Getting in touch
Mhairi is nearly 16 and is really good at Art and drama. She is autistic and attends a mainstream secondary school. Mhairi was told she was not allowed to return to school for a 6th year because of previous absences and behaviour in class. She was referred to My Rights, My Say advocacy by her mum so she could get help to stay on at school.
Listening and building trust
A My Rights, My Say advocacy worker met with Mhairi at home as this was the most comfortable place for her. Over a couple of visits, Mhairi opened up to her advocacy worker. Her absences from school were due to the anxiety she felt around school. Her advocacy worker explained her right to extra support in school and to remain in education until the age of 18 if she wanted to.
Identifying issues and what helps
Mhairi told her advocacy worker that she finds being in school difficult. She finds it hard to cope with crowded corridors, sitting next to other pupils, remembering what to hand in to her different teachers and dealing with break and lunchtime. She feels like some teachers don’t understand her needs. Mhairi feels miserable and anxious at school and this was at the root of her behavioural issues and ongoing absences.
Mhairi wanted to ask for a ‘calm room’ to go to if she began to feel anxious in class, and a time-out card to let teachers know when she needed to go there for a break. She also said she wanted all her teachers to know she was autistic so that they would be able to understand her better.
Sharing Mhairi’s views
With her agreement, the advocacy worker contacted the school and arranged a meeting to share Mhairi’s views with them. Mhairi chose not to attend this meeting but was confident that her advocacy worker would put forward her views to the school.
The advocacy worker met with the deputy head teacher, the head of year and pastoral care teacher to share Mhairi’s views and ask for the additional support she had suggested. The school agreed to let Mhairi return to school and to put in place the changes she had asked for.
Mhairi returned to school. She reported that her teachers provided more support and she was managing to stay in class for longer periods. She hopes to go to college when she leaves school and feels more confident than she did before.