Nick really enjoyed his school life. He had lots of friends, very good teachers and was given an excellent education. The lessons, although designed for special needs children, had to take a nod from the National Curriculum and as a result he did music, history, cookery and even ended up having French classes.
Whenever I take him out for a drive - his favourite thing to do - he'll still give me directions in French: "Tournez a droit, tournez a gauche, allez tout droit" He finds it hilarious for some reason!
Anyway, by the time he reached 16 my parents were starting to think about bridging the gap between school and his permanent future, with a further education placement.
They asked his school what was available and were given information on special needs colleges.
However when they contacted these colleges they were informed that the entry process should have been started 2 years ahead of time, and not 1. There were now 3 places left in the whole country - which could go at any time - and they could only be taken up after a lengthy assessment process.
My parents felt let down - again.
As I said in my first blog, the families of disabled children receive little or no formal guidance. They have to find everything out for themselves. And in this case, find out the hard way.
My parents didn't learn about attendance allowance until my brother was 7.
They were at the birthday party of a friend of my brother when they heard someone mention it. My dad assumed our family weren't eligible because nobody had told him about it - my parents weren't contacted by social workers at all until Nick was well into secondary school.
It turned out Nick was eligible, and my parents had missed out on seven years of payments which couldn't be back dated.
But I digress.
With only 3 places left mum and dad had to move fast. The first step was to formally reject the local college that was being suggested on the grounds of, you guessed it, cost.
This college was wholly unsuitable. It was not a special needs college. It was a ‘normal' sixth form college where special needs children took a few classes.
Thankfully the case was easy to argue this time. Nick's teacher came to collect him from this college one day and found him using a saw, totally unsupervised. Case closed.
With the unsuitable placement rejected my parents sent him to a special needs college for an assessment - which he failed.
At the meeting where my parents were informed of this, my brother was heard to say "I'm stupid".
This was quite telling - Nick has very high self esteem thanks to our constant positive reinforcement, someone had knocked it - and it all unravelled when my parents were shown the hectic timetable that had been drawn up for him - which totally went against the instructions they had left on how to get the best out of Nick.
The experience had obviously overloaded him, and if Nick experiences sensory overload he can't function.
When the man assessing Nick informed my parents that he "wouldn't stay on task" they realised to their dismay that he had not been assessed properly and was being wrongfully rejected for it.
Half way through this meeting a man knocked on the door and asked if he could sit in. This man was another teacher/carer at the college and turned out to be our family's guardian angel.
He had seen Nick during his assessment and must have realised that his potential was not being properly tapped.
He pushed for another review, taking into account Nick' complex needs; Nick passed.
Thanks to that man Nick had a wonderful three years, living away from home in preparation for his adult life.