Follow Harry* and his mum in their own words through his final year in school, planning and preparing for his next steps.
*Names have been changed
Getting ready for a landmark year
The story so far…
We’re following Harry in real time through the ups and downs of his transition year. In October the school held a virtual transitions planning meeting, with key actions identified for the start of the new year. Harry has funding until June to employ a PA to work on independent travel and other life skills, but the recruitment process and a delay over disclosure checking mean time is running out to make use of this in the way the family had hoped. He also received a grant from ILF Scotland so the family could arrange their own person centred planning.
January – the start of a new year. What will 2021 hold?
It’s a landmark year for a variety of reasons.
Harry celebrated his 17th birthday in early January – we had been wracking our brains on how to make it special. A visit to his favourite restaurant was out, as was going to the cinema (these feel like distant memories at the moment!). But Harry surprised us by saying he just wanted a quiet, lockdown birthday. He requested a Chinese takeaway with some of his favourite foods, and to watch a film together and play some board games. All very easily achieved. We ordered a cake at his request, shaped like an Xbox controller – so he was delighted!
When lockdown was announced Harry was very philosophical. “We just have to stay indoors – it’s for our safety,” he pronounced.
But like the last time, he has become very reluctant to leave the house even for exercise. The weather isn’t helping of course but it’s a bit of a worry. We have been practising some baking and cooking skills – Harry made some lovely pork pies with minimum instruction – and learned which items of clothes go from the washing machine into the tumble dryer and which get hung up!
Adding to the stress
We have a problem getting the PA we’ve appointed to start work as Disclosure Scotland picked up a mistake on the form, and we’ve been waiting since before Christmas to hear further instructions from them. The PA we’ve chosen has already been disclosure checked for his other jobs, but I don’t want to risk breaking any rules, so for now we don’t have that support. But to be honest I’m also worried to chase it up as I’m officially shielding again and it might be foolish to have another person coming into the house. Anyway, Harry’s social groups aren’t meeting in person at the moment so there isn’t so much of a role for a PA just now.
The prospect of home schooling again was a worry, but there was a lot of reassurance from school that the mental health of the whole family should come first and not to get worried about trying to cram too much work in – just to do what we can, if we can.
They’re using a blended learning model, so 4th years to 6th years are home schooling on Mondays and Tuesdays, and are in school Wednesdays and Thursdays. Harry was quite pleased about this. He returned from his first day back at school proudly carrying a pottery chicken he had been working on before Christmas!
We’ve had problems with school transport, with NO information about who would appear or at what times. Many parents at school had similar issues so we wrote a collective letter of complaint from the Parent Council – some of the issues included turning up to collect the pupil at 7.15 am (!), not getting home until 5.00, crowding pupils on the buses, escorts and drivers not wearing masks, and some buses not turning up at all. A focus group has been suggested to take these points forward to resolve them – a lot of us feel exhausted by the thought of it.
On the planning front, we haven’t heard anything from the person centred planning consultant since November, so I’ll have to follow that up and find out what happens next.
I also haven’t heard yet if Harry will come under the Local Area Coordination team or the Young Adult Disability team when he leaves in the summer – we were told in the autumn we’d hear in January, so that we could start planning next steps. Another thing to chase!
Transition planning with 5 months to go
His transition sessions the school arranged with Mindroom have continued, virtually of course, and Harry is going through a workbook looking at important stages in his life so far, who is important in his life, what his dreams are and what are his nightmares.
So far his responses have been:
Important stages in my life so far: Being born, making friends, starting school, moving house, getting a stepdad
My dreams: Playing Xbox with friends for as long as I want
My nightmares: Having to eat broccoli
There was also a virtual Microsoft Teams meeting with the school careers adviser and it was quite painful.
“What subjects do you like at school Harry?”
(A bit of prompting from me: “You like music, don’t you?”)
Then: “What do you like to do outside school, Harry?”
(Again, prompting from me: “Now that’s not true…”)
I’m not sure if it was the fact he had only met the careers adviser once before, or if he was just totally disengaged with the process.
However, we have a plan – a steps to independence course at college which can be tailored towards individual interests. The careers adviser is putting together an application for Harry and it will go to the college in February.
Harry seemed relieved a plan has been made and now he can get on with day to day life – home learning, going to school and taking part in his Epilepsy Youth Group on Zoom. This week they are making truffles, which he is really looking forward to.
So we’re almost at the end of January, and 5 months to go to leaving. Let’s hope for some better weather and hope the lockdown restrictions ease in due course…
Salvesen Mindroom Centre has created Future Me, My Digital Workbook, a free interactive resource to help young people reflect on their skills and interests, and formulate ideas on what they want next in their lives. It features in our transitions planning webinar Transitions Planning that Works for parents and carers. Click here to watch our webinar or click here to find out more about the resource.