Fife College were successful in obtaining a grant from the Karten Trust at the start of the academic year in 2018. As part of this the college were awarded funding for a number of pieces of assistive technology to support students with additional support needs, these included laptops, digital recorders, C-Pen readers, Pearl Camera and assistive software such as Brain in Hand, JAWS and Sonocent.
This equipment was received and distributed to the Student Learning Hubs on each of the Fife College campuses to ensure that all students had the opportunity to access the equipment. Sonocent was rolled out over all campus computers and 6 students were identified to be part of the Brain in Hand Pilot. The College’s Assistive Technologist attended the Brain in Hand training and is now one of only 2 BiH trainers based in Scotland’s Colleges.
Brain in Hand
Student A – Beauty TherapyThe Inclusion Team were introduced to Student A after she had a severe anxiety attack at College after a misunderstanding in class which resulted in her being referred to an emergency psychiatrist for immediate treatment. Student A had previously been managing to cope with her anxiety levels within the college environment and had not required additional support.
Student A was then introduced to the College’s Assistive Technologist, Michele, who initially met with the student and her father to demonstrate Brain in Hand and how this would benefit her. The organisation, planning and both the traffic light response and the alert system allowing the system to contact her traffic light responder directly was met with enthusiasm.
Brain in Hand allows the user to input situations that they find difficult to cope with and break them down into exactly why they find these difficult. Then, there is a conversation about what has helped or hindered them in the difficult circumstances in the past and what they feel will be useful in the future. This makes it completely personal to the student’s own circumstances.
In this instance, Student A was ready to leave her course. Student A had previously been at another college and had had to leave before completion by recommendation of her Psychiatrist. Student A was determined to try her best to stay and complete the course.
In order to become proficient with BiH Student A received three training sessions with Michele, each of these lasting between two to three hours, and with support of her parents has been able to utilise this tool.
Student A is now very competent at adding details of her day to day life in and out of college. She has her daily routine from waking up, through meal times and her bed time and medication routine, along with any parts she finds difficult and how she can overcome them.
Student A also has her timetable for college embedded in Brain in Hand and if there are any parts of the daily college routine she finds difficult; she has easy access to the solutions. These include hyperlinks which will put her straight into contact with college staff and to her parent’s phone.
Student A also has travel links and external agencies contacts with whom she works with outside college saved within the Brain in Hand app.
Student A feels that by using Brain in Hand, it has given her the confidence to manage her life inside and outside college, including things such as keeping track of homework and when assessments are due and also to manage any disputes that may occur within her college day.
Student A states that having this support and the continued support from Michele has ensured that she has been able to remain on her course as it has provided her a helpful way to manage many situations that she previously would not have coped with. This has also led to a reduction in calls to NHS Direct when she is feeling as though she cannot cope and stopped her reaching this point by allowing early intervention and self-managing difficult situations that she would have previously found impossible.
Student B – Drama and Theatre Studies
Student B has recently completed their HND with the support of Brain in Hand, when in the course of carrying out DSA Needs Assessment, the assessor sought advice from the College’s Assistive Technologist to assess whether Brain in Hand would be an appropriate recommendation to the challenges that the student faced due to their Autistic Spectrum Condition.
Previously, Student B would leave any situation that they felt uncomfortable in, this regularly included walking out of classes, distraught, if they did not understand what was being expected from them. This often led to them leaving college from the day and heading straight home, or having loud outbursts in public areas of the college.
Michele initially met with the student and one of their parents to demonstrate Brain in Hand and what it could help with. The organisation, planning and both the traffic light response and the alert system allowing the system to contact their traffic light responder directly was met with cautious interest.
Brain in Hand allows the user to put in situations they find difficult and break them down into exactly why they find these difficult. Then there is a conversation about what has helped or hindered them in the difficult circumstances in the past and what they feel will be useful in the future. This makes it completely personal to the student’s own circumstances.
In this instance the student was ready to leave their course and had previously faced disciplinary action due to the outbursts and swearing at members of staff.
Student B had three training sessions with Michele on the use and benefits of Brain in Hand. The National Autistic Society was chosen as the most appropriate provider to provide the traffic light response.
Student B is now very competent at adding details of their day to day life in and out of college. They have added every aspect of college life, from class timetables to lunch and break times, they have embedded links to parent’s phone numbers, links to staff emails, phone numbers to contact the college if their bus is running late, a link that leads to their bus route online and to the transport provider’s website which shows if there are any issues with the particular bus service the student uses. They also add in their homework and any assessments or exams and the times they intend using to study or carry out the homework provided. They have included any difficulties they have had previously and how they feel they can be best resolved, including a number of solutions for each scenario. They add in any difficulties they face with the appropriate contacts, which allows them to confidently feel they can face most events.
This has led to Student B having less disruptive outbursts and feeling safer and happier in the college environment and it to be less confusing if there are unexpected changes or events. Simply as they have had in their phone what they should do.
They also use it for unusual events out with the normal routine externally to college, with things such as family weddings and holidays being added in to help them with the disruption to routine and after discussion with family to know what to expect in advance. In terms of retention it has, according to the student, helped them come into college and no longer want to leave.
Student C has Dyslexia and struggles with all aspects of reading, retaining information and writing. She has been at college for 2 years however the first courses were both practical and had very little written coursework, this has now increased significantly since starting a level 6 course.
Student C approached Inclusion during her first week as she was unable to read any of the notes that she had been given by her lecturer and needed someone to go through this with her. Student C had regular study support and a reader/scribe in all her theory classes but she was struggling as she was unable to work at home as there was no support available and craved independence. After meeting with the Lead Adviser to express her worries Student C was shown the C-Pen Reader, this was met with a great deal of enthusiasm. Student C trialled this in several of her classes and found that she was quickly relying on this, she was able to become a more independent learner in class and this, in conjunction with the other Assistive Technology she was introduced to, helped to build her confidence in learning and personal human support was able to be minimised to assessments only. Student C passed her course and is now looking forward to starting an HNC in the new academic year.
Within the Fabrication and Welding classes there are a group of 6 students all with reading difficulties that benefit from having shared support in classes by an Inclusion Assistant. However, she was unable to support all students at the same time, the students in this class all benefited from borrowing C-Pen Readers and Digital recorders. They were able to work independently while waiting on 1-1 support from their class lecturers or the Inclusion Assistant, after classes these students would then have study support to show them how to turn their recorded notes into suitable formats to aid with recall and revision.
Student D was really struggling keeping up with note taking in class. They found when they went home in the evening and tried to study for assessments, they were lacking a lot of the information on paper and key things they knew had been mentioned repeatedly. They had a diagnosis of dyslexia and anxiety, this in turn increased their anxiety.
By being trained on Sonocent Audio Notetaker, this meant they could just type in key points in the text area and listen back to the recording of the class. As time increased and they became more familiar with the software they managed to colour code the audio recordings of their lectures. This meant they were able to listen back to the information and write or type out any parts they felt were necessary.
This increased their confidence and they were able to take part in class discussions, whereas previously they were just trying to keep up with the notetaking and concentrating solely on that in class. It also meant they had all the notes from their classes for each day, in an organised system which was easily accessible.
They were able to easily access the information they required to study, meaning as well as a decrease in anxiety they were able to keep up to date with homework and this all has reduced their anxiety.
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