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A story about a learner with complex communication needs and their transition from college, UK

My name is Rebecca or Bex as I prefer to be called and I am on a three year programme at the National Star College, where I follow an individualised programme to meet my needs and reach my potential. I have physical difficulties, as I have Cerebral Palsy and use an attendant supported electric wheelchair, although I am learning to drive with the assistance of head switch controls.

Although I have complex communication needs, I have full comprehension, but I struggle to use expressive language. I have never had speech and had never been taught how to use language before coming to college. All of which deterred me from communicating.

I use an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device with head switches and eye gaze technology with grid software to help me communicate; along with low technology systems, such as talking mats, i point book and eye pointing at someone’s hands to answer yes and no to closed questions.

I have been working in my last year towards planning my own transition from college; however advice and guidance regarding transition (NSC Transition model) began in the first year, with settling into living away from home and experiencing new activities.

Within my second year this developed further where I attended Transition workshops and 1:1 meetings with the Careers Adviser and Transition Officer, to gain an insight into what options would be available to me. I also experienced more activities including work experience on campus within the student shop and trips into the community. All of which helped with my overall motivation to learn to communicate more expressively.

In my final year through methods such as communication being modelled (staff will select and navigate through pages on the communicator to show where and what language can be used in response to certain situations) to me by college staff. Another strategy has been ‘Talking mats’ (a pictorial method of communication around a particular subject, conducted by the college’s Talk 2 team) to help me with my concerns around transition and ensure that I am making consistent decisions.

I was able to say what I wanted to do when I left college at my formal review (Education, Health & Care Plan review) with the local authority who fund my place at National Star College and who will look to fund my future plans.

I want to study more to continue to improve my communication further at another specialist communication college in my home area. The college I wish to move on to has a peer group which are of a similar cognitive level and use various strategies to communicate.

I have decided that I want to move back home in the short term but will look to move into supported living accommodation in the future.

Having the framework of the transition model at college has helped guide me, together with the assistance of Speech and Language support and the support of the Behaviour and Well-being team, known as Talk2, to make these decisions about what I want after I leave NSC.

Written by

Neil Beck
Assistive Technology Assessor
National Star