Supporting your child to maintain skills for independent living

Young people with disabilities come to specialist colleges like Henshaws to learn skills to help them live more independent lives. Colleges provide expert staff and tailored facilities to create the ideal conditions for learning. But how can parents and carers ensure that the new skills their children have learnt are carried forward into their future?

We spoke to Kate Simpson, mum to Tess, about her top tips for supporting your child to maintain skills for independent living. Read on to hear some of her advice, or download her free e-book chapter in full.

Kate’s story

Student in one of our college sessions“It is very difficult not to feel overprotective of your own son or daughter. However when they have disabilities, it can be even harder.

My name is Kate and I have a daughter Tess, 20, who is in her second year at Henshaws College in Harrogate. Tess has autism which affects her behaviour and means her verbal communication is limited.  A benign tumour in her brain causes a visual impairment. We live in Leeds so Tess travels in each day by bus.

Since starting at College in September 2013, I have seen a huge improvement in Tess’s ability to be more independent. I am convinced that a key part of this success is because we have worked closely with staff to ensure that all the great progress which she achieves in College is not lost when she is at home.

I want to share with you some of my top tips for supporting independent living.

1) Take time to choose the right college

When Tess reached sixth form, we realised that she didn’t have access to the activities and facilities she needed to learn, and she started to become bored.

She began a placement one day a week at Henshaws College. She was thrilled with it, and especially enjoyed her gardening and pottery sessions. It was different to other placements she went to, where they learnt to lay tables or fold napkins – activities which were meaningless for Tess. Whenever she came back from a day at College she was just different. She had a little sparkle.


My advice to parents considering a specialist further education place for your child is to go with your gut instinct. It was the way that students are valued at Henshaws which struck me instantly. I could see that everyone was equal and treated as an individual. Students were learning through activities which motivated them because they were enjoyable, but they were also being challenged to achieve.”

For the rest of Kate’s tips, download our free e-book chapter: Supporting your child to maintain skills for independent living

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