J L, Weston College with HMP Leyhill
J L’s Inspirational Story
My name is J and I have Aspergers. I am a family man and I am happiest when I am at home. I have two boys aged eight and nine years old. I have had no formal education. When I was at primary school I used to continually press the fire alarms as I liked the fire engines coming to the school. I was asked to leave at twelve years old. I therefore have no formal education or certifications. When I was clinically diagnosed with autism the psychiatrist stated that I would never achieve any qualifications; I would never progress above an entry 1 qualification.
I started my education at forty-four years old in prison. I took this path as I thought there is more to life than crime and I want to be at home to support my sons with their homework. I want to improve my English and maths for everyday life. I want to be able to read and understand everyday forms, like application forms. I want to be able to read and understand rules, so that it will bring my anxiety down. It will give me a better quality of life.
I have lots of challenges in regards to education. If I could identify my biggest obstacle it would be smells. Certain smells triggers certain memories, so it can make me feel very anxious. They changed the cleaning materials used in education which reminded me of a hospital, so that made me very anxious. Smells have a very big effect on how I feel. There aren’t any wheels, or anything with circular movement in education, so that isn’t very good. It was difficult to meet new teachers and hard to accept that a favourite teacher, Debbie, had left. It is a busy department and that made me feel very anxious. I had to force myself to come through the door. Underlying all of this is the ultimate fear of failure.
If it wasn’t for my teacher, Chloe, and the education manager, Dan, I would have not entered the education building. They understand me, they have encouraged me to keep going when I have wanted to give up. They have changed the teaching, so that I can receive one to one support and teaching. They made learning enjoyable for the first time ever!
I have completed an entry 3 Functional Skills qualification in English. This consists of three components; reading, writing and speaking and listening. This is two grades higher than what the psychiatrists initially said I was capable of achieving. I am also studying maths at Level 1. I currently work in reception. My duties include, escorting people to their rooms with their belongings, filling out property cards, logging down valuables, box numbers and prisoner numbers. I wouldn’t have been able to do these tasks before I started education. I wouldn’t have been able to fill in the forms correctly before I learnt this in English. Education also gave me the confidence to talk to new people, as we practiced this in education as part of the speaking and listening exam. I have visited the library for the first time ever. I would have never achieved the confidence to walk through the library doors. I now enjoy reading, I can get knowledge and it helps your brain. Before I never really understood why people read. I also write letters home, something I have never done before. My progression has since resulted in my psychiatrist re-assessing me and re diagnosing me with high functioning Asperger’s. I was initially diagnosed with low functioning Asperger’s.
It is going to help me help my sons, in particular Jack. I have now changed my view on schools and understand that it is a good thing for Jack to get a good education. I can now help Jack with his homework and feel confident to go into his school. I will also go into Jimmy’s school and support him with his educational journey. I won’t be so anxious when I have to fill in a form at the doctors or bank. I now have these skills, so I won’t feel so anxious.
I would say to others who are reluctant to engage in education to come and see Chloe and Dan. It isn’t as scary as you think! Education can open up a lot of avenues and make you feel more confident. You should always try it and see how it goes. For people like me, first impressions are crucial, the first meeting has to go well. From then things can go better.
Weston College with HMP Services
Weston College deliver learning and skills to thousands of offenders in prisons across the South West, and immigration centres. The teams focus on providing outstanding delivery to learners, to help them with their learning and raising aspirations whilst also ensuring that the education provided meets the needs of the learners and employers.