Being a care experienced student at Ayrshire College

Paula McPhail, an 18-year-old student at the Ayr Campus who is studying NC Early Education and Childcare, has agreed to write an important post for our blog.

Paula has foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and recently spoke to MSPs at the Scottish Parliament about her experiences in education.

Here she tells us all about her Scottish Parliament presentation and her experiences as a care experienced student, and how the College’s Inclusive Learning team and lecturers have supported her at college.


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“Earlier this year I was at an Adoption UK conference giving a talk about my experiences with foetal alcohol syndrome. They asked if I would consider talking at the Scottish Parliament, so that’s how we got involved. There were five of us talking in parliament.

“I was nervous and excited at the same time. It was a great thing to do. I felt like everyone listened to me because I had a powerful story. My mum came with me and was really proud of me.

“I spoke about being an adopted child at school and what my experience was. I talked about how I felt misunderstood and how teachers made me feel at school. I felt I didn’t get the help that I needed – but it wasn’t really because I was adopted.

“A big reason why I didn’t get the necessary support was because I didn’t get a FASD diagnosis until I was 16. But once I got the diagnosis I still didn’t feel I got the help I needed. I was always a quiet kid at school and I used to copy off my friends just to get by, so no one noticed. It wasn’t until I was doing my exams that I started saying I needed help because I couldn’t copy off anyone.

“FASD affects me because I can’t have too many instructions given to me. I just won’t be able to remember them all. I can read information fine, but taking it in is difficult.

“I came to college last year on a School-College partnership course in Early Education and Childcare. I immediately approached Inclusive Learning because I felt I probably needed to tell them about my FASD. They have supported me really well. They did a test on me straight away and help me all the time.

“The Inclusive Learning team at Ayrshire College gives me a laptop with software that helps me type it up better. They also arrange for me to have extra time, and if I say in class that I’m struggling then my lecturer takes the time to explain it better to me. My lecturers are very understanding.

“College life is better than I thought it would be. I was quite scared to come up. I thought it’d be the exact same as school but you get more responsibility for yourself and they treat you like an adult here. My classmates don’t really know about FASD but I don’t really mind talking about it if they were to ask me. They’re a great help too.

“I’m hoping to get a job in a nursery. My mum and dad are foster carers so I’ve always had kids coming into my house. I’ve always loved being with kids so that’s what made me choose this course.”

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