‘Jennifer would never have found her voice if she hadn’t gone to a specialist college like National Star’ – Stephen Burt, Jennifer’s father
Jennifer experienced an epileptic seizure when she was 19 months old, leaving her blind and unable to speak. ‘We were told to say our goodbyes because the doctors said she had hours to live,’ says her father Stephen. ‘Her outlook was very bleak.’
Having to express herself using only gestures and sounds meant that making everyday decisions most of us take for granted became a huge and frustrating challenge. But, Jennifer was determined to improve her communication and make her own choices. Her sight returned. She gained some mobility in her hands and arms. She never gave up.
Jennifer’s parents sought a placement for her at National Star College, and she started here after leaving school at 19. She set to work with our Speech and Language team, who developed a communication system that enabled her to spell out a range of words and phrases by touching different icons on a tablet. Being able to express what she was feeling and what she wanted was an amazing milestone in Jennifer’s journey, and meant that for the first time ever this year she was able to say, ‘Happy Mother’s Day, Mum!’
Jennifer’s next challenge is learning to drive an electric wheelchair. It’s something her family know she’ll approach with a determined and positive attitude, and that what she is learning now will change her life forever.