We recognise that all our pupils are individuals with very specific learning needs. To this end we incorporate a range of different learning strategies to help meet their needs both at an individual level and within a group setting.
We believe pupils have their needs better met in specific classes that are learning approach. We have Structured approach classes, which tend to cater for our ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) pupils, and Sensory approach classes which cater for our pupils working within the PMLD (Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties) spectrum, but may have pupils with a 2 to 4 year age span difference within each class. The remainder of classes within school follow a Practical or Formal approach catering for pupils with SLD (Severe Learning Difficulties) and Complex Needs. These classes are also grouped in key stage.
The following learning strategies are used within the school
SCERTS is a framework to support assessment and planning for children and young people with a description of autism. It targets key areas to be developed so as to facilitate effective participation in school, community and home life. There are 3 main components to the SCERTS framework
- Social Communication is a key area to focus on in order to develop functional language and communication skills and support the building of relationships with others. Pupils are assessed as being at a social partner, language partner or conversational partner stage. Targets are then planned for development of skills to support progress and movement through the stages. This is the SC of the SCERTS framework.
- Emotional Regulation – children and young people with autism often have difficulties in recognising and coping with emotions, moving through changes and hence being ready to learn at home and at school. Accurately assessing this area of emotional regulation is vital in order to understand where children and young people are in terms of coping with change, managing their sensory responses, being able to focus in class and other situations at home and at school. Targets are then planned to support the development of skills in self-regulation as well as in understanding other people, which are useful in coping with emotions and change (mutual regulation). This is the ER of the SCERTS framework.
- Transactional Supports are the ways in which we can structure the classroom, or other places where the child or young person learns and plays in order to support progress. It also supports the adults to know what they can do to support such as reducing language or allowing time to process information. This is the TS of the SCERTS framework.
SCERTS complements our other forms of assessment and helps pupils to make progress in terms of their learning. At Five Acre Wood School it is implemented as a joint plan with school staff and families working together. Parents / carers are encouraged to express their views of the functional skills they feel their child needs in the various contexts in which they live and learn. Any challenging behaviours observed in pupils are seen as communication attempts and if needed plans are made to support a change to more appropriate methods of communication.
‘Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication handicapped CHildren’. It is a system that originated in the US that is now used in many settings that cater for pupils with autism. It advocates i) a high degree structure and routine throughout the day, ii) clear use of visual systems to support pupils learning e.g. photos, symbols and clear use of colour etc and iii), clearly defined areas within class for individual work, group work, snacks and play. This approach is used in different degrees within each of the specific ASD classes
In our MLD Phase, we use De Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats” approach to offering pupils a framework to reflect on their thinking and to recognise that different thinking is required in different learning situations. It requires pupils and staff to extend their way of thinking about a topic by ‘wearing’ a range of different ’thinking‘ hats. The six hats represent six modes of thinking and are directions to think rather than labels for thinking. That is, the hats are used proactively rather than reactively.
Pupils will use the Six Thinking Hats to:
- Discuss topics
- Solve problems
- Explore alternatives
- Reach decisions
- Research, organise and write
Many of our pupils are visual learners, this means that their strongest learning style is through things that they see in preference to listening or auditory learning. To this end we endeavour to use a wide range of visual materials and methods including symbols, photographs, extensive use of IT and the interactive white board, signing, gesture, use of colour to highlight notices and labels and various types of visual schedules to show timetables.
Much learning is situational and contextual and comes alive for our pupils when acted out and practiced before the real event e.g. using money in a class shop, learning to put on different clothes depending on the weather, and learning to deal with adults we don’t know. Acting out or role playing a situation can then be videoed and give pupils a chance to see themselves and doubly learn from the experience.
Kineasthetic And Practical Learning:
Many of our pupils, as in a mainstream setting, learn through movement and physically doing as a preferred way of learning. For example, when counting pupils may build a brick tower or jump a certain number of times. Kineasthetics or movement based learning makes many concepts more real for our pupils but also has the added benefit in developing their motor control.
Sensory Based Work:
For those pupils who are more profoundly developmentally young (PMLD and some ASD pupils), there is a need to work at a sensory level. This means that all seven senses need to be developed and used as the primary vehicle for learning. The seven senses that are specifically acknowledged within our amended curriculum are: visual, auditory (hearing), taste, smell, touch, vestibular (balance) and proprioception (stimulus received through our muscles and joints largely through movement).
Community Based Learning:
As role play is practice for a real situation so community based learning is an opportunity to use skills in a real context e.g. buying items in a shop, going on a bus or train, or using the swimming pool etc. Equally the community provides a social context for learning which will become even more important as pupils get older. Preparing our pupils for the wider world, in different degrees, is a key skill and ultimately will make a big difference to their quality of life.
Within school we practice the ideal of total communication whereby signing, speech and symbols (sign, say and symbol), are used to enhance pupils understanding and learning. Whenever possible we would always promote speech but we also know that all pupils benefit from us using other visual cues, whether it be signing, gesture or symbols to confirm meaning and enhance their understanding. We do not expect that all pupils use all of the above; rather we would encourage any attempts at communication at whatever level.
Move is an activity based programme which uses the combined knowledge of education, therapy and family to teach children with physical disabilities and/or complex needs the skills of:
Sitting, Standing, Walking, Transferring
The central philosophy of MOVE is that movement is the foundation for learning. A toddler, who is just learning to walk, learns special concepts about the environment around them by being able to move about. A child with a disability, who uses a wheelchair and is reliant on others for movement, is not able to do this and therefore their opportunities for learning are significantly diminished.
The aim of MOVE is therefore to offer these movement opportunities to people with disabilities and so open up the world around them – transforming it from inaccessible and hostile, to accessible, interesting and bursting with opportunity and choice.
MOVE puts a structure and framework around the work that is already taking place. It seeks to bring together all those working with the person and to encourage collaborative working at all levels. In this way MOVE gives equal worth to the input of every team member and is not a therapy technique that can only be carried out by professionals. The carers and the individuals themselves have the best knowledge of their own needs. MOVE ensures that they are fully involved as team members in developing the individual MOVE Programme.
The MOVE approach and structure seeks to raise expectations, focus on positive opportunities at all times and help the person to reach their maximum potential.
At the centre of MOVE is the conviction that opportunity offers the possibility for development, change and achievement.
“Children always live up to your expectations, be careful you do not set them too low.”