Henry arrived at Beechwood College as a day student with diagnoses of Atypical Autism, Schizotypal Disorder and Bipolar Disorder.
Henry struggled with social interaction and although Henry was able to communicate fluently and articulately, he preferred only to communicate with his close family members. This meant he was generally quiet around people he didn’t know very well and would often ignore new people. Henry had a number of sensory dislikes and, at times of high anxiety, was at risk of self- harm and a history of clawing at his eyes, hitting / kicking himself and dropping to the floor.
Previously Henry had attended a mainstream secondary school but this had broken down resulting in Henry spending a long time at home. He had then attended a small independent specialist school with under 20 pupils on roll. Many of Henry’s anxieties were provoked by group situations and activities and he spent the majority of his time in his own small room, interacting with well-known staff members. He would often refuse to attend school completely.
Henry was heavily involved in the decision to come to Beechwood and the subsequent transition process. Despite it being an inevitably anxious time Henry coped very well and settled quickly into Beechwood College as a Day Student.
What did we do to help Henry develop?
Following the initial assessment period, Henry agreed to participate in individual therapy sessions on a fortnightly basis and selected ‘managing his anxiety’ and ‘going out independently’ as his goals. Supported by the clinical team he then developed a hierarchy of steps towards these goals.
Henry completed a psychological assessment of presenting problems e.g. sexual knowledge, social skills, and emotional expression and understanding and was subsequently given guidance on specific emotional support strategies delivered in partnership by clinical and education staff. Examples included mood diaries, daily talk time, ways to build self-esteem, and work contracts.
Henry also used sessions to focus on change and progression in life and making comparisons to his peers and siblings in where he would want to be and how he is taking more responsibility in life e.g. contributing to cooking at home and other household tasks. He displayed greater empathy for others despite this remaining a difficult area for him.
Henry also started to work on using a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Approach to managing anxiety via understanding of his negative thoughts and how these impacted on mood and behaviour. He was able to identify the thinking errors he typically made and link this to his ASC. This work was linked to addressing Henry’s goal of wanting to access the community independently i.e. giving him the coping strategies to do this.
Henry was provided with his own learning space adjacent to the main class area and this helped to him to feel comfortable when engaged in whole class activities in the knowledge he could withdraw if he felt the need to do so and initially Henry did spend a majority of his time in his own space.
What were the Outcomes for Henry?
Henry displayed a good level of attendance (93.5%) in comparison to his previous pattern of attendance at school (67%) and his few absences were related to illness rather lack of engagement.
Henry now attends a local college, completing a level 2 Graphic Design course. This course is not specifically adapted for learners with additional needs. He attends 3 times a week with the support of a Personal Assistant who provides him with consistency and support in what was an unfamiliar environment.
Henry is able to fully participate in classes with a large group of peers and he is doing extremely well with both the level of work and the social aspects of college having reported that he has made several good friends.
Henry’s course attendance has been a huge success and he hopes to use this course as a platform to higher education or employment within the art and design industry. It is thought that as his confidence and familiarity with the course grows, his Personal Assistant will be able to step back enabling Henry to be a more independent and active participant in his local community.