We recently attended the Transition Event, which was a fantastic day bringing together experts, practitioners, organisations and families to explore the world of transition, and its key issues. With topics covering legislation on Special Educational Needs (SEN), benefits and finances, housing, education and employment, the day was packed with fascinating speakers and vital information.
Our Assistant Director for Social Care, Caroline Bennett chaired the event and opened the day with a warm welcome and set the scene for the event. Highlighting the incredible work which has been undertaken since the legislative reforms of 2014.
First up was Patrick Samuel who gave an emotive and powerful talk about his experiences of using art therapy. Patrick has Asperger’s syndrome, and spoke in detail about his previous experiences, and how he found solace, inspiration and self-expression through his art. Patrick spoke whilst displaying a wide range of images from his growing collection, which were fantastic. One image showed a shadowy figure flying in front of Egyptian pyramids and Patrick explained that he finds travelling difficult, yet the ability to paint different places is very freeing. Another great image was of Chase, his assistance dog, wearing different coloured sunglasses (I have since discovered that Chase also has his own Twitter account: @ChasetheMal). You can follow Patrick here: @aspieartist.
Emma Waldron, a barrister from 3PB barristers gave a detailed and interesting talk on the SEN Regime, and the progress over the last four years of regulatory changes. There have been some significant challenges in implementing such massive cultural, legal and practice changes, but we are on a journey to improve the experiences of children, young people and families across the country.
Our Catherine Goodall then spoke on Navigating Transition, and what the experience of transition is like for young people and families. Catherine discussed the key principle of transition, that all young people are entitled to fulfilling adult lives with good outcomes, and the ways in which families and practitioners can support them. Everyone needs support to grow and develop into adulthood, and whilst most of us get enough support from our families, communities and universal services (schools, GPs etc.), some young people will need additional or specialist help. Making sure we help young people to develop decision making skills and confidence is a crucial part of this process, which is why we developed a Decision Making Toolkit to support this.
Dr Claire Bates from Supported Loving and Gillian Leno, PSHE Lead for Queen Alexandra College gave an excellent workshop on Sex and Relationships, and how young people should be supported to have loving relationships. They showed a beautiful video made by Channel Four which focused on the lives of adults in supported living, and in particular the relationship between David and Adeline, two residents who are in a relationship. Once the support workers realised that David and Adeline were a couple, they adapted their support to help their relationship flourish, such as helping them to prepare a romantic dinner each week, and holding a big wedding celebration.
The main takeaway from the session for me was the importance of honest, open, stigma free conversation about love, sex and all forms of relationships for children and young people. Arming young people with a strong understanding of their own body, their rights and responsibilities in relation to those around them is really important, and has a positive impact far beyond their sex education lessons.
Mark Capper from Mencap gave a very informative talk about how businesses are involved in developing more opportunities for young people. There are a range of options open to young people with SEND, including supported internships, traineeships apprenticeships.
Caroline closed by summing up the key messages of the day. A fulfilling adult life involves far more than just education, employment or health care. Supported by legislation and practice guidance, we can all work together to effectively plan for and provide support to young people, to help them flourish as adults.
You can find out more about the event here.