I now know the meaning of a ‘red letter day’. On Monday we got an offer for Harry of a residential placement at our (and his) first choice college. I was unable to open the letter straightaway; instead I had to make myself a coffee in preparation. When I read the words, “I am pleased to be able to offer Harry a residential placement…” I felt tears spring to my eyes. This was what we had been waiting four weeks to hear.
Attached to the letter were a further four pages: one was a summary of their pre-assessment report. Another was a more detailed assessment of Harry’s numeracy and literacy both of which indicate that he is working at a Pre-Entry Level. The remaining pages give an outline of the programme of learning on offer and a provisional weekly timetable, both of which fill me with hope and delight that they will provide Harry with a fulfilling and meaningful time at college.
I realise that I am jumping the gun somewhat in setting so much store by this offer. And that I probably shouldn’t even be blogging about it. But I intended this blog to be ‘warts and all’. So, if, ultimately, Harry doesn’t get this place those who have read the blog will have a sense of what he has missed out on.
The offer letter makes it clear that funding approval is yet to be granted (and is something we will not receive confirmation of until May 2013) and mentions a fee banding of F. I managed to find out that that indicated annual fees of £42,000 which is an extraordinary amount of money. However, I have to remain optimistic that the Local Authority will approve funding, especially since there is no provision for Harry locally.
So, forgive me if I wax on about the offer but I find it interesting in that it is so specific. They have obviously spent the last four weeks working out an individual programme for Harry which is:
- The development of Functional and Key skills, which will be integrated throughout his curriculum (his curriculum!)
- A general programme of vocational education with access to external accreditation
- An Independent Living Skills programme to enable him to achieve the maximum independence possible for post-college life (be still my beating heart…)
- A Personal Development programme to encourage him to acquire the skills for citizenship and support in forming relationships with his peers (something which Harry desperately needs)
- Teaching matched to his identified preferred learning style (verbal instruction in a practical setting)
- Leisure activities which will include out of college trips, supported use of public transport to access local facilities and a wide range of sporting options and clubs, plus a full programme of College entertainment during evenings and weekends (sounds too good to be true doesn’t it?)
This last element is not perceived by LAs to be of importance. When applying for college places we have been advised not to mention extra-curricular activities as a reason for applying. But it is absolutely vital that our children can have access to a social life, especially during this formative years of late teens going into early twenties. When a neurotypical child goes to university one of the key reasons for going (whether parents like it or not) is to experience the social life of a student. Why shouldn’t our autistic children have the same opportunities?
The offer letter goes on to detail Harry’s support requirements as follows:
- Specialist teaching and enabler for 28hrs/week (1:4)
- Structured programme of residential learning – 3hrs of 1:1 equivalent
- Social, creative and leisure activities – 1hr of 1:1 equivalent
- Support with personal care and activities of daily living at approximately 1:7 making 7.85hrs of 1:1 equivalent per week
- Medical Centre support 0.4hrs of 1:1 equivalent per week
- Immediate access to counselling support 0.2hrs of 1:1 equivalent per week
- Immediate intervention for emotional support 0.2hrs of 1:1 equivalent per week
- Speech & language therapy 0.25hrs of 1:1 equivalent per week (this is the only area I have a slight quibble with, it doesn’t seem very much)
- At the end of the first term the College Assessment Tutor will prepare and forward a Baseline Assessment Report
- Guidance by the College Assessment Tutor to develop his Individual Learning Goals
- A first year review meeting to discuss his Individual Learning Programme and progress
- A three-weekly 1:1 Personal Tutorial to review his progress and support needs
- A Transition Review meeting in the first or second term of his third year to plan his post-college opportunities
In summary the college will provide 13.5hrs of 1:1 teaching equivalent and 8.9hrs of 1:1 care and therapy equivalent.
Finally, the college attached what it refers to as a ‘pro-forma timetable’ showing that if he went, Harry would be doing, e.g. Breakfast Life Skills on a Friday morning from 8.15am till 10am, a Vocational Course leading towards Skills for Working Life with Speech and Language Therapy integrates on Monday afternoons and Community Access 1:3 on Friday afternoons.
I can’t tell you how happy that single page makes me. His days will be filled from 9am till 5pm with meaningful learning, extra-curricular activities he loves and opportunities for integration. At this very moment my cup is much more than half-full; it is overflowing. And I’m going to savour it for some time to come.