Preparing for life after school
Perhaps the biggest step of all is when your child leaves school. Whether they move on to college, university, work or a training scheme or some kind, the prospect can be another mixture of excitement and anxiety. Some parents have said that they have been particularly anxious about whether funding will be available to ensure that access support continues to be provided.
Here are some things that can make a big difference to a smooth move:
- early planning;
- knowing your rights;
- knowing all the options for access support;
- your son / daughter knowing which access support options are right for them;
- taking the social aspect of a move into account
- knowing where to get help.
Your son or daughter will normally take a lead part in the decision-making process. This can be a hard time for parents; you might want to ensure they have as much independence as possible, but find it difficult to let go.
"Knowing when to stand back was really hard." Parent of FE student
As with all pupils, ideally, they should start thinking about options when they are around 13 to 14 years old. A Future Needs Assessment meeting will normally take place around the time of their 14th birthday.
They will get advice from a careers advisor (and possibly their guidance teacher) to help them to make choices about life after school. They (and you) will continue to get help from a Teacher of the Deaf until they leave school and, as before, the West of Scotland Deaf Children's Society can support your family through the move.
There are also a range of other services which can be of use, including residential courses for deaf school leavers. See Who can help? for details of these.
Knowing your rights
The Disability Discrimination Act covers all the different options which a deaf young person might choose after leaving school. So they should no be discriminated against because of their deafness, no matter what they choose to do. For example, colleges and universities have to make 'reasonable adjustments' to make sure that students are not placed at a 'substantial disadvantage'. Enquire, Skill Scotland, NDCS Scotland and WSDCS can all give advice on the implications of legislation for whatever option your son or daughter chooses. See Who can help? for details.
Access support: knowing the options
Whatever secondary school placement your son or daughter has attended, it is most likely that their post-16 choice will be in a mainstream environment. Some places (eg; James Watt FE College in Greenock or the University of Central Lancashire) have built up a particular reputation for providing services for deaf young people, and have a designated person specifically for guidance and services to deaf students. Ayrshire Hearing Impairment Service can advise on local colleges and universities which have a good record of providing access and support services.
Appendix V shows the ways in which students know what is being said and participate in discussions at college and university. You will also see the different types of access services which can be provided. In work situations, access support options vary depending on the type of work. Again you can get advice from NDCS Scotland and WSDCS.
The more you and your son or daughter understand the options available, the better able you will be to choose what is best for the different situations they will experience.
Access support: which options will work best?
"You know, it really helped knowing everything was in place . . . [notetakers were] organised before the start of the course." University student
Once your son / daughter has begun to narrow down the choices of where they want to go after school, they will need to think about access services that will work best for them in those situations.
These are some of the questions that they could be exploring:
- What services do I need so that I know all that is being said?
- What services will I need so that I know what is written down?
- What services will I need so that I can contribute fully to discussions?
- What services will I need so that I can demonstrate what I know? (eg; if written English is a barrier)
There should always be the opportunity to get an assessment of what access services will be required. This should happen well in advance of the start of the course or placement, and should fully involve your son or daughter as a partner. If they have thought through this list of questions, it will help a lot. If in doubt, get in touch with your Teacher of the Deaf and / or the WSDCS - see Who can help?
Also, students have said that getting the chance to try out different access services has made a huge difference to them. For example, sitting in on a class, lecture or training session and trying to use a notetaker or interpreter.
The level of English required to access a course can be a challenge for some deaf students. A student may be very capable in a subject area but find English comprehension and presentation a challenge. In this case it is important to reduce barriers which are making it difficult for the students to access information and demonstrate their knowledge. For example:
- Ensure that tutors understand and take into account the difference between the level of English and the capability of the student;
- For BSL users, it may be possible to arrange for specialist resources in BSL (see, for example, the following website: www.artsigns.ac.uk) and / or for assignments to be recorded in BSL and transcribed into English;
- It may be possible to arrange for specialist tutorials to develop general English skills and / or specialist course vocabulary.
Colleges, universities and workplaces vary in what they know and how they organise advice and support for young people / students will access requirements. All colleges and universities should have a designated person who provides guidance to disabled students (deaf students are included as disabled). The places which have a reputation for services to deaf students will have a person specifically responsible for guidance and services to deaf students.
Perhaps more than any other stage, it is common that access services will need to be reviewed regularly, as they can change over time for various reasons.
"It's important to recognise that students' own strategies will develop, so support needs change. The student has to be able to move with that, as does the institution." National Association of Tertiary Education for Deaf Students
Again, the more you and your son / daughter know, the better you will know what to ask for. See Who can help?
The social side of college, university or work life is important for all teenagers and young adults. Some deaf ex-pupils report that it actually gets harder to fit in with hearing groups at this stage, where the pace of group chat can be fast and furious and environments can be very deaf-unfriendly.
"When I was young the hearing world was more accessible because hearing children are more open and easier to communicate with. But as you get older it's different." Deaf former pupil
Of course everyone, and every situation, is different and some young people find a way of adapting without feeling particularly isolated. However placements where other deaf young people are around are worth considering, so that the option is there for relaxation with deaf friends as well as hearing ones. The downside is that this might mean travelling a longer distance and limiting choice to what is on offer at those places.
As mentioned earlier, an additional aspect of growing up for some deaf young people can be coming to terms with deafness as part of their identity.
"[at primary school] my identity, if you like, was like a hearing person - and I very much shunned the deafness bit . . . but now, you know, I'm comfortable being deaf . . . so that's changed really. My identity has changed a bit." Deaf former pupil
For this ex-pupil, who has a university degree, being comfortable with being deaf has made a positive difference to her confidence in requesting quality access services.
Who can help? (see Appendix II for contact details)
Ayrshire Hearing Impairment Service
A Teacher of the Deaf from the Ayrshire Hearing Impairment Service will offer support until your son/daughter leaves school. They will attend the Future Needs Assessment meeting and provide follow-up support and information. This can involve a range of services, such as help with application for funding, advice to staff at the new college / university / workplace, etc.
West of Scotland Deaf Children's Society (WSDCS)
Parent Support Workers can give advice on entitlements and provide support before, during and after the move. As before, they can also put you in touch with other parents and ex-pupils who will share their experiences.
The NDCS run conferences for parents on the move from school to college / university or work / training. The Family Officer can give advice on facilities and provide support when arranging courses and access at college or university.
All secondary schools have a designated careers adviser who gives advice to upper secondary pupils, including deaf pupils.
Donaldson's College 15-24 Inclusiveness Project
At the time of writing, Donaldson's College in Edinburgh have a post-16 service, which can be accessed by young people and their families in other parts of Scotland. The support they offer includes careers advice and assessment of access support needs and follow-up once your son or daughter is in their new situation.
Scottish Deaf Association (SDA) School-leaver's Residential
The BDA runs an annual school-leavers' residential weekend course. Applications are accepted from pupils who live in Scotland and the North of England. The course aims to prepare young people for the reality of life after school and is fun as well as informative. Contact the Scottish Deaf Association for more details of this and other relevant courses for young deaf people.
Based in Glasgow, Deaf Connections provides a range of services and a meting place for deaf people of all ages.
Enquire and Equity can be particularly helpful in relation to your legal rights.
Skill Scotland|Skill Scotland provide information for disabled young people and adults in education and employment - particularly relating to rights and funding.
Further reading (see Further reading)
A Parent's guide to special educational needs
A Young Person's guide to special educational needs
Achievements of Deaf Pupils in Scotland website
Enquire website / publications
Funding for disabled learners from Scotland
Scotland: Opportunities at 16 (aimed at disabled school-leavers)