Lucy, who goes by the name of Lu, joined Treloar College in September 2014 and is studying textile design through Treloar's partnership with Alton College. Treloar College students are able to study for A levels and attend classes at Alton College, one of the country's top sixth form colleges. Lu hopes to study interior design at university when she finishes her studies at Alton College.
Born with cerebral palsy, Lu uses a wheelchair to get around and has some vocalisation and speech but before coming to Treloar's was very reliant on her family or her carer to communicate what she wanted to say. She is very much your typical intelligent, vivacious teenage girl who now uses her new smart phone to text her friends and her family, whose favourite food is a McDonald's Big Mac and favourite drink is apple and blackcurrant Oasis. She doesn't like fizzy drinks and likes to read murder mysteries. Unlike other teenagers who are attached to their phones 24 hours a day, Lu's phone is her voice.
Before joining Treloar's, Lu communicated via an alphabet board and through family members who understood her. When she arrived at Treloar's, Lu received a smart phone and a bespoke system linked to it was designed by Treloar's Assistive Technology department to help with her communication needs. This has given her the independence to let everyone know what she needs and the ability to communicate directly with others. She sent her first text – her first communication by herself – to her mum. Lu now uses her phone to text and email her friends and family, to access the internet and to help her with her studies. Using her phone to communicate her needs has made life for Lu more effective and less tiring.
Each student when he or she joins Treloar's is assigned a multi-disciplinary team of professionals from the departments which will be involved in that student's care, education or therapy. The team meets on a regular basis to assess whether the student's needs are being met and to coordinate and interlink all aspects. In this case, Lu's therapy team met and worked out how best she could use her phone and, through this team coordination, worked with other departments to make sure it met Lu's academic and physical needs.
Lu describes herself as more of a blue tomboy than a pink girly girl although she takes after her mum in liking to shop. Her new system has given her a pathway to decide what she wants and will enable her to decide and communicate her future needs.