I want to share with you that whilst on a visit to Coventry this week to meet one of our excellent Independent Support providers called 'Grapevine Coventry and Warwickshire' - I was lucky to meet Ryan, a young 14 year old boy who wanted to tell me all about his EHC plan.
With little prompting, Ryan told me that he worked closely with his Independent Supporter to write his own EHC plan and that the aspirations in his plan has been very much his own ideas. One of Ryan's aspirations in his plan was to have a personal assistant (PA) and with support - Ryan was led the interviewing process, coming up with questions and scored candidates on their answers. He told me the PA now recruited to help him scored the highest and was simply brilliant. Although he supported the wrong football team - he actually got the job partly because he supported the RIGHT team!
Ryan told me about some of his other aspirations in his EHC plan. For example, last December he wanted to go on a train for the first time to visit a German Christmas market in Birmingham. So his aspiration was added to his EHC plan. Then with support Ryan learnt how to work out his travel arrangements from home to Birmingham and learnt coping skills to travel safely in crowds. The outcome was that Ryan fulfilled this aspiration and travelled on a train for the very first time with his friends. He told me he had a wonderful night out at the market and now feels more confident being in large crowds. Ryan wants to travel more in the year ahead and said he has London in his sights next!
At the meeting we also discussed with Ryan what he might like to do when he finishes school. Ryan said he might want to design computer games - so it was agreed with Ryan that this aspiration would be added to his EHC plan and then with support of his mother, PA and Keyworker - they would all help him look into this. One idea we discussed with Ryan was seeking a work experience opportunity at the Serious Games Institute, which happens to be based at Coventry University's Technology Park. Ryan was excited and enthusiastic about this suggestion and promised to let me know how it all goes for him.
I'm sharing my experience with you here because it is these types of special moments that remind you why we do what we do. It demonstrates why an EHC plan should be seen as a 'living' document and not one to be put on the shelf once it's completed.
As we know, children grow and with that their aspirations change and develop. Before we know it children soon become bright young adults with their own ideas and dreams and that is something to be encouraged. This is also a good reminder of the importance of person-centred learning and the trust that is needed between professionals and families. Trust that often takes time to nurture and develop. Finally I think this helps to demonstrate the importance of Section 19 and why it's so important that people have a voice and can make informed choices - which in time hopefully leads to better life chances for all involved.
You can visit the future guides film which shows Ryan and his PA working together, which in itself is truly inspirational.