Transitioning to life at University

On Wednesday, 6 December 2023, the BABICM Conference took place in Birmingham.  The theme was ‘Keep up the Good Work’, and we were delighted that our client, Jaden Payne, and his mother, Suzanne Dottin-Payne, were asked to speak about his life at University.  They were supported by our Case Manager, Catherine Watkins.

The Conference aimed to delve into practical strategies for aiding clients in enhancing their employability and reintegrating into the workforce after experiencing severe injuries.  The goal was to strengthen the understanding of Case Managers and other professionals regarding vocational rehabilitation practices.

About Jaden Payne

At the age of 14 years, Jaden was in a car accident in May 2017, which resulted in an acquired brain injury. He was treated in hospital for six weeks following the accident and then supported at home.  Jaden was able to attend secondary school on a part-time basis and completed nine exams.  This led to two years at College, and he then transitioned to St Mary’s University Twickenham London and is now in his 3rd year studying Sport Rehabilitation BSc (Hons).

About Suzanne Dottin-Payne

Suzanne worked for Birmingham City Council for 37 years, she has been Jaden’s full-time Carer since his accident.  The Child Brain Injury Trust has supported the family since August 2017.  Suzanne has focused on Jaden’s rehabilitation and his educational journey.  She has also been able to contribute to many Boards and Committees as a Parent/Carer Representative.

AKA Case Management began to support Jaden’s family in June 2019, and in May 2023, Catherine Watkins became their Case Manager.

Presentation: ‘Finding a way for the future

Suzanne, with Catherine’s support, attended the Conference together.  As Jaden was very busy at University, he and Catherine pre-recorded a video, which was shared on the day. Suzanne described Jaden’s accident and how their lives changed forever on that day.  The rehabilitation in the hospital was intensive and included several therapists, including physios, OTs, and speech therapists.  With ongoing support at home, Jaden could go to school and is now at University.  He is working on his third-year Dissertation, ‘What are the perceived barriers of childhood acquired brain injury on recreational sporting participation.’

In the video, Jaden describes his College experience and aspiration to become a physiotherapist, inspired by his own rehabilitation experiences and love of sport.  At the time, he didn’t realise he needed to go to University to get the qualification.

Jaden describes how he chose a University and the course that would most interest him.  He decided to do the Sport Rehabilitation Degree at St Mary’s University Twickenham London, despite being quite far from his home in Birmingham.

When Jaden first moved away from home, it was daunting, and he didn’t know where to start.  His first year was during COVID, so there was a mix of online and in-person teaching, which was difficult for everyone.  Due to his health vulnerabilities during COVID, Jaden had to pause University and start his first year again, starting in September 2021.

In the first year, Jaden had a lot of support to help with adapting to life at University, living independently, and keeping on track with academic work.  The support included a Disability Advisor and Specialist Mentor, frequent occupational therapy input, a Support Worker and a Personal Tutor from the University.

The first few months were overwhelming, trying to cope with attending lectures and attending appointments with the health professionals and support that was in place.  The Case Manager from AKA needed to reassess this with Jaden and help reduce and streamline the amount of support to make it more manageable and focus on only the essentials.

The DSA provided equipment and software to help him with his studies.  There was additional pressure to learn how to use the software.  He also had a virtual Notetaker in the first couple of years.  In the third year, he had an in-person Notetaker, which was better.

How does it feel to work as a person with brain injury?

During his time at University, Jaden has completed three placements so far.  He gained experience in sports massage, clinical assessments, and pitch-side support.  He also worked in physiotherapy clinics, providing evaluation and treatment for patients with neurological conditions, spine, and whiplash injuries.

The main challenge for Jaden has been fatigue and retaining information.  Every practitioner and each setting works differently, so he had to learn how they worked.  When working with the patients, he found it difficult to retain information; however, with practice, he learnt how to do this effectively.

His work schedule varied for each placement, a mix of three days per week and part-time hours Monday to Friday.  Jaden has learnt that three days a week works best for him.  However, there is an element of cumulative fatigue as the weeks progress, so this must be considered when he considers starting work after graduating.

Jaden has enjoyed his placements and has a real sense of achievement when he has made a difference to the patients he has treated.  Putting what you learned into practice has helped him gain skills that would not have been possible through studying alone.

In the third year of his Degree, Jaden will have written and practical exams as well as a Dissertation. Catherine has helped with discussions with tutors to help Jaden move to more independent study as the expectations continue to increase in his final year.

Jaden is now starting to consider his next steps.  He has three options: to do a Master’s Degree, go straight into work, or take a gap year.  He has been studying at School, College, and University without a break, so some time out does sound like a good option, but he plans to think more about what will be best for him and his future career with the help of his Vocational OT.

His most significant challenges when entering work and employment will be managing his fatigue and finding a work schedule that will help him maintain a good balance between working and managing his brain injury.  His Case Manager, Catherine, will be able to help him negotiate a working regime with a new employer.

Jaden hopes that in the next five years, he can develop a career working in a clinical environment supporting patients with musculoskeletal or neurological difficulties.  We wish him all the very best with his job and future life.

We hope that the presentation given by Suzanne and Jaden helped Case Managers and other professionals at the Conference to gain a better understanding of a person’s real-life experience of coming through and out of education and looking forward to working and building a career.