Sally Whittingham

InterHigh pupil Millie Whittingham struggled with mainstream school due to her autism. This led to her being out of school for two years. Her mother Sally, talks about Millie's experiences and how InterHigh has helped her daughter re-engage with learning.

Can you tell us about your daughter's educational experiences before InterHigh?

For Millie, with Autism, anxiety can permeate her whole day. Her emotional state can often capture the essence of her day. Because she struggles to articulate her emotional predicament, she communicates her discomfort in more basic ways and typically during a school day she would avoid situations by closing down or running away. Millie is considered to be academically able, in other words she does not have an additional learning difficulty, and therefore has failed to receive any additional funding from the LEA. They fail to realise that her anxieties, sensory processing, distorted perception and paranoia has a huge impact on her ability to cope with the school environment and her peers. She would be confused, scared and anxious. With all these pressures, she wouldn’t be able to focus on the teacher’s tasks or her own learning. It was therefore, extremely hard to find a school suitable for Millie’s needs which meant she was without any education for nearly 2 years.

How has studying at InterHigh improved things?

Now she is at InterHigh all these barriers to her learning are removed. She can learn in the safety of her own home, away from crowds and background noise.

What is a typical day at InterHigh like for Millie?

She starts her day in a calm and peaceful way, whereas before she would be in absolute turmoil. We have been able to start her off slowly, attending just a few subjects at a time to ease her back into education. Initially she was “homework exempt” but it wasn’t long before she wanted to give the homework a go. The teachers are all very understanding and know not to put any added pressure on her. Just the fact that she is “giving it a go” is an achievement for Millie. The lessons are well structured and split into “lead” and “follow on” with “break out” into small groups. These small groups are more of a challenge for Millie but she is learning to cope with the exposure and realising that she can actually contribute to some of the tasks. Without the pressures of a classroom environment she is also able to excel with her talent in Art.

Did you have any concerns about online education before discovering InterHigh?

One of my concerns before joining InterHigh was whether Millie would become isolated without any face to face contact. How can the teachers interact with the class and really get to know them? How would she build up any friendships? Well, I can honestly say I have NO worries on this front now. The teachers just “ooze” enthusiasm and they have an incredible ability to encourage the children to engage in discussion and to motivate and excite them. The “break out” groups allow the children to chat and discuss their ideas. Albeit in small amounts, at the moment, but the opportunities are there and I know, as she gains in confidence, this will only develop more. She talks to us about her new friends and loves to talk about which part of the world they’re from. She talks about “her school” InterHigh with pride. After all she has been through this gives us so much happiness.

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