Life After Freemantles
We encourage families to keep in touch when their young people move on from Freemantles, so that we can hear how they are getting on. Below are some updates received from parents or ex-students.
Ben left our school last year at the end of Year 13. He moved on to Brooklands College and is doing really well. He had been at our school since he was in Reception so has made great progress. This is an update from his parents:
Ben is doing so well, we never stop being proud of him. College is really pleased with the way he is doing, his confidence has grown so much, hopefully Level 1 next year.
Ben was luckily enough to get his work experience placement at Chelsea after meeting with the disability officer who looks after the foundation in Cobham. They have not done any work experience with the foundation or special needs as far as we are aware and so it was all new to them.
He was keen to ensure Ben got something from the experience and was not just making the tea for groundsmen or stuffing envelopes in a marketing department. he put the word out to see which departments could help and the head of the Chelsea TV business unit at Stamford Bridge said that they have something that might just fit.
They met him and us at Cobham Training Ground in the new year and explained the role. They are digitalising (on a new web based system) past football games filmed by Chelsea TV across the first team, ladies and academy since 2002 so for one day a week he analyses the matches and logs anything that might happen in the match: free-kick, red card, goal etc. What a perfect job for Ben. He even gets insights into club news that he would not be privy to for a while as a fan so he is very excited about that.
He has a mentor for any problems and they are slowly integrating him socially into the team (taking him for lunch etc), they have also seen an improvement in his confidence. We were informed that they are even going to pay him for the work experience which is amazing, getting paid to watch his beloved Chelsea FC. We had no idea that this would happen and we are so pleased for him.
He started middle of March and just this week he has travelled the whole journey independently there and back on his own to Stamford Bridge (Train to Wimbledon and then underground to Fulham Broadway). He may need us to ensure he gets that first train to Wimbledon for a few more weeks but he is almost doing it all himself.
We are hopeful that they will continue to need his support after the initial 3 Months or maybe identify other projects across the club that he could help with to continue his experience.
Max spent his entire school life at Freemantles, from four to seventeen. During that time he experienced 3 headteachers, 2 school sites, many wonderful teachers and assistants, respite at Ruth House, countless taxi drivers and more challenges than I can recall. Freemantles knew Max, and Max loved Freemantles. Leaving Freemantles was hard, there were sleepless nights, tears and tantrums, and that was just me!
Max has a love of acting and dreams of being a voiceover actor. With this in mind I battled, argued, bullied and cajoled Surrey into funding the space he had been offered at Orpheus, a residential creative arts college in Godstone. Due to these extended battles Max only had 3 days notice that he was starting there. It was a huge change in his life, with almost no prep time at all. It wasn't easy on any of us, Max was now in his own studio flat, he had to plan his weekly shop, take care of his own hygiene, sort out all his meals, fortunately he had support to help cook his evening meal. This side of Orpheus he really enjoyed. The college side was more difficult, they are not autistically aware, they didn't understand his anxieties. Much of what they did was very abstract and, worst of all, they changed the plot of stories Max knew, and then wondered why he didn't want to be in the show anymore. But we made it through two years, learning lots on the way.
Then came another huge decision. What was Max going to do now? He was quite adamant that he didn't want to come live back at home, which was amazing. My life goal for Max had always been that he would be as independent as possible, and here he was claiming that independence. With help from the Surrey transition team and the housing team at his college we began looking at supported living facilities in and around Camberley. Some were fabulous, but full. Some were just not right for Max. Then we found a new programme by Leonard Cheshire in Farnham. Max was the first to move in, he has a small one bed flat in a larger house, where 5 other young adults now also live. They all use a communal kitchen and laundry room. There is also a communal lounge. Focus is on independence. Some use Post 19, some use Bells Peace, Max is applying for volunteer work. He does all his own shopping independently. He walks to the library, he is learning to catch the bus to other local towns. He is incredibly happy. Yes it was scary leaving the security of Freemantles, but everything he learnt there helped him get to where he is now. Sure he has his wobbles, some support staff are less autistic aware, but life never goes smoothly for anyone, so Max is just the same as the rest of us. Leaving Freemantles was difficult, but there is life after Freemantles and it's great.
Charlie left Freemantles School in 2017 and enrolled with Post 19 in Farnham for 4 days a week. Post 19 provides assisted learning and support services for Young Adults with special needs and provides transport to/from their 2 bases by support workers. Charlie enjoys a range of activities including art & design work with Enterprise 19 (a self-funding graphic design project), basketball and football at Surrey Sports Park and various outings. On Mondays & Tuesdays he also attends after-hours 10-Pin Bowling and Lego clubs provided by Post 19. On Wednesdays, Charlie has a work placement at the NHS Offices in Guildford accompanied by a support worker where he helps design some of their marketing literature and particularly enjoys using the shredding machine ! During the school holiday periods, they also provide a number of supervised day trips to Zoos, Water parks, Trampolining, Bowling etc. and a week in Centerparcs in June. Charlie continues to live at home with his parents, although he is about to trial overnight residential stays at Mallow House in Guildford initially for one night a week. Charlie enjoys travelling and goes on skiing holidays with his father and brother and family holidays in the Summer. He is a season ticket holder at Harlequins and really enjoys the match day experience. Transition to adult services can be a daunting prospect, but Charlie continues to enjoy a wide range of activities and experiences and leads an active and fulfilling life.
Christopher is now 21. He is a valued and much loved member of our family. We are really proud of him. Since he left Freemantles he has been on a two year residential (38 week) placement at St Piers College (Young Epilepsy). He has thrived within the college setting and made much progress academically, particularly with his speech. He now communicates with us using his mobile phone, sending frequent text messages to us. Christopher is an extremely practical young man and has had the opportunity to further his skills within the large horticultural area and farm on site. He can now relax whilst doing Yoga and is accessing a local gym. Support staff in college are amazing. They “get” him and his autism. This year, he has been offsite, one day a week at a local college, learning woodwork and painting. On the residential side, he lives in a house with 7 young men. The mix of young people and needs within the house continues to challenge him. He is supported by incredibly caring staff. This element of his placement has surpassed our expectations. He goes out daily after college, with a member of staff, accessing local towns; walking, by bus and train, shopping for food for the house and snacks! He is supported with domestic tasks in the house and goes on various age appropriate outings at the weekends, frequently to London. He is the fittest he has ever been. He comes home every 3rd weekend and for hols. Leaving Freemantles was a massive step and the transition was difficult, but we are certain we found the right provision for him. Finding the right setting is very difficult, but you will know it when you find it. Christopher will be leaving YE this year, moving to an individual, supported living flat in Camberley.
We have had some challenges with LEA and funding! Late decisions being made by people who have never seen Christopher (prior to leaving Freemantles). Letters confirming LEA decisions arriving during holiday periods (Easter) when family life is very busy and when there is no support available by support organisations. We have had exactly the same issues during both years at YE, resulting in uncertainty and considerable stress for our whole family. It has been really sad to observe the impact this has had on our other 2 sons at a time when they are challenged themselves, with A Levels and University exams.
Seeing him develop semi-independent living skills, and seeing other staff grow to know him (and enjoy him) as well we do and as staff did at Freemantles has been a high point.
We have great hope that by working closely with his new providers, Christopher will settle in to his new flat and lead a meaningful, happy life and be as independent as he can possibly be.
We continue to be amazed by how much he remembers from when he was a little boy and non-verbal. He frequently talks about members of staff and outings he went on, whilst at Freemantles!