Specialist Experience and Skills
My experience working with children with PMLD and cerebral palsy: I have worked with several students (either classroom-based or 1-to-1) who were diagnosed with PMLD (incl. cerebral palsy) on a one-to-one basis and in several SEN schools throughout London. Some of my Highshore School (Camberwell, London) students (2018-2019), for instance, were diagnosed with PMLD, including learning disabilities, visual impairments, hearing problems, speech problems, drooling issues, and behaviour problems. Some of them used braces, crutches, or a wheelchair to get around and needed help moving around in ... Read More
My experience working with children with PMLD and cerebral palsy: I have worked with several students (either classroom-based or 1-to-1) who were diagnosed with PMLD (incl. cerebral palsy) on a one-to-one basis and in several SEN schools throughout London. Some of my Highshore School (Camberwell, London) students (2018-2019), for instance, were diagnosed with PMLD, including learning disabilities, visual impairments, hearing problems, speech problems, drooling issues, and behaviour problems. Some of them used braces, crutches, or a wheelchair to get around and needed help moving around in class or reaching things; they frequently used assistive devices for writing and, in most severe cases, worked with TA on a 1-to-1 basis.
Being warm, patient and compassionate with pupils diagnosed with PMLD (incl. cerebral palsy) is an absolute preliminary as they frequently have seizures, difficulty sitting still and often have uncontrolled movements. Additionally, as they might have difficulty with bladder and bowel control, they may need to use a bathroom frequently. In my experience, Highshore School pupils diagnosed with PMLD (incl. cerebral palsy) had regular sessions of occupational therapy (OT), physical therapy (PT), and speech therapy during the school day.
Considering the aforementioned, pupils with PMLD (incl. cerebral palsy) may require considerably more time to complete activities and tasks. Therefore, patience and compassion are crucial. Also, special consideration needs to be given regarding missed instructions, etc. In some cases, arranging for verbal responses in assignments and testing can be a good way to measure learning. Considering the complexity of their needs, it is indispensable that teachers, parents, doctors, therapists, and the students with PMLD (incl. cerebral palsy) should all work together to develop and maintain the best treatment and education plans.
My experience working with children with non-verbal pupils: I acquired invaluable experience of working with non-verbal children as a result of my time at Highshore School – a complex mixed-needs special secondary school for pupils aged 11-19 situated in Camberwell, London Borough of Southwark – during 2018-2019. Every one of the 147 pupils had a statement of Special Educational Needs (including cerebral palsy). In addition, my work in an alternative provision context for Fleet Tutors (2011-2019) and for Hackney Learning Trust (July 2021-present) has given me significant further experience of working with non-verbal children, those with severe learning difficulties (such as marked cognitive and developmental delay), and those with visual and hearing impairments.
My experience in this area has led me to make the following observations and draw the following conclusions that I implement in my teaching practice when necessary:
(1) In view of the fact that non-verbal communication is a bridge to language development, it is important to encourage communication of this kind as a precursor to speech. Teachers need to model forms of non-verbal communication such as hand gestures and eye contact, exaggerating their own hand gestures to make it easier for pupils to copy them. When the teacher wants a pupil to perform an action, s/he should communicate this by demonstrating the action her/himself, and then nodding to communicate “Yes!” when the pupil has done it.
(2) Many types of assistive device designed to help pupils – both those who are capable of speech and those who are completely non-verbal – with their communication are available. One should always remember, however, that these devices are not meant to take the place of speech: they are designed to provide a springboard for verbal communication. Visual supports, for instance, allow pupils to make requests and share thoughts by touching pictures that then produce words.
(3) In addition to the many assistive devices that are available, there are also applications that can be downloaded directly to one’s telephone or tablet. Some of the pupils with developmental disabilities that I worked with at Highshore School relied on pre-linguistic behaviour to communicate, and used a voice-output communication aid (VOCA) when responding to another person in order to repair any breakdowns in verbal exchanges. VOCA aids are an effective tool that alleviates barriers to communication and ensures that the pupil enjoys full inclusion in conversations.
One of my non-verbal students (October 2017-March 2018, 20 hours per week on a 1-to-1 basis) was a 7-year-old boy diagnosed with right frontocentral cortical dysplasia, functional disconnection with interior part of the corpus callosum, disconnection of right hemisphere with resection of anterior part of corpus callosum and disconnection of frontal polar and orbital regions of frontal lobe, left-sided hemiparesis, severe learning difficulties (marked cognitive and developmental delay, visual and hearing impairment), and intractable epilepsy.
My skills and experience supporting students to develop their independence: Some of the techniques I make use of in my daily teaching practice are developing discipline, boosting confidence by teaching independence, and encouraging self-evaluation, self-appreciation and pleasure in learning. Short- and long-term target-setting (including the drawing up of daily work schedules), plus reviewing and evaluating progress to date, help students to understand their own learning process and develop appropriate strategies for ‘learning how to learn’. For instance, a pupil can be asked to explain in their own words what they have just learnt: this allows them to evaluate their performance and consciously experience their educational attainment.
My skills and experience supporting students with visual processing difficulties: Working with students with visual processing challenges requires patience and a specialist approach. Some of the effective strategies that I have developed in the last 6 (six) years of working with such students are as follows: 1) having a daily routine that changes as little as possible; 2) using visuals with pictures of sensory input choices; 3) providing frequent breaks; 4) establishing starting and ending times for tasks; 5) giving advance warning of routine changes; 6) reducing the need for handwriting (e.g., use fill-in-the-blank questions instead of short-answer questions); 7) allowing extra time for writing to accommodate motor skills fatigue; 8) if need be, letting the student use speech-to-text software or a computer; 9) providing overlays (e.g., blank pieces of paper) for reading to reduce visual distraction; 10) providing pencil grips , slant boards, and bold or raised-line paper for writing.