Back in December 2016, I wrote a blog about a young lad I’d met called Ryan from Coventry. He has been diagnosed as having ASD and anxiety. Ryan became my first personal case study for the Independent Support programme. The original case study can be found by clicking here. More recently I received some good news about Ryan’s journey in life, which I would like to share with you now.
To recap, Ryan was about to experience the EHC planning process and fortunately he had the assistance from an Independent Supporter from Coventry Grapevine. This was in 2015 when he was 14 years old. I met Ryan that year in person and was personally inspired by his story and motivations for life. Each year since his first EHC plan was agreed by the local authority, an Independent Supporter from Coventry Grapevine has kept in light touch with Ryan and was on hand to help Ryan and his family when it was time for the Annual Review of his EHC plan.
Ryan has just turned 17 years old and doing rather well! He is currently attending the sixth form at his local school and is working towards a place at college in September. At present Ryan is deeply focussed on achieving his predicted exam grades and preparing for the transition to college. Exam stresses bring complications and increased anxiety for Ryan but he is coping well and at the time of writing this blog has finished almost all his exams, just a poetry exam is now outstanding, which in itself can bring challenges for a young person with ASD.
During the past 12 months, Ryan has completed several work experience placements, which had been included in his EHC plan. This has needed him to step out of his comfort zone by requiring him to; learn to travel independently, meet new people and overcome his own personal barriers arising from his ASD and associated anxieties. Ryan’s achievements include successfully completing his ASDAN (Curriculum Development Organisation and Awarding Body) award and undertaking his Duke of Edinburgh award. Amazing achievement. Amazing stuff!
At the preparation meeting with Ryan for his Annual Review this year, supported once again by an Independent Supporter from Coventry Grapevine, it was agreed with Ryan that although he was making good progress in life, the EHC plan required a few tweaks in Section B regarding his educational needs and corresponding provision in Section F that he will require for college. His plan also needed to reflect that Ryan was now due for an assessment from adult mental health services as he makes the transition from children’s to adult services. The Annual Review has meant that updated information included in his EHC plan has not only informed and outlined his health needs and provision for college, but also serve Ryan and his family in planning the additional support he will need in his community.
Ryan also wanted to update “my views” in Section A, including his aspirations. For example, developing his independence, reducing anxiety and making new friends. These were the things that Ryan felt affected his life when he considered his future and they were all included in the amended EHC plan. Ryan’s Independent Supporter ensured consideration was given to the inclusion of non-educational outcomes as part of his preparation for adulthood, alongside ensuring Ryan’s direct payment was included, thus enabling Ryan to be in control of how this provision would be used. During the Annual Review process, Ryan also shared some great resources to help support “my views” section which will be used to ensure his needs are met effectively in a way he feels most comfortable with.
However, at the preparation meeting it became very clear that the travel training being provided by the local authority was not working well as it only focussed on getting Ryan to and from one of his work placements, rather than working towards getting Ryan to college in the future safely. This was because it involved navigating the busy city centre and buses, which Ryan felt at the present time was a step too far as the distance required to travel was daunting for him. In order to help Ryan feel more comfortable about travelling, Gordon, his journey guide (or personal assistant) focussed on building Ryan’s confidence by taking shorter journeys to places of interest to Ryan, making use of bikes, cars, on foot and buses. It was agreed that Ryan will always take the lead on when and where this takes place. To help Ryan with his anxieties, Gordon planned with Ryan a series of challenges which could have a positive outcome for him. This included developing a series of “summer challenges” together such as Go Karting, going to see a 4D film, joining the gym, and travelling to Milton Keynes to have a go at simulated skydiving.
To summarise, Independent Support has helped Ryan with his EHC planning and has meant Ryan has been able to access his own much-needed effective support over the years. This is support from a person who he feels he knows well and who he can trust and this continuity of support has also meant that trying out new things and setting more challenging goals has become more easily acceptable to Ryan. Ryan now has the understanding and the confidence to apply person centred thinking to his own preparation for adulthood outcomes.
I’m sure you will agree that when it works well, EHC plans for young people approaching adulthood can help them acquire valuable tools for life including decision making skills and an understanding of the accompanying responsibilities. This is particularly important as young people start to develop their own sense of identity and help identify provision they require to not only support their SEN needs but also to ensure support is there to provide the building blocks to help them be the person they want to be. I’m sure there are many more stories like Ryan’s out there and would like to invite others to submit their success stories so they can be shared across the sector.
Ryan will hopefully now feel able to go into future discussions about his EHC plan, not only with new aspirations at the ready but also with the confidence to help develop his own bespoke provision to meet the outcomes that will move him closer to achieving them. It is by enabling and including creative person centred approaches in this manner across services and community, we can start to see the intentions underpinning the SEND reforms coming to life.