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Meet Lauren Smith an ex-student of Weston College whose ambition is to set up her own autism awareness business

laurenbook

Tell us a bit about yourself

I’m Lauren Smith, I’m 20 years old and have high-functioning autism.

I’m an ex-student of Weston Bay, currently studying a degree in Special Education with the University East of London. I also volunteer for People First and The Curly Hair Project.

I’m passionate about raising awareness and supporting others with autism, which I do through autism awareness events. I have an upcoming event on 6th April - Autism Networking Day. This free event will be open to young people, parents and professionals and there will be a chance to participate in well-being activities, learn about local support services and listen to young people’s perspectives. It's being held at Locking Castle Church (Weston-super-Mare) from 11.30-3.30pm.

I have written a book called ‘Tick Tock: It’s Time to Listen’, which is a poetry book based on my experiences of living with autism and navigating the education system. Join me at my book launch on 5th April at Weston Museum. 

My ambition is to set up my own autism awareness business.

What did you study at Weston College?

I studied Level 2 Health and Social Care at Weston College and then progressed to a Level 3 Extended Project Qualification, where I was awarded a distinction and A*.

I particularly enjoyed the independent research project, focusing on autism and effective support within education.

When studying at Weston College, I did encounter difficulties in the mainstream environment so I turned to Weston Bay (the College’s specialist facility for people on the autism spectrum), for additional support. I worked through an independent living programme at Weston Bay and accessed a few of their social activities.

Do you have any fun stories or fond memories of your time here?

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Disneyland Paris with Weston Bay and enjoyed sharing my fundraising efforts. During my time at College, I held a cake sale, participated in an autism awareness walk and dressed up in 30 different fancy dress outfits to fundraise for the National Autistic Society. I organised and participated in a BBC report to promote Weston Bay and also represented the College at an anti-bullying champion event at a local primary school.

How did Weston College and Weston Bay help you get where you are today?

They helped me:

  • Develop my confidence and social skills
  • Make new friends
  • Meet like-minded people, which helped me to realise what I wanted to do as a career
  • Be more determined and hard work to become a stronger person and create opportunities for myself.

Do you have any advice to future students?

  • Be yourself! Try and work towards your passions, regardless of whether or not you are good at it.
  • Tell someone if you are struggling. It’s okay to ask for help! Make sure you stand up for yourself and strive to get your voice heard.
  • Don’t let obstacles get in the way of what you want to achieve. We can all achieve – we may just need to take different paths to get to our destination.

Anything else you would like to add?

Weston Bay is an excellent facility and can offer effective support alongside a mainstream course. However, as autism is a lifelong condition, the struggles still exist and, without appropriate, consistent support, it can have a devastating effect.

I would like to see more support and, in light of this, have set up a Weston Bay alumni group on social media to allow ex-Weston Bay students to keep in contact and support each other. I organise monthly social activities, including meals out, bowling and Airhop. I have set up a Facebook page called ‘My Rainbow Life’ where I share experiences and support others with autism.

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