Jane* has an autism spectrum condition.
When she joined Brookways School, Jane was increasingly withdrawing from everyone around her, often not speaking at all. As a complete school refuser, the youngster – still primary school age – had been out of education for months. Her family were at their wits end and really didn’t know where to turn.
In the space of six months, things couldn’t be more different for Jane and her family. In their words, they have been taken from the “depths of despair” to the “highest mountain tops”. Jane presented at the most recent school assembly – this is a young person who has truly found her voice.
Her mother says she has noticed a real positive change in her social and emotional well-being saying: “It’s just small steps, but the difference in her is just amazing”.
They are starting to see her “happy, smiling – enjoying school and learning again”. The little girl is socialising and building friendships and her Mum says “feeling more in control of her thoughts and feelings”.
She said: “She is learning how to express herself in a calm and safe way. This is because she is safe and has started to trust her teachers and her surroundings.
“I truly believe Brookways brings out the best in our daughter. Our hopes and dreams for an independent future don’t seem so unrealistic now.”
So, how has this transformation come about? Brookways Headteacher Melanie Whitfield explains more;
“One of the things we are very good at here at Brookways is getting these young people into school and then, slowly but surely, they start to participate in school life. And that gets them coming again and again.
“Sometimes that involves outreach at home – we go to visit the young person and their family and they get to know us and more importantly, we get to know them. We understand more about their interests, their likes and their dislikes.
“When they come to Brookways, we don’t try to fit them into the school day, we fit their individual school day around them. So, if the most they can tolerate at first is an hour, maybe even sitting with their learning support assistant or their teacher in the school’s reception at first, then that’s fine. We build from that and we celebrate every positive, every small achievement.
“It works. The child becomes more at ease, and in the case of Jane, it wasn’t long before she was working alongside her peers and wanting to contribute to school life.
“It takes careful planning, consideration and transition to make these journeys successful for the young person and they have to take much of the credit for their own successes. It’s their determination and resolve that gets them where they want to be – we’re just there to give them the tools and methods that may help.
“In Jane’s case, we couldn’t be prouder of her positive journey so far. She’s come a long way in a short time and we’re so positive about what she can continue to achieve.”