Eileen talks about her son Nathan's pathway from school to a supported traineeship at Manchester Town Hall.
Nathan is 22 and lives at home with me and his younger brother, Jake. He is described as happy-go-lucky, kind, friendly and helpful - he is confident in talking to people and loves a challenge! Nathan is great company and knowledgeable about lots of things.
Nathan loves his Xbox and DVDs and his social life is important to him; he has some friends that he has known for many years. He goes out with one particular friend, often on a Saturday, to have a bite to eat and watch a film. He is a happy young man.
Nathan went to a special school and as he was getting older I didn't know a lot about what was available to him and he didn't meet the criteria for some activities that may have interested him. Some people suggested a day centre but I felt very strongly that this wasn't right for Nathan.
So, Nathan went to Openshaw College after finishing school. We were getting by and mostly finding out about things through word of mouth.
Then, Nathan had a person-centred review at college as part of the Getting a Life work in Manchester. It took into consideration Nathan as a person. Bev, my friend who is a volunteer worker at Talbot House and who is also a parent, supported me at the review and Anna, the local authority person-centred planning co-ordinator, ran it with Nathan. I felt involved and it was great to hear other people say how well Nathan was doing. College was nearly at an end and I could ask about what was next for Nathan. We asked about traineeships and were told that Nathan was a good candidate but we didn't know if there would be funding.
Being able to travel independently is important to Nathan and he needed to be able to do this to be a candidate for a traineeship. Recently, I knew he was ready and wouldn't get off at the wrong stop and panic. Jake and I began to teach Nathan how to get the bus on his own.
I practised getting the bus with Nathan and pretended it had broken down to see if Nathan knew what to do! At first, Nathan learnt the bus route to the pictures but now he has more confidence. He is proud of his bus pass and can travel independently.
It wasn't all plain sailing. Nathan was told he could get a part-time job when he was at college and he was disappointed when this didn't happen. We didn't find out about if funding would be available for the traineeship until nearly the end of the college year. Nathan's support hours for getting out and about have recently been removed too.
After we were involved in Getting a Life we then became part of the SEND pathfinder programme. It was helpful to meet other parents but I still felt that I had to fight for things. Being part of a group of parents getting together, though, inspired me to know that something is out there.
Nathan left college having been named Student of the Year - a very proud moment! He is now on a supported traineeship at the Town Hall in the print room and we are so proud. It is a clerical role; he works Monday to Thursday and enjoys the work and has fun, and if he needs anything for work the Town Hall staff sort it out for him - like his size 15 shoes! I had a call after his first day to say how fantastically he had done and it was great to hear that he has his dinner with the other people that work there. He gets the bus to work, even though I don't really want him to! It was frightening to let Nathan do this but using a mobile phone helped - he put an ICE (in case of emergency) number in his phone and explained it to me.
For the future, Nathan wants a flat and a girlfriend and good planning will be needed to help him to achieve this. He wants to get a job after his traineeship doing something he enjoys.
Bev and I would advise other families to go to meetings, even if sometimes you feel that you don't want to - the information is useful and you may learn something. We suggest giving families good advice about benefits and how they change as young people become adults, as well as giving support about housing. As young people are growing up, most of all don't think it will never come - you shut your eyes and then it is there, you don't know where the time goes.
When Nathan was a little boy I was told he wouldn't get a job. When he was nine, I was told he might be able to stack shelves. I didn't think we'd come so far when other people were suggesting day centres.
Look at how far he has come. Nathan has pushed me to do it for him and I am so proud of what he has achieved.
All he ever wanted was some independence and I knew he was ready.
I was one of those parents who said I wouldn't let him go, I wanted to protect him. It was my worry, not his - other people helped me see that he could make his own choices. It is his life and he is learning all of the time.
Every time Nathan leaves home to get the bus to work he says thanks and gives me a kiss before he leaves. I know what Nathan is thanking me for - it is for letting him go on his own.