An inspirational story of a former student’s journey to leaving home after college was shared with this year’s crop of students graduating from Henshaws Specialist College in Harrogate at a ceremony on Friday (14 July 2017).
Tessa Simpson, 23, graduated from the college last summer and this year her mother, Kate, shared her story with students as they move on to the next stage of their lives.
Tessa was a day student at Henshaws for three years. She has autism and is generally non-verbal, although she does communicate with a little speech and through the PECS communication system. The discovery of a pituitary tumour when she was 16 led both to surgery and to a range of conditions, including severe visual impairment and diabetes insipidus, where her body cannot regulate intake or output of water, and she is unable to produce thyroxin, oestrogen or adrenaline, all of which impact her health. The tumour also affected her physical development generally.
But now Tessa has left home and is living in an assisted-living shared house with other young people, two miles from her family home in Rawdon. It is a step her family always hoped she would be able to make but couldn’t see how.
Kate feels the independent living skills that Tessa acquired at Henshaws Specialist College played a major part in her successful transition to her new life. She learned how to prepare snacks, go shopping and cope with housework chores, as well as keeping up her interests in swimming, horse riding and cycling.
Kate said: Tessa had seen her older brother go to university and, when her younger brother went too, it became obvious that she also wanted to move on to the next stage of her life. She had learned independence skills at Henshaws and it was very important to us that we found a way for her to keep those skills, which are now proving invaluable in her new life.
It was always a concern to us about what would happen to Tess if we were no longer around, but now we know she is able to cope and she is really enjoying life away from home and I wanted to share her story with other students and their families who are facing similar challenges!
College Principal Angela North said:
We do keep in touch with former students and their families and it is always tremendously exciting to hear such positive news so we are delighted that Kate and Tessa have shared their story. We devise an educational journey that is bespoke to each and every student as we help them be ready for busy and productive life in adulthood, and in feeling less reliant on those around them as far as is possible. That sense of independence can only really be fully appreciated by those affected directly, or indirectly by its development.
This year’s graduation ceremony saw another 13 Henshaws Specialist College students embarking on the next stage of their lives, with two of them going on to supported internships in businesses. They were presented with their certificates by the Mayor of Harrogate, Coun Anne Jones.
There were awards to students for particular achievements as follows:
- The Maxine Foster Award, given to the student who “most embodies the spirit of enthusiasm for life and living”, went to Lauren Allum who was described as giving 100 per cent to everything.
- The audience was told: “She always rises to a challenge and is passionate about working hard and completing a task. She is a very kind, caring and very sociable young lady. Her excitement is infectious and we smile with her every day.”
- The Joshua Rayner Award for the student with a “unique and enthusiastic approach to their learning” was presented to Joshua Hutchinson for his creativity and motivation in the arts, particularly music, which had helped improve his confidence and communication.
- The Jessica Fielding Award for “making a positive impact on others” was won by David Offord, who was described as very supportive of both his peers and staff and always the first to volunteer.
- The Gillian Lawrence Award for “the student who has overcome personal obstacles and been a positive role model for others” went to Jake Vicars who has completed a Supported Internship pilot programme. Jake, who was described as hard working, uses his iPad to communicate and works relentlessly on his communication skills.
- The Association of College Student Enterprise Award was won by a first-year student, Sophie Foster, whose design graced the leavers’ t-shirts.
Students who took part in the Young Enterprise Award and Duke of Edinburgh Awards were also recognised.
More about the Simpson family’s journey to Tessa’s independence can be found at https://www.henshaws.org.uk/blog/one-year-henshaws-college/