A Warwickshire teenager is using her experiences in living with autism to help teachers and school staff further their knowledge and understanding of the condition.
Jenna is 14 and a pupil at Arc School Old Arley, a specialist school which supports young people with social, emotional and mental health difficulties and autism spectrum conditions. She moved to the school after finding that her previous mainstream school could not meet her needs. As a result of her experiences in mainstream, the teenager had become very introverted and was not attending school.
Her mother Julie explained: “Jenna was not happy at her previous school, she had gone in on herself, she wasn’t attending and we were very worried about her. Since she has joined Arc School Old Arley, she has completely changed. She is talking, joking and is a totally different child.
“It is absolutely amazing. She is comfortable with the staff and trusts them all, which is so important. What’s brilliant is she really wants to go to school. All I wanted for her was an education in an environment which met her needs, which is what she has now.
“Before there just wasn’t the supervision or support that Jenna needs, the teachers had 30 plus kids in each class. She couldn’t cope with the noise and the other kids soon realised what they could do to push her buttons.
“Her brother is a student at Arc School Ansley, so we knew the Arc Schools could support children with additional needs really well.”
Jenna has been using her experiences and knowledge to help teachers and other staff at Old Arley understand what school and education is like from the perspective of a young person with an autism spectrum condition through a training session she has devised and delivered herself.
Head Teacher at the school Victoria Bates said: “It has been fantastic to see Jenna blossom and increase in confidence. Her training session was extremely valuable and the staff learned a great deal from it. We’re now hoping to take it “on the road” so Jenna can deliver the training further afield to help more and more people understand aspects of autism, education and life from a young person’s point of view.
“Her input forms part of the induction process for new staff and it is extremely rewarding both for Jenna and for the team.”
Julie added: “Jenna very much enjoys the training. It really shows how much calmer and happier she is that she is confident enough to deliver the training and it gives her a real sense of pride.”