We have all found school challenging at some point or another, especially when it comes to tests. But for 11-year-old Ben Twist, that challenge is amplified by his autism.
Ben was diagnosed with autism at the age of five, and up until recently had been a member of a mainstream public school, before switching to Lansbury Bridge, a school who specialize in working with pupils with autistic spectrum disorders and physical disabilities. Explaining her decision to move Ben to Lansbury, his mother, Gail explains:
“Ben was in a mainstream school all the way through and he had one-to-one support. It was a really good school but the gap between him and his peers just grew and grew. As they were maturing, he wasn’t maturing at the same rate.”
It was at this school that Ben was enrolled to sit his SATs, a series of tests set to establish a pupils understanding with regard to English, Maths and Science before they progress on to high school. The SATs, which are sat in England, have been met with much criticism since they were introduced in 1991, with many teachers’ unions calling for them to be boycotted, due to the pressure that they put on children.
Despite controversy surrounding the examinations, they are still required for all children in England. This meant that Ben was required to sit the tests this summer.
Ben sat the examinations and was determined to give them his all. But despite that, he didn’t quite get the results he was hoping for. However, instead of being scorned for his lower-than-average results, he received something much better from his teacher as a reward for his hard work.
Ruth Clarkson wrote a heartfelt letter to Ben, to support him through his disappointing results. In the letter, she highlighted why Ben needn’t be upset, but instead incredibly proud of himself. “These tests only measure a little bit of you,” she wrote, in her lengthy letter.
“I am writing to you to congratulate you on your attitude and success in completing your end of key stage SATs,” Clarkson wrote, before adding how proud she, and her fellow teachers, were of his “fabulous progress.”
“Ben Twist is made up of many other skills and talents that we at Lansbury Bridge see and measure in other ways,” she wrote, before listing out the areas where Ben excels. “We are so pleased that all of these different talents and abilities make you the special person that you are,” the letter continues, “always making progress and continuing to develop as a lovely bright young man. Well done Ben, we are very proud of you.”
Both Ben and his mother were overwhelmed by the letter, which was more valuable to them than any test results.
Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, Gail Twist said:
“Ben worked so hard and sitting the tests was a massive achievement. We knew the results were coming, but to get a letter like that – I got part-way through it and I burst into tears.”
“Lansbury Bridge school is a lovely environment where people really do have each individual’s best interests at heart. Ben is sensitive and he does worry about things, and I wish more schools did things like this.
He is all of the things they wrote about him – he is an amazing person. I think their words will stay with him if we keep reminding him what they said about him. When I told him he said: ‘Wow, do they really think all those things about me?’ It’s just a beautiful thing to do.”
By the sounds of things, Ben is a star pupil with a promising life ahead of him, regardless of what results he gets on a test. We wish him all the best!