Ready to face the real world

23rd February 2001 at 00:00
Sandy is full of plans. He has passed his driving test, set up his own website and started a full-time Higher National Certificate computing course. He has his sights set on a university degree and after that he wants to start his own computer business. He also wants time to travel and visit friends.

A friendly and enthusiastic 19-year-old, even Sandy finds it hard to believe how much he has changed since he first came to Stevenson. Three years ago the boy from special school took the long way to lectures because he was afraid of the busiest corridors and most crowded stairways. Years of bullying had taught him where to expect trouble and to treat everyone as a potential threat.

"There are quite a few improvements in my life," he says. "College has made me more confident."

He is happy to talk about the difference support has made to him, laughing as he remembers how nervous he was when he arrived at Stevenson on day release from school.

"The first thing I noticed was the corridors. I always looked out for crowds. I took the long way to lectures because I never went in lifts and I spent lunchtime in the library because I was afraid to go to the canteen. I didn't know how to fill the long gap between lectures and I ended up reading a lot of books."

andy went to special school because he has Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism which can make it difficult to form social relationships. Academically more able than most other pupils there, he was aware of being different and became a target for bullying.

At the age of 16 he was ready for intellectual challenge but quite unprepared to cope with the social life of college. Sandy's story illustrates the value of establishing close links between school and college.

Through Support Plus Sandy began by taking Scotvec modules in computing, maths and physics, with his school providing academic support while Stevenson staff handled any social problems which emerged at college.

At first a member of support staff accompanied Sandy on his way to lectures. In weekly counselling sessions he discussed his worries with her and worked out how to cope with them.

"That was fantastic. It helped me get through the first year, and then sometime during the second year I realised that my fears were no longer holding me back."

From short courses he progressed to a full-time NC course with continuing staff support. Now with a part-time job, a full-time HNC and a growing social life, Sandy no longer needs support but he drops in when he can to say hello.


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