Written by David Roe, Contract Manager CSW Group

As part of the Transitions Contract that CSW Group delivers on behalf of Devon Local Authority, we work with young people with EHCPs to support their transition from education to their next post 16 destination. This could be further education, employment or training.

Our aim is to ensure that all young people with EHCPs can achieve their potential and can be the best they can be.

Our work involves supporting young people with a wide range of special educational needs and disabilities. Within the education world the spectrum of needs has been broken down into the following categories;

  • Communicating and interacting
  • Cognition and learning
  • Social emotional and mental health difficulties
  • Autistic spectrum disorders (ASD)
  • Health or medical issues/conditions
  • Physical and sensory needs

A differentiated person-centred approach

Our Career Development Consultants (CDC) have a huge amount of experience working with young people with special needs and disabilities and are passionate about ensuring they have the right advice and guidance to help them achieve their goals.

What is our approach to working with young people with EHCPs?

We make sure that the young person is at the heart of all that we do so that our support is tailored to their specific situation.

It may sound obvious, but we make sure we check what the young person’s special needs are. This means that the approach can be adapted to the needs of the individual and any resources can be provided in appropriate formats.

We listen to the young person and take them seriously. We won’t dismiss their dreams but will help them to think about setting realistic goals and plan how to get there so they are clear about their next steps.

We also aim to raise the young person’s aspirations by encouraging them to look at their strengths and abilities rather than focusing on their disability.

We check the young person is happy with the pace and content of the interview.

We use a variety of different resources which include mind map action plans (see below for more information on this), videos, websites to ensure that we are suing something the young person can understand and engage with.

We use empathy, rapport building and active listening skills to ensure the young person knows we genuinely care about them and to build a trusting relationship with them.

Working in partnership with parent/carers and other professionals such as social workers and schools is a vital aspect of our work. This enable us to all work towards the same goal and ensure the messages we are giving the young people are consistent.

For Careers Advisers just starting out the Education Training Foundation has a free course (https://www.foundationonline.org.uk/course/view.php?id=124) aimed to support advisers to develop their Impartial Advice and Guidance skills when working with young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Mind Map Action Plans

One of our CDCs has developed a different way of creating action plans with young people with EHCPs. These can be used where they might benefit from having something that is more visual.

This style of action plan is based on a mind map and is printed out in A3 size paper on different colour backgrounds if that is needed due to a specific learning disability such as dyslexia.

The CDC gives the young person the option of completing the boxes themselves. This is why it is A3 size so there is plenty of room for writing or drawing.

The young person is given free rein to choose which topic they want to complete so they take ownership of the interview.

We have found that using this style of action plan has been very effective in getting young people with special needs to engage with their Career Development Consultant.

Case Study

D was a student in a special school and had initially met with me when he was in year 10 as part of a supported work experience pilot. Before working with D I had read his EHCP and met with school staff to discuss his needs.  This helped me to have a good understanding of his needs and allowed me to consider which would be the best approach to use in D’s guidance interview. We met again at the start of year 11 to discuss D’s post 16 options and to explore his career aspirations.

To help D to engage in the meeting I checked his level of understanding by asking him to tell me what he thought my job was and how I could help him.  This allowed me to clarify any gaps in D’s knowledge and to set any necessary boundaries.    D has a low level of understanding, so  I used the mind map action plan to support contracting.   I introduced the mind map action plan at the beginning of D’s interview, and spent time explaining the different areas on the plan and what I hoped to achieve in the meeting.  I then asked D how he felt about the interview plan to ensure that he was happy with the aims of the interview and again to check understanding.

It was important that D felt like he had ownership over his meeting and the plan that we would create together.  To try and help D to relax and engage in the interview I asked him if he would like to draw on the face in the middle of the mind map to make the image look more like him, reminding him that the plan is his very own personal plan.  D felt that it was funny that the image looked nothing like him and we were able to build a rapport by laughing about the image.   D chose not to draw on the plan, I then asked him if he would like to fill out the boxes, or if he would like me to write his words for him.  D said that he would prefer me to write as he finds it hard to write quickly and he thought it would take a long time for him to write down everything that he wanted to say.  I reassured him that I would complete the plan in his own words.   To give D further control and ownership of his interview I encouraged D to choose the order in which the boxes on the plan were completed.

This flexible, encouraging and supportive approach enabled D to engage fully in the guidance interview, reduced his anxiety and helped to build a rapport between us.  D was able to share his ideas around transition and career ideas for the future, I then used a variety of resources including websites, college prospectuses and laminated career choice cards to discuss his ideas in a greater depth. At the end of the interview D said that he understood his college choices and had a better idea of the careers that he may like to explore in the future.

The mind map action plan was then shared with D’s parents and relevant school staff to ensure that his wishes were at the centre of the annual EHCP review particularly when discussing transition to post 16 and Preparing for Adulthood.