Sonny’s story

When student Sonny arrived at Nash College, he was anxious, tearful and communicated if necessary with quiet, one-word answers.

Sonny joined the education stream at Duke Centre, part of Nash, where communication skills are high on the learning agenda. Julie Evans, recently appointed Head of College, explains. ‘Duke Centre provides a service for people with severe complex learning difficulties, whom we feel can make a positive contribution and develop in terms of employment, advocacy and understanding of their role as citizens. It’s a unique part of Nash that has been going for two years.’

Starting with a simple symbols-based communication book, staff worked with Sonny to develop his ability to communicate. Over two years, Sonny’s communication and confidence have developed significantly. He often takes class registration, where he greets each student by name. ‘Good morning, Sam. How are you? Good morning, Rianna,’ a task that he previously would have found impossible.

This year, Sonny has far exceeded staff’s initial hopes. ‘Sonny has been a student rep, attending governors’ meetings and reporting back to his peers,’ says lecturer Donna Abdoollah. ‘After one meeting, he was able to tell the class, for ten minutes without stopping, exactly what had happened and what he’d said. He was amazing.’

Sonny went on to win Learner of the Year, Nash’s accolade for a student who has made the most progress. ‘In Sonny’s time at college, his ability to communicate has really developed to a point where he can be far more involved in the local community and have a part to play,’ says Julie Evans. ‘And of course, for Sonny, that is life-changing.’