Lauren Hobbs - Year 8

Lauren Hobbs has ASD/Asperger's. She struggled at mainstream school and says that joining InterHigh has been 'life changing.' Read her story below:

Can you tell us about your educational experiences before InterHigh?

I went to mainstream primary schools and then transitioned to a local secondary school. I have always struggled in the mainstream school environment with social interactions, friendships and bullying. My mum has questioned these issues for years with teachers and doctors and I have finally been diagnosed ASD/Asperger's at the age of 12.

How did you get on at mainstream school?

Transition to secondary school was positive at first and I had several visits before starting there. I looked forward to new friends and learning new subjects. At secondary we were only streamed in Maths and still had large classes of 30. I was in the top Maths set and my predicted grades in all subjects were high. I found lessons very noisy, unchallenging and frustrating. Often lessons didn’t start for ages due to the noise and disruption within the classroom. I struggled to work in groups as no one would allow me to join in their class group and teachers wouldn’t help me with this even though they knew this was a difficulty for me. I often had to work on my own which made me feel very sad.

Why did you decide to join InterHigh?

I left school due to increasingly being targeted by my peer group and bullying over the year which resulted in severe anxiety, low self-esteem and low confidence. I had continuous autistic meltdowns at home due to my experiences during the day at school.

How did you discover InterHigh?

I spent last summer recovering my health at home. My mum looked into home education and came across a lady on Facebook with a son at InterHigh. They spoke over the phone and had a long discussion about online schooling. We then went to the InterHigh open evening. We were very impressed with the professional and friendly staff, the technology used and the organisation at InterHigh. We made the decision to register for Year 8 in September 2018. I felt so relieved and excited to be continuing my education via a different route to mainstream school.

And how has studying at InterHigh improved things?

Since joining InterHigh I have felt so comfortable and relaxed within classes and feel I can contribute easily to class discussions and ask and answer questions. I could never do this at school as I would be laughed at. My anxiety has reduced considerably, my confidence is increasing and I feel happy again. I love to learn, and lessons are very interesting. I feel I am challenged enough and learning at the right level for me. Teachers are kind, caring and friendly and lessons are always fun. I can now enjoy school, fit in and feel I have friends from all over the world within my classes at InterHigh. I have a fantastic tutor who I can email and talk to and I can approach any of my teachers if I need help with anything at all. I don’t have the confidence to talk on the microphone yet but there is no pressure to do this and hopefully in the future I will be able to. InterHigh has completely transformed my life and family life for us all. I enjoy school for the first time ever and it has inspired interests in so many things such as learning coding on a raspberry pie, digital art and history.

From your experience, can you talk us through a typical day at InterHigh.

I get up at 8am and have breakfast and get ready to log on at 9am or 9:30am. It is so much more relaxed, and I can wear comfortable clothes instead of uniform. I used to have to leave the house by 8am to catch a bus to school. This was a very stressful experience before I even started my school day. I like having a timetable and independently being responsible for logging into lessons and organising my day. I enjoy the interaction in live lessons, and I have time during the day to do any homework, research or my own interests. I can have a cup of tea when I want one and often have my pet cat with me. I have a quiet, relaxed environment to focus and learn. There is no disruption, bad behaviour or noise and it is such a comfortable and happy way to learn. Most of all there is no peer pressure or bullying anymore which I had to endure every day at mainstream school. Teachers teach in a calm way and are fun and approachable. At mainstream school they never had time for you and were always stressed and shouting.

What do you like about InterHigh?

I like the Independent learning style which will help me in the future. I know that if I miss anything or I need to go over a lesson again, the archives are available. I often save screen shots of lessons into One Note so I can revise. Lessons and assignments are creative and encourage you to be creative too which I enjoy. I also like the email communication with teachers and peers.

How has InterHigh made a difference to your life?

Interhigh has been life changing for me and my family with regard to my ASD and managing it. Teachers at InterHigh have an understanding of autism. I couldn’t cope within a mainstream environment and this greatly affected my mental health, and this would have affected my academic abilities and achievements also. The independent style of learning at InterHigh will help me in the future. Mainstream school is very much one size fits all. InterHigh is flexible in finding a type of learning that suits you, nurtures your strengths, encourages success and importantly allows you to be you. I finally feel that I fit in.

Why should people who may be going through similar experiences to you, consider InterHigh?

I would highly recommend InterHigh as an alternative to the mainstream system especially if you have had similar experiences to me. Mental health and well-being are so important. A safe and happy environment for learning is essential in order to fulfil your full potential. I feel I am part of a caring school family and enjoy school and learning again.

Any tips for potential and existing InterHigh students of how to get the most out of their time at InterHigh?

InterHigh is very friendly and welcoming so enjoy contributing and interacting within all of the classes and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be organised and keep up with homework. Homework is often creative and really helps you to learn and get the most out of lessons.

On reflection what’s your favourite thing about InterHigh?

Freedom to learn in a relaxed environment, all of the teachers who are caring, supportive and approachable. Most of all not being in mainstream education anymore, which from my experience is not inclusive for those with SEN. I have classmates from all over the world and discussing their experiences of where they live, culture and hobbies makes lessons so interesting and enhances my education. InterHigh is inclusive and a happy place for everyone.

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