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  4. Workshop 3 - Telling life stories

Workshop 3 - Telling life stories

From project hunter to Raspberry pi: a snapshot of a teenager's life story through his schooling experience

The Woodbine Group, Hilra Vinha and Tom Smith

Hilra Vinha and Tom Smith

In 2014 a new SEN code of practice was implemented and all schools are now in the process of transitioning to the new system. This change is part of a long story of a movement to include children of all abilities in schools and to give them the right provision to enable them to grow and develop their full potential. However, the experiences of children and young people with learning difficulties in schools usually include a great deal of struggle, especially for their parents who need to fight constant battles in pursue of their children's rights to an education.

This paper aims to tell Tom's story. Tom has Asperger's syndrome and has attended mainstream school all his life. In 2013 Tom changed schools and met Hilra. Hilra supports Tom. Tom and Hilra have worked in many ways to help Tom to do well at school and to have a future beyond that. They both have learned a lot about barriers and possibilities. But, this journey has not been an easy or simple one. In this paper Tom and Hilra will tell the story of how Tom came to hate school, lose faith in the future and in humanity and, more importantly, how Tom turned things around, took part in work experience at University, managed to catch up with school tasks, have a place in a sixth-form college and make plans for the future.

Ideas on sharing life stories


Hilra Vinha - I am an educator and researcher and have been working in Education since 1988. I worked as Primary teacher and then as Teaching and Learning Supervisor in private schools in Brazil for many years. In 2011 I completed a PhD in the University of Southampton with a thesis full of images as my study was about how children create pictures of themselves when they have a label of a learning difficulty in comparison to those who do not have such label. Now I work in a secondary school supporting students with special needs, and also as independent consultant for the Open University in a project about the memories of a learning disability service. I am also a member of the SHLD Research Group.

Tom Smith - I am a keen gamer and a student. I am completing my GCSEs this month and moving to college in September. I have been involved in work experience at the University of Southampton for the past year, working with Dr Reena Pau in the research office of the Electronic and Computer Science department. I have also worked in a small piece of research about my life story in relation to schools, and how I have managed to survive the difficulties and barriers.

Contact us

About the Group

If you woud like to get in touch with the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group, please contact:

Liz Tilley 
Chair of the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group
School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes

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