March 2013: Kevin Hartie

I became involved in the schools and families inclusion service at Back Up by attending a weekend training course on being a schools advocate.   This gave me a good insight into the rewards and challenges of helping children and young people return to school after a spinal cord injury.

Soon after the training I was asked to be an advocate for a child called John* that had recently returned to primary school part time.  I attended meetings with various professionals involved in supporting and helping John, from part time to full time education.

I was able to assist in this process by talking to John’s class about living with spinal cord injury.  I also spoke to the teaching assistants about how they could manage certain issues associated with spinal cord injury, should they arise.  

I enjoy being a schools advocate because it gives me the opportunity to help others with spinal cord injury to get back to some sort of "normality".  I think this is especially important for children and young people.  They should be able to return to the school they attended previous to their injury, with the familiarity of their peers and teachers. This is possible with the right support and advice.  It was very rewarding for me to hear that John is now at school full time.

Beth, the schools and families inclusion coordinator says: 

“Kevin took time to understand the needs of the child and the school and tailored his visits to meet those needs.  He was very proactive in educating the whole school community on spinal cord injury, by arranging several visits in a very short space of time.  John said he feels happier at school after Kevin’s visit and his family feel he had a positive impact on John being included at school. 

The school said that the visits helped them understand John’s needs and better include him.  They found it useful to hear about and discuss spinal cord injury with someone that has first hand experience:  “the class visit from the Back Up schools advocate was a great success and overwhelmingly positive.  The children were able to ask questions that they couldn't ask the child concerned.”

*names have been changed