Specialist Experience and Skills
I am lucky enough to have had almost 30 years experience as an SEN, Early Years, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 teacher in a variety of settings and schools around the world. My most recent role has been in a special school for pupils who have severe, profound and complex needs, including ASD, ADHD, PDA, SpLD (including dyslexia, dyspraxia & dyscalculia), speech and language delay, sensory processing disorders and Global Developmental Delay. I have also taught in a variety of mainstream settings including: a small village school; a large inner city London school; a community kindergarten ... Read More
I am lucky enough to have had almost 30 years experience as an SEN, Early Years, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 teacher in a variety of settings and schools around the world. My most recent role has been in a special school for pupils who have severe, profound and complex needs, including ASD, ADHD, PDA, SpLD (including dyslexia, dyspraxia & dyscalculia), speech and language delay, sensory processing disorders and Global Developmental Delay. I have also taught in a variety of mainstream settings including: a small village school; a large inner city London school; a community kindergarten in Australia; as well as teaching in international schools in Japan and Spain. All these teaching positions have enabled me to work with children, not only with a range of special educational needs, but also across Early Years, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2, and teach the full range of core and foundation National Curriculum subjects (English, Maths, Science, PSHE, History, Geography, Art, Design & Technology & Computing/ICT).
My specialist experience of working with pupils with special needs: My most recent role has been as a special needs teacher in a special needs school for pupils who have serve, profound and complex special educational needs including ASD, ADHD, PDA, speech and language delay, sensory processing disorder and global development delay. All the pupils I taught had an EHCP, which formed the basis of the provision I planned and provided for them. I used the assess, plan, do and review cycle to ensure all my pupils progressed in the five main areas of their EHCP - Social Emotional & Mental Health, Communication & Interaction, Cognition & Learning, Physical & Sensory and Independence & Life Skills.
As a special needs teacher I have written Provision Maps, Care Plans, Personal Learning Profiles and EHCPs and led the Annual Review for the pupils in my class. I liaised with outside professionals such as social workers, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists and implemented suggested support programmes such as BEAM, sensory circuits, Zones of Regulation and Clever Fingers.
I have also worked with integrating pupils with SEN into mainstream schools, both in mainstream settings and in satellite provision (where the special school has a unit on a mainstream site). I adapted the National Curriculum to ensure the pupils could access the learning at the appropriate level and with the appropriate resources so they could become confident and independent learners alongside their peers.
My skills and experience teaching children with speech and language and social communication needs: Many of the pupils I have taught in recent years have had language and communication issues, including some non-verbal children. I have worked closely with speech therapists to implement specific speech and language interventions to support the development of the children’s receptive, expressive and social communication skills. The interventions I have used include: Language for Thinking, Communication Cookbook, Black Sheep, barrier games and language through rhyme and song. For pupils with severe language and communication issues I have also used Makaton, PECs and communication support software such as Communicate in Print and Widgit to support pupil’s language development and to aid their communication. To support social communication skills I have used comic strip conversations, story boards, social stories, Lego therapy and explicitly teach social rules through modelling and role play.
My specialist experience teaching play-based inspired lessons: With my Graduate Diploma in Education specialising in Early Childhood (birth to 8 years) and with the first 10 years of my career teaching in kindergartens, nurseries or reception classes, I have in-depth knowledge and experience of play-based, child centred teaching. I follow the ideas and philosophy of Sally Featherstone, founder of Featherstone Education, who promotes providing purposeful play and exploration opportunities for both Early Years and Key Stage 1. The activities support the development of independent learning through practical activities and promote active learning, thinking skills and problem solving through play while covering the Key Stage 1 curriculum through a child centred approach. The role of the adult is also important in supporting, challenging and engaging the child in play-based learning. The adult needs to have many roles – as observer, co-player and extender of learning.
My specialist experience teaching children with autism: Since my very first teaching role I have taught children with autism in many different schools and settings. In mainstream schools, kindergartens (nursery age) and special schools I have implemented the following strategies to ensure pupils with autism were able to participate in and access the curriculum:
-structure teaching for the pupil’s needs by using visual timetables, clear concise instructions with written or visual prompts and using task boards or now/next boards
-prepare and support pupils for activities and events that may cause anxiety by using social stories
-give learners time to process information before being asked to respond
-break down tasks into small manageable steps and ensure these steps are shown or modelled explicitly
-use of pre-teaching, overlearning and appropriately differentiated resources to actively promote independent learning
-when needed use appropriate seating supports (wobble cushions, wedges and bands)
-ensure pupils have access to sensory equipment (fidget toys, ear defenders, flashing lights, squish balls, bean bags, playdough, foam, goop, sand etc)
-give pupils regular movement or sensory breaks
They key thing I have found, when working with children with autism, is to communicate clearly (using visuals or Makaton if necessary), be consistent, have a clear structure in place (re-enforced by visual timetables, schedules or now/next boards), allow plenty of thinking/response time after asking questions or giving instructions, but most of all, have a sense of fun and humour, as all the ASD pupils I have worked with have had the most amazing sense of humour!
My skills and experience teaching children teaching KS1 (including maths, reading, writing & phonics): My experience of teaching Key Stage 1 children is extensive, with over ten years teaching this age group. I have taught year 1 and 2 classes separately and in mixed aged classes. I have been a Key Stage 1 Leader where I had to support and lead the staff across the key stage. As I have also taught in Reception and year 3, I have a clear understanding of progression through the different key stages and experience of transitioning children from one key stage to the next.
I have attended many training sessions on Key Stage 1 statutory assessments and when I was a Teaching and Learning Consultant in Kent I was a moderator at the year 2 SATs county wide moderation sessions. My knowledge and experience of teaching and leading phonics is extensive and I have helped over 90% of the pupils in my year 1 classes to pass the Phonics Screening as well as training teaching assistants, teachers and parents in Read Write Inc phonics.
A key strategy in my teaching for this age group is making learning active and fun with outdoor learning activities regularly planned. I also use maths manipulatives (numicon, bead strings, unifix, base ten, ten frames, double sided counters) as these are important resources to embed early maths concepts. To support reading and writing I use running reading records, colourful semantics, engaging texts, Clever Finger activities to support fine motor development, word banks and precision teaching interventions such as Early Words to teach sight vocabulary.
My skills and experience boosting students’ confidence, self-esteem, independence and reducing anxiety: The current tutoring work I am doing involves working with vulnerable pupils who have high levels of anxiety and need their self-esteem and confidence built up. To support self-esteem and emotions I use The Box Full of Feelings or Zones of Regulation, both of which I have received training in. Matching the learning tasks to the child’s skill level and interests helps them succeed and builds their confidence. I have also used Class Dojo in both mainstream and special needs classes to build resilience and develop a growth mindset. I have received training in Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) and have had recent experience working with a pupil with PDA. To reduce the anxiety of this child I followed the advice and strategies of the Specialist Teaching Service and had success in integrating him back into the class group, working alongside his peers and engaging in more of the lessons.
As the PSHE subject leader in one school I attended training with the PSHE Association and developed a new PSHE Program of Study based on three core themes - Health and Wellbeing, Relationships and Living in the Wider World. I also planned learning opportunities and experiences which developed independence, physical and social awareness, effective relationships and how to keep safe. My work on the Wellbeing and Involvement Project, with Kent County Council and Professor Laevers, taught me valuable skills in identifying levels of wellbeing and involvement and strategies such as creating learning zones and contracts to encourage children to become confident, independent learners.
My skills and experience helping children with focus and concentration difficulties and helping children to engage in learning: To ensure all pupils engage in their learning, make progress and become confident learners it is important to build on the pupil’s strengths and interests but also build their self-esteem through positive, constructive feedback. Having clear, simple and achievable goals and rewards can help motivate pupils. As is using positive language by saying what is wanted not what is wrong and planning opportunities for success.
To support children to engage in their learning I always consider how a child learns and use multisensory techniques so children learn through visual, auditory and kinaesthetic experiences. Visual and concrete examples and resources are also essential. Providing structure, routine, visual support and purposeful, play based activities can help engage and motivate pupils.
All these strategies are also essential in supporting children with focus and concentration difficulties. I have worked with pupils with ASD, ADHD and GDD who all need support to focus and concentrate. Ensuring the learning environment is conducive is important so having a learning space free of clutter, distractions and over stimulation is key. Breaking tasks down into small manageable chunks followed by short reward/brain breaks, using a task board so children know what and how many steps they need to work through to achieve the learning or activity goal and the use of timers so children can clearly see how long they need to stay on task for. One excellent intervention I have used to increase focus and concentration is Attention Autism where you follow a set routine of sensory experiences and slowly build up the time and level of stimulation, focus and concentration. It is an extremely engaging and effective intervention that parents can continue between tutoring sessions.
Using creative and art-based activities has been key to increasing the involvement and concentration levels with my most recent class. As part of the Valuing Voices Project I worked with a visual artist to co-create a series of lessons combining art with the curriculum topic. I undertook an action research project to evaluate if the visual arts increased wellbeing and involvement levels in pupils with ASD. The results showed that art can increase and sustain these pupil’s engagement with the curriculum.
My skills and experience teaching children with sensory needs: Many of the pupils I have worked with have been sensitive to loud noises or particular sounds, smells or sights and/or have visual, auditory or olfactory overload which can lead to the inability to concentrate, increase anxiety or trigger the fright, fight or flight response. To support the pupils who have sensory needs I avoid ‘visual clutter’ in my learning environments, use workstations, have sensory toolboxes and ear defenders, provide pupils with help/exit cards and pre-warn pupils through visuals or social stories about events such as fire drills or announcements. I have been trained by and worked with occupational therapists to use BEAM and sensory circuits to support children’s sensory needs and prepare them for learning before lessons start and deep pressure, brushing and the use of peanut balls to calm children when they are overstimulated. I also include sensory experiences in my learning activities eg. finding letters or numbers in sand, using foam or goop to practice letter formation or making artefacts for history lessons from clay.
My skills and experience developing meaningful and trusting relationships with children with SEN: Before meeting a pupil in person, I always like to give a parent a social story about myself to share with their child. This prepares them for a new person entering their life. When first meeting and working with children with SEN I plan activities that reduce stress (e.g. games, dance, colouring, gardening, forest school/outdoor activities, sensory toys/materials) and make the activities relevant, interesting and linked to the learner’s strengths and development needs. Giving enough processing time when giving instructions, using visuals to support communication and understanding, using now/next boards or visual timetables, giving children choices and allowing the child to have space and breaks when needed have all helped me establish trust with a child.
Specialist strategies I use to support pupils with special educational needs: In both mainstream and special educational schools I have used the following strategies and interventions to support pupils with special educational needs: visual timetables, now/next boards, visual prompts, colourful semantics, Blank level questioning, task boards, TEACCH tasks, use of timers, numicon, communication in print, clicker 7, dragon dictate, social stories, Early Words, Sounds Write and Read, Write Inc.
I use positive behaviour management strategies by establishing clear expectations, having consequence and reward systems and planning lessons with an awareness of the social and emotional aspects of learning and the importance of ensuring children are engaged with and able to access their learning. An understanding of children’s behaviour and triggers is important so I always consider the learning environment (lighting, noise, seating, visual stimulation), use simple, clear language and visual prompts, if needed, and give children time out or brain breaks when required.
Interactive and creative teaching and learning strategies (eg. use of ICT and film, speaking, listening and drama, cross-curricular links, real and purposeful outcomes, paired and group work, learning zones, contract work, hands-on experiences and resources) are important tools I use to ensure children’s progress and engagement.
I help children to become successful, independent learners by using interactive teaching strategies, creating an organised and stimulating learning environment, knowing each child’s strengths and areas for development and fostering mutual respect.
Other experience and skills
My experience goes beyond teaching children and extends to mentoring, coaching and offering peer support. I have applied these skills as a Senior Teacher, Teaching and Learning Consultant for Kent County Council, Lead Literacy Teacher for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, NQT mentor and as a stage 2 mentor for students from the London Metropolitan University. My skill and expertise in this area has been used to support teachers, teaching assistants and learning support assistants across many schools to improve teaching and learning, facilitate the development of good classroom practice and make a difference to the outcomes for children. These varying roles have also ensured I have refined my ability to build and manage relationships constructively with a wide range of pupils, adults and professionals.
For two and a half years I was involved in implementing the exciting and innovative work of Professor Laevers from the University of Leuven, on wellbeing and involvement, into Kent schools. As a Teaching and Learning Adviser with Kent County Council I worked in partnership with Kent primary schools & Leuven University to undertake action research into wellbeing & involvement, supported the assessment & development of children’s wellbeing & involvement in partnership with schools and lead continuing professional development at school, cluster and county level.
Over the last 2 years I have been involved in the Valuing Voices Project supported by the Paul Hamlyn Teacher Development Fund, Canterbury Christ Church University and Kent Special Educational Needs Trust. The project involved teachers from six Kent Special Schools participating in the co-construction of an Arts curriculum with visual and performance artists. I have also been trained as an Arts Award Assessor and completed a research project on how the arts impact on the wellbeing and engagement levels of pupils with ASD.
I also believe the consideration and participation of families and the community is essential. I have always been active in encouraging parental involvement in children’s learning throughout my career. From writing parent handbooks and newsletters, to holding parent workshops on homework, phonics or reading, I have always strived to ensure parents have an informed and active role in their child’s education. During this past academic year I have also had to liaise with and support parents with home learning activities, as well as teach the pupils who were not in school via Microsoft TEAMs. I have held a variety of roles within schools and with outside agencies such as being a teacher governor at two of my previous schools, involvement in the Valuing Voices Project where I worked with performance and visual artists in Kent and zone-coordinator for the Education Action Zone in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, all of which have allowed me to work with the wider local and educational communities.