Parent voice: Offering an environment for brilliant communication skills

Beth (20) who lives in Rotherham and has Down syndrome is a student at Communication Specialist College Doncaster. In our latest parent voice blog, Sally, Beth’s mum, chats about the support the college has offered Beth.

Beth is learning a different range of subjects at Communication Specialist College Doncaster, from art and life skills to literacy and numeracy. After looking at the provision three times and taking part in a number of taster sessions, we felt the college was the best place, with a good reputation and Beth really liked it. There was no provision like that in Rotherham. Communication Specialist College Doncaster was the only place that could meet her needs.

Beth’s speech can be quite broken, but there is a lot of support at Doncaster. Beth gets regular speech therapy and smile therapy, [and the College has] specialists in their field. She has come on massively and with smile therapy, students get a one-to-one specialist and go through all the different emotions how they’re feeling. Beth’s confidence in her speech has come on so much and she now has the confidence to speak when she’s out of her comfort zone, which can be challenging. It’s a combination of staff being both really good and positive, and pushing Beth to make sure she’s doing the best she can.

It’s a shame about the pandemic, but the College has been really supportive on Zoom and Teams every day. The restraints [that have happened] have a big impact going forward, as they were meant to be doing work experience this year. People with Downs syndrome are on the clinically vulnerable list which means Beth and the family have had to shield - including our 13-year-old son. It’s been tricky for him as it’s meant no football or friends.

But we can’t speak highly enough of Communication Specialist College Doncaster and how supportive the team has been. They have been fantastic, especially in the pandemic with finding different ways of working and they have made the best of a bad situation, sending packs out to everyone. It can’t replicate being at college, but they have supported students as best they can.

We’re now in the process of Beth hopefully having a third year at the College and we need to provide evidence that Beth will benefit from a third year. We’re hoping to get enough funding. It will be her final year at Doncaster giving her the skills she needs to move forward to the next stage.