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Driving student independence

Imogen learning to drive her wheelchair

National Star students don’t let wheelchair malfunctions or technology fails get in the way of their learning thanks to the support of a specialist on–site team.

The Student Technology team, based at Ullenwood, offers immediate solutions and repairs for both wheelchair users and those who rely on technologies to make their voices heard, use switches or access computers.

Being on–site, the team can provide immediate support and ensure that students don’t have to wait long without their essential equipment.

‘If, for example, a student’s communication aid isn’t working, and they had to go externally, they could be waiting for days, maybe even weeks, for a replacement part or for someone to come out and look at it,’ said Maizie Morgan, Assistive Technology Technician.

‘By having us on–site, we can provide solutions there and then. It’s not very often that a student will have to go more than a few hours without a voice or a means to get around independently. We work quickly because we know how important it is that students don’t lose their independence.’

The Student Technology team

The team work closely alongside their Occupational Therapy (OT) and Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) colleagues, which helps to personalise support for the students.

‘The OT and SLT teams have one–to–one sessions with the students, so they have a special insight into their specific needs.
‘Together, we can troubleshoot and come up with solutions that are best for each individual student.’

The team currently support third–year student Imogen, who has been benefitting from weekly wheelchair driving lessons using Smart Platform technology. The lessons provide Imogen with the opportunity to learn the cause and effect of switch driving in an environment that is safe and with support at hand if she needs it. Imogen controls her wheelchair using a knee ‘wobble’ switch.

‘The sessions are stimulating and enjoyable for Imogen. She’s determined to make the most of them and by improving her use of the switch, she’s gaining greater autonomy over her movements,’ said Maizie.

‘It’s amazing to see her driving around campus and choosing where she wants to go!’

For Maizie, she can’t imagine a more rewarding role than one where she can help keep young people with disabilities as independent as possible.

‘I love knowing that I am making a difference to young people’s lives, ensuring that they are never without their voice and enabling them to participate in education, continue with their passions and socialise with friends. I couldn’t be prouder to work in such a hardworking and student–focussed team.’

It’s thanks to supporters like you that National Star can purchase specialist equipment to enable students to live as independently as possible. Donate today.

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