My name is Al, I am a 26-year-old student.
I’ll be sharing with you my education journey, firstly, the academic support I have had and secondly, how I have dealt with social situations throughout school/college.
During the different stages of my education, the level of support I have received has changed.
This has not always been a bad thing, for example, during my early years in secondary school, I used to have a one-to-one TA (Teaching Assistant) in lessons.
The TA would put things in the correct format in advance of lessons having received the materials from the teachers. This differed from teacher to teacher as some were more on the ball when it came to providing learning materials than others.
My maths teacher was very keen to learn about what could be used to make things such as diagrams tactile for me, as I am fully blind. My teacher met with my TAs in the VI resource unit and looked at how the machines and other adaptive equipment could be used to support my learning.
When I got to the mid/higher stages of secondary school i.e. years 9 and 10 onwards, I found that I didn’t always need support as I was mingling with people in my classes without any problems and could independently get to class. As a result of this, there were only a few lessons in which I needed support such as Maths and Science.
When it came to lessons such as English, I was able to demonstrate that I could cope on my own due to having my texts already given to me in braille plus having a laptop with JAWS installed
In primary school, I was in the playground a lot with a small amount of adult supervision however, I still felt included in making friends and playing all the games kids played in the playground.
When I started my first year of secondary school, I spent a small number of months indoors during break times as the headmaster felt that it may be unsafe for me in the playground. I felt that this was not suitable for me as I much preferred the playground environment. I spoke up about this and raised the point with my teachers that I wanted to be with my classmates as they were people I had made connections with.
When I got to college, I went to a specialist sixth form for the blind and I noticed the difference (good and bad) in the environment I was in. I found it difficult adapting to a specialist college because although others like me were blind, I always felt that there was a bit of competition which I did not experience in mainstream education.
There were some good things about going to a blind college such as having a sense of community, as there weren’t many of us and, the educational staff being aware of our individual needs due to having smaller classes.
University life was definitely a change however, It didn’t take long for me to adapt back into mainstream education having been in bigger crowds throughout most of my education journey. One of the big lessons I quickly learnt is that I needed to be more assertive so that lecturers would know what support I required and how to make adaptions where possible.
Over coming challenges when transitioning into Sixth Form or College.
One of the biggest challenges I faced when attending a specialist college is how small the community was both socially and academically. This was quite stressful as everyone knew what you were up to, also, it meant I couldn’t be silly in class!
A second challenge was the increased level of independence plus A-levels being a big jump.
One of the ways I overcame the challenge of a small community/bubble was through making friends and going with the flow, but also participating in activities where I could meet like-minded people with similar interests.
I brushed up on my independence skills such as getting organised with folders for each of my subjects so that I felt more confident in my ability to manage things on my own.
One thing I learnt emotionally from my challenges is that there was nothing wrong with admitting that I was slightly lost at times and that I needed help every now and again.
This mindset helped me at uni as I was able to be more proactive when it came to all the adjustments I needed from academic staff and the disability and access team.
Al was part of our 16+ Transitioning to Further Education social media take-over and live Q&A with LOOK mentors and education specialist.
To listen to our live Q&A session click on the video below:
We’d like to thank all of our mentors and guests who gave up their time to share their stories.