Thursday 10th August 2017
College student smashes Asperger Syndrome barriers
John Leggott College student Emily Midwinter has overcome the hurdles of a late Asperger Syndrome diagnosis, coupled with mental and emotional difficulties, to realise her dream of studying at University.
After three years of personalised support from the Learning Support team, Emily is embarking on a degree in Media Production: Journalism at York St. John University. For a student who started college with low confidence and communication skills, Emily is virtually unrecognisable from when she first walked through its doors.
Elaine Jowett, Learning Support Assistant at John Leggott College, said:
“Emily struggled at school and found it difficult to communicate with staff. Her parents were very concerned about her transition to college, but our team assured them we would do everything to help with her transition, progression, confidence and independence.
We tried different ways of communicating with Emily, initially through email but then through 1-1 meetings, encouraging and securing her trust in us until she became a regular visitor to our office! Her ability to communicate flourished, but going to University was a very scary prospect for her, and something she didn’t believe she would achieve.
We were confident that a third year at John Leggott College would make a huge difference, and we weren’t wrong! Emily absolutely blossomed, and progressed so well that she realised her dream when she received offers from York St. John University!
Not only have we supported Emily in ways that suited her learning styles, we have also supported her parents, enabling them to access our team at any time. Their hopes were for Emily to learn communication strategies to help her move forward positively, and after initial concerns that Emily wouldn’t progress in college, they are immensely proud of her success.
Emily is a credit to herself, her parents and to John Leggott College. Her successes have been down to her determination to achieve, and as a team we are extremely proud to have been a part of Emily’s and her parents’ journey.”
For Emily’s parents, Steve and Lyn Midwinter, her diagnosis was a “relief” because it enabled them to take positive action:
“Emily received her Asperger Syndrome diagnosis just as she was about to start at College. In many ways it was a relief, because it explained many of the problems she had experienced and gave us something to approach and try to support. We met the Learning Support team at an Open Evening and found out more about the support they offer – seeing short films of their success stories gave us hope.
Emily started college with high levels of anxiety, and along the way she has experienced debilitating OCD, intrusive thoughts and depression. It has been a slow and difficult process at times, as Asperger Syndrome can be such a difficult and ever-changing condition, but we are now at the end of the College journey and Emily is about to start University!
The Learning Support team has helped Emily immeasurably, including organising her work, arranging extra exam time and smaller rooms, 1-1 sessions or just being there for her to pop in and say hello. They have always been approachable, supportive, thoughtful and caring and have kept up a good level of communication with us as parents. Emily did well in her subjects and is a different, more confident young lady to the Emily who started three years ago – we’ll never be able to thank them enough.”
Emily studied A Levels in English Literature, Media Studies and Law at John Leggott College, using her new-found confidence and learning skills to navigate the workload and secure her University offers. Although mental health difficulties and dealing with her Asperger Syndrome diagnosis meant that Emily faced huge challenges during her time at College, her ability to overcome these is testament to her determination and commitment to succeed.
“Unlike many other people who fall on the Autism spectrum, I was diagnosed late at the age of 16. Everything finally made sense and I was no longer just “that strange, shy girl”. I began to work with the Learning Support team early in my first year at college, and for a substantial period of time my mental health had severely plummeted. Knowing that I could turn to any member of the Learning Support team was a great comfort to me. They were easily approachable and just listened, even if I had trouble articulating what I wanted to say.
I am in a much better position with regards to my mental health and that after receiving two unconditional offers from York St. John University, I have chosen to study Media Production: Journalism. Having the LSA team available to me at college has proven to be invaluable and they have helped me with a number of issues, from college work to personal problems. I don’t believe I would be in the position I’m in today without their help, and I would recommend them to anyone who feels that they need extra support as they begin their college journey.”