Hannah’s story

Hannah’s story
Posted on Wed 4 Nov 2020

Sixteen-year-old Hannah is a confident, articulate extrovert who loves drama and refuses to be defined by autism, global developmental delay or any other label.

Hannah is a true visionary who understands her strengths and sees the big picture of where her life is headed, and what she wants to achieve. Hannah already knows where she’s heading after school – University to study specialised education. Based on her own experiences at school, she wants to go back to the classroom, but this time as a support unit teacher, so she can support students with learning difficulties and disabilities to get their best education experience.

 

The reality of secondary school

Hannah is currently in year 10 and feels that she’s experienced a lack of recognition of her skills and worth consistently throughout high school. She also feels she is being labelled by her autism, which is resulting in being rated unfairly low in all subject areas.

“The assumption is that because I’ve got autism, I’m therefore no good at anything. They’re misinterpreting the kind of support I need and I’m not getting taught to my ability,” says Hannah.

Hannah isn’t aware of any other students at the school with autism or other disabilities, and despite Hannah and her Mum trying to advocate for her, Hannah is considering moving to a different high school next semester, which she believes is better equipped to support her.

“The biggest thing about school is they tell you what you’re not good at and need to improve on. They never tell you what you’re good at because they assume you already know. I mean, have you ever heard of a little kid wanting to improve when they’re told they really suck at something?” says Hannah.

Hannah credits specialised youth coaching for helping her to develop the confidence and communication skills to be vocal and to self-advocate at school.

“There are people that do want to help, like my learning support teacher, but they don’t know the problems unless I tell them,” says Hannah. “Mum can only give them a certain perspective.”

Hannah enjoys drama and commerce at school, and socially she’s popular with a close group of friends. She says because of her extrovert personality people “either love her or hate her.” While she’s naturally a little reticent to leave her friends when she moves to a new school, she believes if the friendships are strong enough, they’ll survive. And being a people magnet, she has no doubt she’ll find new ones quickly.

 

Playing to strengths

Unlike her school experience, Hannah has found learnings through therapy and youth coaching sessions that focus on finding what she’s good at and playing to those strengths.

Hannah first met CPA Youth Coach Kirsten when she attended one of CPA’s Youth Camps. They’ve now been working together for several years, on a one-to-one basis through individualised Youth Coaching.

“Positive affirmation has always been the best way to teach me things. Not only because I love to praise myself, but it’s simply more effective.

“These camps helped me recognise that I’m an extrovert,” says Hannah.

While she already knew she was outgoing, this was the first time she’d learned about personality types. Having her own personality trait reaffirmed positively, she discovered the self-awareness and understanding she needed to find ways to use her personality to her advantage at school.

“As an extrovert, I’m very good at taking charge. When I did the Myers Briggs personality test they couldn’t decide if I was a commander, an executive or a visionary. But I belong in no box, I’m a commanding, executive visionary!”

Hannah also found PEERS a very valuable program. Run by two PEERS trained CPA Youth Coaches, she found the structure of the classroom environment helpful and supportive.

“I knew I was there to learn and not muck around with friends, it was the right combination of support, academic and extra-curricular,” says Hannah.

 

Personal and future goals

Hannah’s two key goals are to go to University, and to live independently. In order to achieve these, she needs to improve her organisation skills and personal hygiene, both of which she’s working on with CPA Occupational Therapist, Eliza.

Eliza also works with Hannah on her handwriting and gross motor skills, which she practises by doing crafting which she loves, finding it very therapeutic.

Hannah is also proactive about finding other ways to reach her future goals. To stay organised and remember her routine, she uses a whiteboard at home and updates it daily.

“I know what I have to do but I often forget to do it, so to do lists are some of my best friends,” says Hannah.

Hannah is currently working on her Duke of Edinburgh Award, part of which is to lead a team on the Krazy Kosci Klimb fundraising event. She’s also done work experience in an autism support class, working towards her career goal to become a support unit teacher.

Hannah’s advice to students with autism “If it wasn’t for my autism, I wouldn’t be who I am. Because of my autism, I’m a lot more confident than the average person, and because of that, I’m able to excel in a lot of my subjects,” says Hannah.

“Don’t let your autism or disability dictate your life. Whether you have a disability or not, you’re still as capable as everyone else. But I do think you need to come to terms with your disability and accept it. This will help you realise you’re capable of anything, with or without your disability,” says Hannah.

 

CPA Student Success Guides

Secondary school might seem scary, but at CPA, we’re here to help you make it a great success.

How do you develop independence, build healthy friendships, get in to good study habits, feel like you belong and eventually transition from school in to the community? These are big questions that we’re excited to help answer.

To ensure students can achieve the best possible outcomes during this crucial life stage, we’ve created the CPA Student Success Guides.

Each guide has been informed by evidence based thinking and long-time learnings. We’ve also looked closely at the Australian Curriculum, to see where our programs and services align, not only within curriculum, but also with the known educational, social and emotional goals of students as they journey through secondary school.

The full kit includes three guides, each covering two school years: Years 7 & 8, 9 & 10, and 11 & 12.

This kit will assist teachers, parents, and students living with a disability to discover the wide range of fun and engaging programs and services students can access through CPA to support achievement of those goals.

Learn more and download the guides here: https://cerebralpalsy.org.au/studentsuccessguides

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Learn how to make and keep friends, and develop relationships, with PEERS (Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills).

School Leaver Employment Supports (SLES), is designed to support young people in their final year of school and those that have left school, to make a successful transition from school to employment. 

Do you have a road map for your future? Our youth coaches will support you to identify your needs, set goals and plan the way ahead.