Pathways to College – Working in Partnership
We work in partnership and support our learners in their college course, enabling them to fully access vocational learning and experience social opportunities outside of school. Providing extra support for young people with autism and other learning disabilities within a wider context of further education gives all those involved the opportunity to see what further education can do for them and continues to keep the doors of further education firmly open.
In preparation for 6th Form and FE college, we support each learner in Year 11; the year before they move to the 6th Form Centre, every step of the way. This will include attending taster sessions, opportunities to visit local colleges and support with travel to and from their place of study. Our learning and work skills coaches are skilled in reducing the inevitable anxiety that our learners feel when facing such a big transition. We use a wide range of support strategies to ease this transition including the use of visual timetables, social stories and social skills groups facilitated by our speech and language and psychology teams.
Pathways to employment
Only 15% of those with an autism spectrum disorder are currently in employment and around 7% with a learning disability in the UK are in any form of employment.
With this in mind, creating pathways to employment is a crucial part of a college education for young people with an autism spectrum disorder. Finding opportunities for learners to gain work experience in the local area can be a hard task, but the opportunities for learning that it provides are crucial to personal development. Travelling to the workplace, interacting with people within the community and having a sense of responsibility are all essential skills for learners and move beyond the work place.
Securing employment is very important for many of our learners and can give them a real sense of purpose and community inclusion ready for leaving our 6th Form Centre. We have a strong emphasis on developing employment skills. All learners have the opportunity to undertake work experience linked to their college course.
Our aim is to educate not just the learners but the employers too. We support the employers in their understanding of what it is to have an autism spectrum disorder, how they can best help learners in the work place and to see the learners skills and be creative in finding solutions to possible barriers.
We know that our learners have key strengths that employers hold in high regard. The list below is not exhaustive but can show a potential employer some of their strengths:
- Visual thinking strengths
- Systematic information processing
- Precise technical abilities
- Attention to detail
- Good attendance
- A disinterest in ‘office politics’.
Support for Families
College can seem like a challenging prospect to not only the learner but to their parents and carers alike. It can be difficult to tell how they will react to the change in routine and structure. We understand this and ensure we have a carefully planned transition processes in place. We also ensure that we prepare for them leaving our 6th Form Centre and college, so we plan for their transition out of college from day one. This gives clear goals, guarantees and positive outcomes, all of which are equally important.
Underpinning everything we do is good communication with parents/carers. We have strong links between the 6th Form Centre, college, transition officers, parents/ carers and local authorities at all times. Making the time to meet and speak with each other can be difficult with heavy workloads, but we understand just how vital they are within our learner centred approach.
A Positive Transition
Providing extra support for young people with an autism spectrum disorder in their further educational journey gives all those involved the opportunity to see just what our learners can achieve. Having our learners interact with the other college students is an important next step towards including them into the wider community offering the opportunity for typical learners to experience individuals with autism, perhaps for the first time. This can be an attitude-changing event where they see they have similar aspirations and ambitions to their own. This is where our learners can enrich the lives of others in the wider world and in return, make life easier moving forwards for those with complex needs – a key benefit of reverse inclusion!
Providing further education for learners with the most complex needs can enable them to move towards their goals of independence, employment, better health and community inclusion. Key skills are embedded into our specialised curriculum. Whilst the curriculum can look different, the aim of this kind of college education is the same as any other – to prepare our learners for adulthood in a meaningful way.
Creating pathways to employment is a crucial part of college education for our learners. Finding opportunities for learners to gain work experience in the local area is crucial to personal development.
6th Form and college combined can be the first step to living an ordinary life in a local community, maximising their chances of success. With this exciting partnership in place, we are able to create a greater number of improved opportunities for all of our learners across the full autism spectrum.