Student Voice: Making friends for life Tom Ellison-Rowbotham (19) is deaf and a student at Communication Specialist College Doncaster. Here, in our next student voice blog, Tom, who is originally from Leeds, reflects on how the college has helped him not only with his education but also with friendships and to prepare him for the future. Before I came to Communication Specialist College Doncaster I was in a deaf unit at a mainstream school but I found learning and communication really hard. I also didn’t have many friends or a social life which made things very difficult for me. My mum found out about this college and I came for a visit and thought it was really good as there were lots of deaf people here. Three years later, here I am! During the week I stay at the college in the residential house and then go home to my family at the weekend. This had given me great independence as I have learnt to cook and generally look after myself. At college, I am really enjoying the practical aspect and particularly getting experience in plastering. I want to do something linked to plastering when I leave so to be able to get a qualification in this area is good for my future. We also do sports sessions, as well as maths and English which I do find hard but I know are important, and we get the chance to do other things like learn about online safety or talk about the news and current affairs. It’s great that the staff can sign as it makes such a difference to my learning. I have full communication with the other students who can also fully sign so I have made lots of friends which I’ve not had the opportunity to do before. I socialise mostly in the evening with my other deaf friends who are residential, and we take part in the activities provided or cook but sometimes I just want to chill after a long day plastering! Coming to this college has not only helped me make friends but also to work out what I want to do in the future. A work experience placement at IKEA really helped too as I enjoyed working in the different departments and with the deaf staff who work there already. It’s good to have a taste of work in the real world. I would definitely recommend Communication Specialist College Doncaster to other young deaf people because not only do they help students get important qualifications, you also get work experience opportunities, and the chance to learn life skills and make friends for life.