A MALTBY woman who suffered from anxiety so severe that she couldn’t take public transport has told of how the Communication Specialist College Doncaster has helped her overcome her fears and live life to the full.

Lara Allen, 19, left school at just 11-years-old after being bullied, and then was home schooled before moving to the college in 2013.

Now, just over three years later, Lara is working for the national charity ‘Sense’, helping people who are deafblind, have sensory impairments or complex needs to live more independent lives.

Lara said: “I suffered from really severe anxiety when I was younger. I was bullied at school and in my early teens I had very low self-esteem.

“When I first arrived at the Communication Specialist College Doncaster, it felt like a relief. I felt accepted for the first time, in a place where it doesn’t matter if you’re a bit different.”

During her time at the college, Lara complemented her studies with vocational classes in hair and beauty, as well as photography and independent living.

The college also provided personal and social development sessions to help build Lara’s confidence in a range of settings, including work experience with Aurora Wellbeing – a network of centres in Doncaster, Mexborough, Worksop and Bassetlaw offering free wellbeing programmes and holistic and beauty treatments for people living with cancer.

Lara added: “It took time, but while I was at the college my confidence really started to improve. Feeling safe and being around people who understood my anxieties made a massive difference and gave me the reassurance that I could step out of my comfort zone and I’d be ok.”

Today, in her role at Sense, Lara says her life has completely changed.

“I used to be so anxious in new situations and travelling by myself was just not possible,” she said.

“However, thanks to the support of the college and the job my time there has helped me secure at Sense, I’ve made a lot of progress.

“There are still times when I feel anxious, but I can now do things that many people take for granted such as taking the bus to work, and for me that’s a huge step forward.

“Before I attended the college I’d not really been around anyone with a disability, but I made so many good friends there and I learnt sign language too. Now, I’m in a career that allows me to give something back and help people who are deafblind, or have sensory impairments or complex needs, to live their lives to the full.”

Suzie Beaumont, work experience coordinator at the Communication Specialist College Doncaster, said: “We’re really proud of Lara and all she’s achieved.

“When Lara joined us in 2013, she had very low self-esteem and self-worth. It was clear to see though that inside, she was a warm, engaged student who truly wanted to be more independent.

“It’s an honour to see how she has flourished during her time at the college, and that she’s going from strength to strength in such a great and compassionate role with Sense.”

Located on Leger Way in Doncaster, the Communications Specialist College Doncaster specialises in meeting the needs of students who are deaf or hearing impaired, or have communication difficulties.