Josh attended our STEPS to 16 programme for four terms because he was struggling in mainstream school. He went on to an apprenticeship in childcare which he has now completed. He is still working at a day nursery and hopes to gain more qualifications in the future.
Josh tells his own story.
I have autism. I also have dyslexia. My school couldn’t cope. School couldn’t grab my interest. They weren’t encouraging me and I ended up misbehaving a lot.
The problem is that I find it hard to concentrate. I easily drift off into my own little world. I need a lot of one to one attention with someone reminding me to focus. That’s just how I am.
I would disrupt the class, make bizarre noises. I would do what I could to get attention. The time that stands out was in a science class when I got up on the table and started dancing.
I had a lot of suspensions, which meant I was off for a week at a time, and then I often just didn’t go to school. I would pretend to be ill or just stay in bed. My attendance got very low.If I didn’t go to school, I would sleep my days away because I didn’t know what else to do. I would get very low thoughts, suicidal thoughts because I was so depressed.
I had one person in the school whose job was student support. She suggested a few things and STEPS was one of them. I thought I would give it a go and I went along for the little taster day.
I came home beaming. I was very certain straightaway that I wanted to go there. I started at STEPS in my final term in year 10 and stayed there until the end of year 11.
It was the right environment for me. I do well in small groups. I could get the one to one attention with people to remind me to get back focused on my work.
I worked very hard. I just thought I understand this work, it’s been explained to me right and I’d sit down and do it. I would do extra work. Everyone could work at their own level so I could work on higher papers.
People at STEPS were very understanding. I did muck about from time to time. I would mean it as a joke but if it went too far, the staff would tell me that and I would accept it.
You are treated very adultly there. I responded a lot better to being treated as an adult. There was very much a mutual respect between staff and students.
If one of the students was having a bad day and upset a member of staff, the other students would often say, ‘why were you like that, why did you say that’.
When I first came to STEPS I wanted to be an actor (Josh has been involved in amateur dramatics) but I realised that was unlikely and I ought to look at other options. One of the leaders at STEPS who knew I had volunteered at cubs (Josh’s mum is a cub leader) suggested I might enjoy childcare.
I have been working at a local nursery and I have completed my NVQ level 1 and 2. I would need a year’s practical experience and then I could look at level 3.
If I carry on, I could qualify as an early years teacher and if I go on to Level 6 I would be qualified as a junior years teacher.
I think it is good to have an ambitious long-term goal and that is to qualify as a teacher and work as a Special Needs Co-ordinator. I had some really good special needs co-ordinators who helped me through, so they have inspired me.
I am also realistic enough to see that I might not get that far , but even if I only get part of the way, that would still be a great achievement.
I feel pretty confident about the future now. STEPS really helped to turn things around for me/
Josh’s mum Funia says:
The actual figures for Josh’s attendance were: in his last year at school 2%; In his first term at STEPS it was 100%. Over his whole time at STEPS it was 98%. I would say as a parent STEPS was the best thing that could have happened to him. I really thought ht was heading for drugs and prison.