporting them with introductions to college or the workplace. Mathew was a joy to work with and not only are we are proud of his progress his teacher at school is over the moon.

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