Afonso

Afonso likes sport and in particular football. He is a very keen, enthusiastic and resilient young man with a cheeky sense of humour who is studying GCSE maths and science. He has aspirations to go on to sixth form college. In the longer term Afonso would like to get a job – his career goal is to work managing a football team – and live as independently as possible. Afonso has always had highly complex communication and physical needs as he has cerebral palsy. He uses a manual wheelchair and also a standing frame. He relies on adult support for all his positioning, feeding and care needs.

Prior to joining Treloar School in spring 2014 he attended mainstream schools in his native Portugal. There he was very heavily supported by individuals to make sure his experience was successful but was starting to struggle because of a lack of consistent and specialist support offered by school staff.

With a family move to the UK came the opportunity for Afonso to come and study at Treloar's. When he first arrived he was able to communicate by answering yes/no questions and by using a colour coded alphabet card with 1:1 support. As Portuguese is his native language, listening and answering in English added to his communication difficulties. He expressed the opinion of wanting to stay in a mainstream school and seriously missed his friends back in Portugal but, with the support of his family and the resources and specialist care offered by Treloar's, over the past year Afonso has thrived. He is learning at the correct pace for his superb abilities and is surrounded by professionals who understand and challenge him to do his best.

In the past his communication was limited to answering yes/no questions through a system of raising his foot or leg for 'yes' and closing his eyes for 'no'. This worked very reliably but it meant people needed to monitor his foot carefully when talking to him rather than being able to focus on his face. Treloar's has provided Afonso with a footswitch and eye gaze technology to help him unlock his abilities and allow those interacting with him to engage with him in a new way. A buzzer/LED light has also been added to his footswitch which helps him signal 'yes' or 'no' but also to gain people's attention. His family and friends can now look him in the eye rather than having to watch his feet or legs when talking to him. Something so simple has changed how others interact with him and has re-engaged him with the world around him.

With the significant support of the Treloar's therapies team, Afonso has been able to come out of his shell and connect with others. Treloar's has not only provided an environment to interact with others in English but has also made sure he continues to communicate in Portuguese. His equipment is set up to work bilingually and a Portuguese speaking Student Support Assistant works directly with him several times a week. Like most young people, Afonso likes to use social media to communicate with his former classmates in Portugal. He is a very social young man who is popular amongst staff and fellow students.

At a recent review with his local authority to ascertain his progress since coming to Treloar's, Afonso described himself as 'smart and happy'. Through determination and hard work, combined with the specialist therapy and technology support which Treloar's specialises in, Afonso has settled well and has made huge strides forward with the ability to communicate and express himself and is now very clear in terms of his aspirations for the future.