About us Young people's stories From risky behaviour to getting into university By Luke Wilson-Reid, Engagement Worker on West of England Works A year ago, when I first met Brady, he had struggled with education as a result of his difficulty focusing and with social interactions, associated with his Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). He aspired to go to university, but attempt to apply through UCAS the year before were put on hold as they struggled to manage their impulsive behaviour. I was struggling, feeling panicked, about moving on with my life. Brady felt anxious about being able to complete this application process and was also worried about developing the life skills to support his independent living while at university. As part of this, he wanted support to get a part-time job to allow him the opportunity to learn new skills and gain experience, which would put him in good stead for university and future aspirations to travel the world. Brady was also experiencing considerable anxiety around their struggles with impulsivity and was worried about taking impulsive actions that could have a detrimental impact, affecting a university application or getting him in trouble with the police. Luke helped me to understand what professional relationships look like. Through our work together, I was able to support Brady completing their UCAS application, including taking some time to narrow down subject choice and writing out the personal statement. We mapped out their skills and experiences; what he loved about the subject, and examined model personal statements to create a success criteria. Using this plan, Brady was able to draft personal statements in our sessions, receiving feedback to redraft and complete a final copy ready to submit. With the incredible amount of hard work and dedication that Brady put into resitting his exams and completing his personal statement, he was able to secure offers from universities; at this point our focus moved to the supporting applications and meetings, including Student Finance and Disabled Students’ Allowance, ensuring that Brady had all of the relevant documents and supporting evidence, and meetings with the university disability and wellbeing teams to ensure that support was in place to allow him to succeed at university, especially during the initial transition period. Throughout this time, Brady was still struggling with his impulsivity and decision making. Liaising with the council, specialist agencies and the police, I was able to ensure that all agencies supporting him were up-to-date with events and that further support could be put in place to aid Brady. As part of this, I advocated for him during Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP) meetings and Safeguarding reviews to ensure that Brady’s voice was heard in discussions around his support, including making sure that Brady was aware of his rights when the EHCP support ceased. Weekly check-ins helped me to keep safe mentally and not to get into trouble and helped me cope with feelings and hurtful thoughts. A lot of my support for Brady involved making sure that I was available for him to discuss his impulsivity and try to help him to learn from these events. Often, Brady would tell me of a situation while still in the moment and so it was essential to take a calm, decisive approach to ensure his safety and notify the relevant parties. After these events, Brady would often find it beneficial to discuss what had happened together to help him to process his experiences and I was able to support him to do so. Often these discussions would center on legitimate means of making money, and through the job skills support that I was able to offer, I was able to empower him to think critically about opportunities to earn money and avoid putting himself in vulnerable, often dangerous, situations. Throughout this time, I worked closely with Leading Lights, who were also supporting Brady with life skills and decision making to keep him safe. I feel better than this time last year; I feel confident and hopeful about my future now. I’ve been able to adapt my skills and can cope now with careful decision making. Brady has been able to start university and is connected with the university’s support services, having named individuals to reach out to when feeling overwhelmed, and Brady has already been able to access this support during his first few weeks at university to help him with the social aspect of starting university life. Through our time together, B has developed an increased awareness of the benefit of reaching out to professionals for support and an increased appreciation of telling the truth to these professionals so that appropriate support and advice can be given. With this support, Brady has been able to complete university assignments to deadlines and is looking ahead positively to his future. Support offered by West of England Works, an exciting partnership which aims to help unemployed and economically inactive people in the West of England find employment. The project is part of the Building Better Opportunities programme, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and the European Social Fund. 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