Join us as we 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.
Over the summer…
Harry took lockdown seriously and hasn’t been keen to go out. The family has found school supportive, with weekly emails focusing on wellbeing and mental health. As well as maintaining online versions of his normal social activities through Scouts and an Epilepsy Scotland youth group, Harry took part in two online art projects over the summer holidays through Universities and Museums in Scotland (UMIS) and Impact Arts, producing animated films and taking part in an online exhibition and celebration along with more than 100 young people across Scotland. He was excited but nervous about returning to school after 5 months off.
My son Harry is going into 6th year at his ASN school, which he’s attended since he was 11.
His main concern about going back was worrying about the new first years: “Mum, how are we going to look after them? If they are in their bubble and we are in ours? We’ll never see them”. I dropped his guidance teacher an email and she rang and had a chat with Harry to reassure him that although it wasn’t quite ‘back to normal’, the first years would be looked after and the staff would think of ways to allow some kind of socially distanced interaction – in the playground maybe? – which seemed to put his mind at rest.
Harry’s nervous because he knows this is his last year at school and like it or not, some big decisions will need to be made this year about his future.
He’s not entirely sure what he wants to do – and that’s perfectly understandable and OK.
The only option that’s off the table as his mum is sitting at home on the XBox, 24/7! Harry thinks this would be a great life – especially if it involved having takeaway for dinner every night too – but even he realises this is not ‘real life’.
Transition so far has consisted of a meeting at school which the Transition Team were not available to attend (when my son was in 5th year!) and a booklet provided by the local authority. The only other information I have is through leaflets I picked up at a conference and a few other events last year, so obviously due to COVID what’s on offer now is going to look quite different.
I had a frank conversation with Harry’s guidance teacher last year about being totally realistic as to what his future could look like. Was I aiming too high to think he could maybe attend college and hopefully get a wee supported employment job in the future? She said Harry has quite a spikey profile, he’s not consistently low enough to need a day service but it’s a bit borderline to have the independence skills to manage other options. Being able to self travel will be a lot of the key to what he can and can’t do.
It’s a bit of a worry.
Earlier in the year, before lockdown, we visited the local further education college and looked into Access to Continuing Education courses that are focused specifically for learners with additional support needs so we do have a bit of an idea what is potentially on offer if Harry chooses to go down the college route. The big thing at the moment is he isn’t quite able to self-travel (yet), and of course coronavirus has got in the way of what would have been ideal practice time for that skill too!
At the conference where I picked up the leaflets, there were lots of different agencies plus speakers and stalls. The Independent Living Fund had a stall there and I was explaining I didn’t know what my son really wanted to do so they told me about the planning grant to pay for a person centred planning session. (You can find out more about this here: https://ilf.scot/transition-fund/person-centred-planning-grant/)
I thought that would be a good place to start, and especially as things that might usually have been on the agenda may not be accessible owing to lockdown. I don’t quite know what to expect but I’m hoping both of us will get a realistic idea of what my son’s opinions and options will be. The first session takes place tomorrow, very excited about it!
So the first few weeks of 6th year have passed by quick as a flash. Harry loves having his own desk: “It’s got my name on it!”, and having one of his best friends in his class is a big bonus too. However he isn’t enjoying the fact they are in the same classroom all day (including lunch) and only leave to use the bathroom or go to the playground or out for PE.
The teachers are moving round the school to the pupils instead of the other way round, as a COVID precaution. Harry thinks this is a bit unfair – I think it’s because he secretly quite liked dawdling between classes … and certainly at the start of 5th year he still had a bad habit of ‘pretending’ to be lost – especially on his way to maths! He may have a learning disability but he certainly knows what he likes and what he doesn’t!
Let’s see what September brings …