As a SEND (including autism) specialist, I have experience of planning, assessing and implementing fun and practical lessons specially adapted and tailored to the needs of individual students to ensure they reach their full potential. I have worked with KS1 through to KS5 and FE including young adults (aged 18-25). Throughout my career I have worked with students identified as having: ASD (Autism), challenging behaviour, ADHD, SEMH, Global Delay Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, and Downs Syndrome. I focus on assessing students who have long or short-term learning difficulties in order to plan d... Read More
As a SEND (including autism) specialist, I have experience of planning, assessing and implementing fun and practical lessons specially adapted and tailored to the needs of individual students to ensure they reach their full potential. I have worked with KS1 through to KS5 and FE including young adults (aged 18-25). Throughout my career I have worked with students identified as having: ASD (Autism), challenging behaviour, ADHD, SEMH, Global Delay Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, and Downs Syndrome. I focus on assessing students who have long or short-term learning difficulties in order to plan differentiated and appropriate activities for them. I ensure positive behaviour management strategies are in place for students that would benefit from this support. My skills and experience creating structure, routine and consistency for students and young adults (18-25 years old) with ASD (Autism):
Having learnt the importance of creating a structured environment for students and young adults with ASD, it is paramount to ensure a familiar routine including consistency. My classes when I was a form tutor would always start the day with sensory activities. These would include sensory music, which was followed by a register using photos of all students present. Students were encouraged to find their photo to affirm that they were in school. Next the class engaged in going over the daily PEC timetable, which would be displayed on the interactive whiteboard, to ensure all students could access the information. The use of familiar daily good morning songs encouraged the students to participate. At the end of the day, I would repeat with a goodbye song, and students moving their photos to indicate that they were going home. Additionally, a reward chart for each student was important to allow them to gain a sense of self-worth and to enjoy a pleasurable activity at the end of the day.
In my experience creating a structured environment conducive to the well being of ASD students and young adults worked towards decreasing negative behaviours, lessen student anxiety, increase independence and increase efficiency. The overall aim is to create predictability, which is very important to all of us, but especially to ASD learners. Overall, creating an environment using routines and visual strategies, work systems to maximise efficiency and also the psychical layout of the classroom, including workstations all benefited the learning experience of ASD students and young adults.
I am supportive, patience and understanding of all the students I work with. A holistic approach is the best way to fully meet the needs of all learners, enabling every student the best experience in reaching their full potential. When working with SEND students, including autistic students, I follow these action points:
- Assess where and what a student’s support needs are;
- Plan the strategies to be used with students and share this information with the learner and those who support them (including parents and carers);
- Review and monitor the success and impact of support and strategies;
- Decisions are reviewed and revised in order for the next steps to be implemented.
Inclusion of all students is important, and when working with autistic students, it is important to encourage a problem-solving approach with the student rather than a judgmental one. I always make the effort to make an emotional connection with all the students I have worked with, but this is important when working with autistic students. I have experience of promoting positive behaviour strategies to enable students to learn the skills to enable them to fully access the curriculum. My skills and experience planning and organising specialist activities for students and young adults with autism (ASD) - developing a structure and routine:
It is always a pleasure to plan an organise events for students in a SEND environment. My experience has led me to organise a variety of activities. Previously, I have arranged and taken classes on weekly trips to urban farms. Many students loved interacting with the animals and looked forward to the trips. In another school I worked in, near the Thames, I would organise weekly walks to and around Ham House and Richmond Park. It is important to offer a variety of opportunities to students and young adults with ASD, including those that promote healthy living, exercise and exposure to the local community. My experience working with students with challenging behaviour:
Throughout my career I have worked closely to help support students that at times have displayed challenging behaviour. I believe that as a teacher and tutor, my role is to understand the reasons behind certain behaviours in order to best support students in order for them to lead a meaningful and purposeful life. It is vital to facilitate and provide students with the necessary tools and coping methods to achieve this. I use and follow the Positive Behaviour Strategy (PBS),
of which I have been trained in. PBS is a person-centred approach to people with a learning disability who may be at risk of displaying challenging behaviours. It is backed by evidence from behavioural science and provides support based on inclusion, choice, participation and equality of opportunity. It is important to understand the reasons for behaviour so that unmet needs can be met. Equally important is considering the person as a whole - their life history, physical health and emotional needs. This is so that understanding behaviour can focus on being proactive and preventative, concentrating on the teaching of new skills to replace behaviours that challenge. It is also important to focus on teaching new skills rather than containing behaviours that can be described as challenging. Using physical activity in my sessions:
Having taught PE and being a keen sportsman, I like to promote the message of engaging in as much physical activity as possible. Moving in any way possible is important for health. For me, making PE activities fun is key. I take a high tempo approach where possible, making students, as much as they can, work hard. Also important are calming activities and sessions, such as yoga which include correct warm up and warm down activities. Teaching life skills including cooking:
In many of my previous roles, I have taught cooking, with an emphasis on healthy eating. Teaching life skills is an important part of SEND education. To enable ASD students and young adults were able to make the most of these sessions, I always printed the recipes and instructions using Communicate In Print (Widget) and started the lessons by exploring the smells, and textures of the ingredients and also and type of cooking utensils that were going to be used. My experience ensuring that your young adults (ages 18-25) develop their overall wellbeing, including independence and healthy eating:
In education these days is a focus on the well-being of students, including mental and physical well-being. Quite rightly so. Building and prompting independence is a corner stone of SEND education. As a practitioner to promote independence I have in the past:
- Provided choices. One easy way of starting to build independence is to give students choices. This might be choosing what they eat for lunch;
- Avoid doing things for students and to keep giving students the opportunities to practice and improve their skills. This includes things like tying shoelaces or doing up a jacket;
- Provide challenging and stimulating activities to develop skills;
- Use assistive communication devices. To use communication devices to support students and help them to be more successful and independent;
- Set goals. Find out what they’re interested in and what they want to achieve, including those students who are non verbal;
- Allow opportunities for students to get out and about into the local community, use shops, libraries, leisure centres, and to go swimming (depending on covid risk assessments in the current climate).
My experience of healthy eating has been to involve parents as much as possible, including acting on their feedback. This has included planning cooking lessons involving healthy eating and respecting the dietary needs of all students, including religious dietary needs. Overall, taking a holistic approach to teaching and learning and incorporating these aspects into planning has worked for me to promote a sense of overall well-being for students. My specialist skills and experience teaching students with sensory processing disorder:
Throughout my career I have taught many students identified as having sensory process issues, including those students with hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity. It is important to provide resources that will enable them to regulate emotions in order to best access the curriculum. These resources might include a weighted lap pad, weighted vest, a wiggle cushion, or other OT-approved sensory tools. Some students would benefit from earplugs or ear defenders to help with noise sensitivity. I always encourage students to use handheld fidgets. My skills and experience working with ABA principles:
Having worked in SEND education for many years, rewarding positive behaviour is about enriching and enabling students, which leads to a positive working environment for all. Having followed the ABA principle in schools, it is a useful tool that can be transferred to any setting when working in a SEND environment. As a practitioner, my role is to teach new skills and positive behaviours, including socially acceptable behaviours. However, before these new behaviours can be taught, learnt and reinforced, the first step is to understand the reason behind certain behaviours in the first place. Then rewards and incentives are put in place to encourage students. My skills and experience working with students who are non or minimal verbal:
I have had lots of experience throughout my SEND career of working with students who can be identified as being non, or minimal verbal. As a class teacher, I have had numerous students in my class who could be identified as this. It is firstly important to recognise that this is a broad spectrum, and that many students will have some ability to read and write. Additionally, it is important to understand that all students fall into one continuum of literacy skill development, progressing through the following stages: Early emergent, later emergent, transitional, beginning conventional, to later conventional.
In order to enable non or minimal verbal students to access the curriculum I encouraged students to use an augmentative or alternative communication (AAC) system to assist with learning. This is often in conjunction with the SLT in a school. Use of AAC facilitates literacy learning and literacy skills in turn can facilitate more sophisticated communication. Both lead to increased self-esteem, opportunities, and independence.
PECS are another useful tool to enable students to communicate their needs. They are best used in combination with a SLT. I have always used PECS, not only with non or minimal verbal students but with any student that might benefit from their use. I used Communicate in Print, part of the Widget family, to make my own PECS which could be designed to work with every individual student. I use PECS throughout the day, for example starting the day off by choosing the correct day of the week or choosing the names of all students present in the class that day. They are really useful for reinforcing a visual representation.
How my sessions work:
How I provide feedback and communicate with parents: Communication with parents and careers is an important aspect of working in SEND education, especially for those students who are non-verbal or with limited language skills. As a teacher, I would communicate daily with parents by writing in a home communication book, giving a brief but concise outlook of that day and what their child had achieved. Another way of communicating with parents was by a phone call on Fridays to touch base and answer any questions parents or carers might have. Parents evenings were another important face to face way of communicating and allowing parents to ask questions regarding the curricula, student progress and any other questions they might have had. Responding to parental emails within 24 hours is also an important standard for a teacher which demonstrates a professional working manner.
I believe in structured and focused sessions with clear targets and aims. Sessions are broken down to manageable segments depending on the ability of every student, and if needed short movement breaks can improve the overall concentration of students and the positive outcomes for the sessions. I like to ensure my sessions include lots of visual representations, including pictures, diagrams, Widgit symbols and flash cards, but also role–play and demonstrations. In short, they are fun and engaging but importantly are tailored to improve and meet the needs and targets of students. Additionally, depending on the ability of students it can be beneficial to keep language simple and include instructions that are short and clear and use simple vocabulary. It is important to speak slowly and clearly and leave gaps between sentences to allow students to process what has been heard. I use lots of repetition and encourage students to visualise what they hear.
Sessions always include modelling and scaffolding, to ensure students have clear instructions and expectations of how to complete a task. Written tasks will include visual instructions and representations in order to allow the student to understand how to finish a task. It is important to cover as much as possible in each session, and homework can be provided on request.
Inclusion of all students is important, and when working with students identified as being autistic or ADHD, it is important to encourage a problem-solving approach with the student rather than a judgmental one, but be assertive but, avoid sarcasm. I always make the effort to make an emotional connection with all the students I have worked with, but this is important when working with autistic and ADHD students. I have experience of promoting positive behaviour strategies to enable students to learn the skills to enable them to fully access the curriculum.
In addition, my previous roles have included Mathematics and Computing Coordinator. Having worked in London as a primary teacher, I have lots of experience in supporting the needs of EAL students. I spent three years teaching English, Mathematics, Computing and PE in an international school in Hamburg, Germany and developed bilingual immersion programs for these EAL students.