Jack is a very social 19 year old who likes making friends and hugely enjoys action and challenges such as riding his bike, swimming, riding horses and playing the guitar and keyboard. He is great at letting people know how he is feeling through his body language, facial expressions and gestures, however this relies on a familiar person’s insight into his non-verbal communication. He has always attended an independent school which could cater for his very complex needs so when his parents were looking for Jack to start at college in September 2014, they carefully considered the options open to him. One of those was Treloar College.

Jack’s parents chose Treloar’s because they found here the ability of staff to adapt to each individual’s circumstance and needs plus a willingness to do something different if needed to support that student. Working with Jack before he joined challenged the College to rethink its admissions process from recruitment to the assessment of students. Traditionally, each potential student visits the College with their parent/carer and is assessed both with their parent/carer present and by themselves. They are also invited to spend the night in residential accommodation to get an overall feel of the campus environment.

In Jack’s case, the first visit was very successful in that Jack interacted with his assessors whilst facilitated by his established carers. The second visit was not as successful. Jack was now on his own, in an unfamiliar environment and out of his all-important routine. Although the staff around him were qualified, experienced and exceptionally kind, they were not as familiar with Jack’s specific non-verbal communication and sensory behaviours therefore Jack was unable to show the staff what he was capable of. As a result, his mum Sue felt that the only way the staff could get a true picture of Jack was to assess him in his own environment and she suggested they do this. She was delighted that the senior management team at Treloar’s were willing to significantly revise their traditional model of assessment and arrange for a multi-disciplinary team from the College to visit Jack at his school in Wales. They observed and assessed him in his own environment thereby gaining an understanding from the staff there of what was possible and how to work with him to help him function and learn.

Since coming to Treloar’s, a bespoke curriculum has been designed to meet Jack’s needs which maximises his ability to learn. Treloar’s uses a multi-disciplinary team approach with its students. In Jack’s case, the team work holistically with him to develop a suitable programme and all members have a significant role to play. The speech therapist, physiotherapist, occupational therapist and class and house staff all work toward an agreed 24 hour curriculum to make things work for Jack’s benefit. Familiar and embedded routines have been established to make him feel comfortable, including playing music he likes at the start of his sessions and the use of objects of reference to provide cues for transition to different activities. All of this assists in preparing Jack to be in the best possible ‘zone’ for learning.

Jack settled very quickly in his residential accommodation, Wessex House, and, with the staff supporting him, he is able to socialise with a wider range of peers and is developing his social skills. Here, he is given the opportunity to experience different areas of independent living e.g. cooking, cleaning, washing etc. with support from staff. His major achievement since arriving at Treloar’s is that he is now able to self-feed using a brilliant device called a Neater Eater. Hitherto, it was never imagined that he would be able to eat by himself. He is quite rightly, really proud of himself and also of the fact that he was awarded a special certificate of achievement for this by the Principal.

Jack’s parents feel that his first year at Treloar’s has been a huge success in terms of his overall progress and best of all - he is very happy here.