Strategies to support the curriculum
The curriculum is supported by the following strategies. These are used for specific pupils to help enhance their learning / communication.
The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) was developed over 20 years ago. It allows children and adults with autism and other communication difficulties to initiate communication.
PECS begins with teaching students to exchange a picture of a desired item with a teacher, who immediately honours the request. For example, if they want a drink, they will give a picture of 'drink' to an adult who directly hands them a drink. Verbal prompts are not used, thus encouraging spontaneity and avoiding prompt dependency. The system goes on to teach discrimination of symbols and how to construct simple "sentences." Ideas for teaching commenting and other language structures such as asking and answering questions are also incorporated.
For more information visit www.pecs.org.uk
Founded in the early 1970s by the late Eric Schopler, Ph.D., TEACCH developed the concept of the "Culture of Autism" as a way of thinking about the characteristic patterns of thinking and behavior seen in individuals with this diagnosis.
The "Culture of Autism" involves:
- Relative strength in and preference for processing visual information (compared to difficulties with auditory processing, particularly of language).
- Frequent attention to details but difficulty understanding the meaning of how those details fit together.
- Difficulty combining ideas.
- Difficulty with organizing ideas, materials, and activities.
- Difficulties with attention. (Some individuals are very distractible, others have difficulty shifting attention when it's time to make transitions.)
- Communication problems, which vary by developmental level but always include impairments in the social use of language (called "pragmatics").
- Difficulty with concepts of time, including moving too quickly or too slowly and having problems recognizing the beginning, middle, or end of an activity.
- Tendency to become attached to routines, with the result that activities may be difficult to generalize from the original learning situation and disruptions in routines can be upsetting, confusing, or uncomfortable.
- Very strong interests and impulses to engage in favoured activities, with difficulties disengaging once engaged.
- Marked sensory preferences and dislikes.
The long-term goals of the TEACCH approach are both skill development and fulfillment of fundamental human needs such as dignity, engagement in productive and personally meaningful activities, and feelings of security, self-efficacy, and self-confidence. To accomplish these goals, TEACCH developed the intervention approach called "Structured Teaching."
The principles of Structured Teaching include:
- Understanding the culture of autism.
- Developing an individualized person- and family-centered plan for each client or student, rather than using a standard curriculum.
- Structuring the physical environment.
- Using visual supports to make the sequence of daily activities predictable and understandable .
- Using visual supports to make individual tasks understandable.
For more information visit http://www.teacch.com/whatis.html
Can you imagine what it would be like if you couldn't understand speech?
How would you cope? It's a situation which is similar to the one you might experience if you were in a foreign country and couldn't speak or understand the language.
What would you do? You would probably begin to gesture to explain what you wanted, and hope that others would understand your gestures and would gesture back. You might also start to draw pictures and diagrams to help get your messages across.
Makaton combines all these elements in a highly successful teaching approach.
How was Makaton developed?
Firstly a research project identified the words that we all use most frequently and need in everyday conversation. Then signs from British Sign Language, used by the deaf community in this country, were matched to these words, so that as you speak you sign and speak at the same time. Signs are often pictorial and convey the meaning more easily than words, which are more abstract.
How is Makaton used?
Makaton users are first encouraged to communicate using signs, then gradually, as a link is made between the word and the sign, the signs are dropped and speech takes over.This might surprise you, as you would perhaps think that signing would prevent speech developing. But research suggests very strongly that this is not the case. In fact the opposite occurs, as signing seems to positively encourage speech development. Many hundreds of thousands of children and adults have been helped significantly in this manner.
Who uses Makaton?
Makaton is an internationally recognised communication programme, used in more than 40 countries worldwide.Most Makaton users are children and adults who need it as their main means of communication. But everyone else who shares their lives will also use Makaton. These include the families, carers, friends and professionals such as teachers, speech and language therapists, social workers, playgroup staff, college lecturers, instructors, nurses, and psychiatrists. However, it doesn't stop there. Makaton is rapidly spreading into the wider community, with requests for training to use signs and symbols from supermarket staff, youth groups, theatre groups, bus drivers, the police, museum staff, people working in sports and leisure, faith communities.
The UK government recently legislated that public and commercial services must provide access to important information for everyone, including sign and symbol users. This can be achieved by translation into Makaton symbols and signs.
For example, it is important to understand what a visit to the dentist is all about, to understand about the medication you are taking and its effects, to become aware of danger such as fire or danger from electricity, to have confidence to travel on public transport, and to have access to public buildings.
For more information visit http://www.makaton.org/about/about.htm
All of us need to integrate sensory information from both within our own body and from our environment to learn, develop and enjoy life.
Sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell are the senses most people are aware of. In addition to these, we have a hidden sense of proprioception (knowing the position of our body) and vestibular (involving balance, gravity and movement through space). For us to function well we need to be effective in integrating all the different sensory information we receive.
Some students have increased difficulty with sensory processing and require additional opportunity during the day to have their sensory needs addressed – this is vital to help the student achieve a calm alert state to learn and provides the building blocks to develop higher level skills.
Drawing from the initial work of Dr Jean Ayres on sensory integration from the 1960’s, sensory strategies drawing on her theory have developed to help with day to day life and to help promote integration of sensation.
At Portesbery we have a wide range of specially selected sensory strategies including sensory activities, environments and curriculum adaptations. These can be accessed regularly throughout the day in the form of a sensory diet aiming to individually address student’s sensory needs and help them meet their potential. Examples include:
Wooded Environmental Play Area
Portesbery has a unique sloped woodland play area. Specially selected equipment has been chosen to challenge and develop children’s proprioceptive and vestibular systems, including:
- Open and enclosed slide built into the hillside so that children who are unable to climb to the top of a regular slide can still experience sliding.
- Dish swing so children can experience swinging fully supported (laying down), or with minimal support (in a seated position).
- Rope climbing frame to develop climbing ability on less stable equipment.
- Rotating circle which children can activate by sitting astride or standing/walking on.
- Freestanding rockers to develop higher level balance and children’s ability to activate equipment
The natural undulating surface of the wooded area challenges children’s balance, walking and running ability. The slope provides resistance work for children’s muscles and the flight of steps can be used not only to develop stepping and looking ability to help with managing stairs at home, but also as a repetitive proprioceptive activity to help children organise themselves.
Additionally the use of natural areas have been found to reduce stress levels and this quiet area is especially useful for children who become over whelmed by too much noise.
From the wooded play area, regular play equipment and a trim trail can be accessed for those developing higher level balance and movement skills in an adjacent park.
School Play Ground
The flat, tarmacadam school playground provides an area that can be not only be accessed by all students but provides opportunity to develop higher level movement and balance skills through the use of didi cars, balance bikes and trikes. It is important for students to learn how to access a wide variety of physical activities since it can help reduce frustration, improve health, co-ordination and release energy in order to be more able to come back into class and sit down to learn.
Swings have been specifically selected to provide vestibular input (which can help arouse, organize and calm) and provide different levels of postural challenge.
- Fully supported swing requiring minimal postural control which can also be used as a contained learning space for mobile children who find it difficult to sit and learn.
- Cone swing requires increasing postural control and use of hands to grip the sides of the dish
- Regular swing demanding high levels of postural control, upper limb and grip ability as well as whole body movement to activate.
- Wheelchair users swing – this is soon to become available.
Swing work also challenges the child’s visual sense as they visually monitor both their static environment as well as people moving in it, as they themselves move through space.
Use of the climbing frame encourages movement up against gravity and the demands of climbing both on stable and unstable surfaces challenge postural responses and require children to develop movement organization. When you climb you use your hands to grip and grip strength, bilateral co-ordination and tactile discrimination can be developed.
A covered out door gym with specifically selected gym equipment provides an outdoors space that can be used in all weathers. The varied gym equipment challenges students movement ability including planning of movement, stamina, balance and co-ordination, as well as providing a widened variety of movement experiences. Regular exercise breaks can help the students retain a calm, alert state and be ready to learn, and offers opportunity to physically release frustration and increase endorphin levels to encourage a feeling of well-being.
The school pool provides not only hydrotherapy. Use of the Jacuzzi can give deep pressure tactile input to increase body awareness. Moving a child through water in different ways challenges their vestibular sense, and because water provides resistance children get better proprioceptive feedback as to where there body is in space when they move.
Specific Class Strategies
Classes have access to activities that can stimulate and calm the children as appropriate throughout the day, with them being able to return to the class ready to learn again. Examples include access to a trampette to stimulate arousal or a physio ball for deep pressure work to calm. Regular movement breaks are used to help children refocus, and time in a quiet, distraction free environment can help a child who may become overloaded by sensory input, chance to calm.
Wake up and Stretch gives opportunity for students to move in a stimulating, busy, noisy environment requiring a high level of integration of sensation. Movement can be provided in a variety of ways to the students, from being passively moved to music in a wheelchair, to higher level movement skills of co-ordinating movement to a song.
Sensory Circuits provides a controlled environment where students experience specifically selected alerting, organising and calming activities to develop their sensory motor skills, with the aim of them returning to class, calm and alert and ready to learn.
Some example of Sensory Strategies are shown in the gallery below: