Specialist Experience and Skills
In a varied career path spanning over two decades, there is virtually no aspect of SEN education that I haven’t experienced. My SEND career began at the age of eighteen when I began to working as a recreational counsellor for the local council. Having continued in my career path in SEND for so long, after qualifying as a teacher, I ended up teaching in a special school in London. I have worked with SEN children of all ages with the bulk of my experience being with ASD. I am also a proud mum to two adopted children whose needs cross many boundaries across speech delay, Down's Syndrome, ADHD, S... Read More
In a varied career path spanning over two decades, there is virtually no aspect of SEN education that I haven’t experienced. My SEND career began at the age of eighteen when I began to working as a recreational counsellor for the local council. Having continued in my career path in SEND for so long, after qualifying as a teacher, I ended up teaching in a special school in London. I have worked with SEN children of all ages with the bulk of my experience being with ASD. I am also a proud mum to two adopted children whose needs cross many boundaries across speech delay, Down's Syndrome, ADHD, SPD, dyscalculia, dyslexia, PDA and trauma/attachment. After my son struggled with his additional needs to the point where he could no longer stay in school, I decided to forge a small tuition service myself and offered to other children who were out of school due to their complex needs. We developed our own educational program which integrated therapeutic principles whilst allowing all of the child's learning to be holistic and self-directed. Not to be discouraged, my business partner and I have reshaped the business into a consultancy, tutoring and therapy service. In addition to teaching students directly, I have written curriculae for SEND schools at both the primary and secondary stages. This included developing a flexible curriculum in both Maths and English, as well as building an assessment and monitoring system from scratch. My knowledge of the curriculum is very comprehensive and therefore I can draw on outcomes easily to adapt sessions as we go. I look forward to the opportunity to watch your child's love of learning grow!
How I work: How I work is the source of my passion and professional pride. For the past three years I have worked tirelessly to hone an approach that works for all children with SEN and autism, as well as those with complex needs. The approach was borne out of my knack for being able to work well with autistic children. I took a step back and began to figure out what worked so well for me where others seemed to fail. It was the simple fact that I always met the children where they were; genuinely. Many people claim to do this but on closer inspection, the child is always aware that they are being evaluated by the adult’s standards which may not always be aligned with their own at any given time. I work from a truly child-centred perspective, attuning all work to their interests and strengths. It is very important to me that the child knows and feels I am working within a strengths model and definitely not a deficiency model which is what traditional schools usually employ. There are no arbitrary awards such a sticker charts and such unless this is a method that the child genuinely wants and responds to. I work from a curriculum model that I personally developed that allows the child to access any given topic in any way they wish while ensuring they are continuously engaging with national curriculum outcomes. I employ my own system of assessment and monitoring that involved not tests whatsoever. I use Tapestry (a high-quality online learning journal) to track achievements and progress, where appropriate and encourage parents to engage with it.
My general specialist experience of teaching children with SEND: My SEND career began at the age of eighteen when I began to working as a recreational counsellor for the local council. I ran bowling nights, social events and more, across all ages. I was also an senior inclusion counsellor for the council at summer camps across four summers. This engagement with SEND individuals sparked my passion for working with those with SEND. Throughout my university years, I worked full time (and more!) in residential home where individual with SEND would be living when their families felt they could no longer meet their needs. It was challenging (aggression, personal care, medication) but utterly rewarding in at least equal measure! During this time I also took work as a SEND teaching assistant. Having continued in my career path in SEND for so long, after qualifying as a teacher, I ended up teaching in a special school in London. I am very proud of my achievements there as I was able to establish a successful English Foundation GCSE program for the students which had never been done in the fifty-year history of the school. Life and children moved my family out to Surrey in 2007 where I have taught in a wide variety on environments. I have been a primary class teacher in various year groups, a SATS intervention teacher and a virtual schools tutor. After my son struggled in mainstream with his additional needs to the point where he could no longer stay in school, I decided to forge a small tuition service myself and offered to other children who were out of school due to their complex needs. We developed our own educational program which integrated therapeutic principles whilst allowing all of the child's learning to be self-directed. We enjoyed three years of success until Covid claimed our hired premises to help a local school with social distancing. Not to be discouraged, my business partner and I have reshaped the business into a consultancy and therapy service which left me able to offer private tutoring. I look forward to any and all opportunities to out our hard work back in action and watch a love of learning grow before my eyes!
My specialist experience supporting with students with ASD; My twenty+ years of professional experience has always included Autism. I always seemed to have a knack with autistic children in any recreational camp/school/social setting. I always loved having this unique talent. I have worked with autistic individuals in an incredibly wide variety of settings. I began my SEND career in 1995, working in local summer camps as an inclusion counsellor as well as volunteering to run social events for SEND adults with everything from Autism to Cerebral Palsy and everything in between. Along the way, I was trained in various methods of non-violent crisis intervention as well as educational approaches that would serve me very well in the years to come. For several years I was the primary carer for an autistic teenager and acted as their parent/carer when liaising with school and the community. In the UK, since 2003, I have been the class teacher for many children with Autism. I worked very hard to advocate for them within any given school and ensure an appropriate approach was adopted for each. From 2017, when my son left school due to his complex needs, I began offering group tuition which grew into a little company and the largest uptake was from parents of autistic children. These particular children respond incredibly well to my laid-back, come-and-explore approach which places no expectations on them apart from keeping themselves, the resources and each other safe. Most importantly, I focus on ensuring they feel I am genuinely on their side and that I meet them where they are and going to work from there. I have since written and am nearing publication of an educational model that supports the wide spectrum of needs of Autistic individuals as well as others with complex needs. In fact, our strap line actually includes the word Autism as a focus of our support! My business partner is a mother of two autistic children and has deepened my understanding of the therapeutic approach continuously throughout our partnership. We have embedded our unique understanding of Autism into everything we do and this has continued into my professional tuition practice. I have a deep understanding of PDA and have a wealth of strategies to help autistic children manage this successfully. I am extremely experienced in dealing with meltdowns (not tantrums!!!) as a SEND mother (Trauma/ADHD) myself and employ my professional methods successfully with my own children.
My specialist experience teaching children with PDA; I have worked extensively with children who present with PDA and have come to consider this my primary specialism, alongside Autism (very often co-occurring). Specifically, over the past three years, as explained in my ASD paragraph, I have honed my approach in a tuition setting I created to cater for children of this profile. I am very proud of my record of success in engaging these young learners and have been able to see many of them transition back to school or to other settings where they have flourished. As a professional tutor, I couldn’t be prouder! My approach is a blend of authenticity, presumed competence and collaboration rather than directive. I am able to read the child and gauge their level of tolerance towards an activity and effectively adapt it in response to this. In the initial sessions, my focus is solely on building a relationship of trust with my learner which takes as long as it takes. I fully understand the importance of patience and adaptability when working alongside children who present with PDA and I am confident in my approach.
My specialist knowledge in working with trauma/adverse childhood experiences; As an adoptive parent, part of our very initial training was learning about trauma and its impact on the lives of children. For the past seven years, I have borne witness to the devastating consequences of trauma on my own children and have worked tirelessly to find ways to support them. As a teacher, this ever-increasing knowledge and skills-base began to translate in countless ways across my professional practice. I began to recognise the signs of trauma within my own classroom and I was able to respond effectively to this, having been armed with the methods learned through my adoption journey. By the time I left classroom teaching in 2017, I had begun to irreversibly shift my professional focus towards supporting children who showed signs of trauma. I had begun to realise that traumatic experiences in school had a similar impact on children as other adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). A child with a negative experience of learning often develop coping mechanisms such as demand avoidance which would then contribute towards their ‘failure’ at school and so further their trauma. It is a vicious cycle. My professional career has now been shaped exclusively around helping children and young people recover from trauma within an educational and support them in their journey to reconnecting with a love of learning but most importantly, towards developing trusting relationships with others once again and truly feeling understood, valued and supported.
My experience helping students to focus and concentrate and engage in learning: My approach to tuition is fully centred on ensuring my learners are engaged on their own terms and not simply complying with a given set of instructions. I achieve this by working with the learner’s interests from understood and valued by me! Building this rapport puts me in a position to collaborate with the learner rather than just simply imposing educational content on them. Setting a collaborative tone within the sessions immediately removed the anxiety that is borne from teacher/adult expectations. This in itself is often enough to see immense changes in focus as the learner no longer needs to self-regulate through the anxiety brought on by the anticipation of expectation. From a relaxed and more receptive place, I can then empower the learner to manage their distractions in a variety of ways and to genuinely enjoy the learning process.
My specialist experience teaching children with processing and memory needs: The vast majority of my professional teaching experience has been with children who have additional needs. Processing difficulties and challenges retaining information to memory are inherently link and common in SEND children. Good teaching practice would see many assistive devices embedded into every session as well as into the learning environment. The simplest way to do thus is through priming. Priming a child before a session through the use of a simple photograph or video of what to expect is simple and highly effective. This increases predictability which makes the learning experience less intense. Additionally, ensuring the child has access to all teaching screens/materials before and after helps the content enter the long-term memory much more easily. In short, anything the educator can do to help reduce uncertainty will help ease processing difficulties and ultimately help the learner retain information more readily.
My specialist experience providing fun and holistic sessions; From 1998-2003, in my role as a residential carer, the clients and I would regularly embark on garden projects, art pieces and even sewing. When my teaching career veered towards SEND, I was lucky enough to be the English lead at an MLD school in London where they gave me free rein to create a project-based curriculum that suited all children of all abilities die to the inherent flexibility in this model. The inspiration for this came in 2005, when I was extremely fortunate to be selected for a SEND teacher exchange program with Hollywood, California and was awe-inspired by what I saw in one particular school. The classroom was set up with four modules, in each of the four corners of the room. One module simply stated; ‘Build a Bridge’. With that three-worded challenge, the children were free to interpret that challenge in whatever way they chose. I saw children engaging with the challenge by writing about a village that was torn apart by the collapse of a bridge, by creating a massive, junk-model bridge that would be scientifically tested for strength and in researching different types of bridges and their construction. It was awesome. That experience stayed with me until I began home-schooling my adopted son who had to leave school due to his complex needs. To begin with, I employed a learning technique called ‘strewing’ which involves leaving specifically chosen items of potential interest in view of the learner. The learner was in complete control of what they wanted to learn and the adults then facilitated that learning. Natural opportunities arose to instruct on core skills such as good spelling, grammar and maths, without it being explicitly instructed. What a wonderful thing to see! So, when I was tasked with home-schooling my son, I simply gathered up the knowledge from my past experiences and presented him with endless possible themes which resulted in an organic, curiosity-driven exploration of any given topic, skilfully guided, monitored and assessed by an experienced and qualified teacher (me!) who is able to seize any opportunity, big or small, to aide the development of core academic and socio-emotional skills. This has involved everything from writing in shaving foam on a window to re-enacting the Gunpowder Plot with Lego to spending time writing our own social stories on how to deal with our emotional triggers (adults have do it too!) to silk-painting the most beautiful Chinese lanterns! It really is quite a lot of fun!
My experience boosting student’s confidence and self-esteem; Working on the learner’s confidence is at the core of my practice. I have long advertised myself as a therapeutic tutor. My sessions always start and finish with self-esteem boosting activities, no matter the age or ability. I have an endless repertoire of self-esteem boosting games that require little to no preparation and can be used at the drop of a hat if the energy of the session is dipping or becoming negative. Students rarely, if ever, have the opportunity to mentally check-in with their teachers before engaging in learning and so, in the position of a tutor, I feel we are duty-bound to give children an audience with someone they can trust and not feel judged-by (who isn’t their parent/carer). Sometimes it’s simply an ‘I’m good’ but very often it is so much more than a two-word response when you ask them how they are. If a few extra minutes is spent exploring their worries and concerns, so be it. Children who feel genuinely safe and genuinely valued learn better. When you embed this statement within the core of your practice, you will eventually succeed with any child.
My skills and experience in create and following a bespoke curriculum for SEND: I was very fortunate to be asked to create a bespoke, project-based curriculum for an independent school at the end of 2020. I was tasked with creating a curriculum for children with a range of complex needs, including ASD, PDA and ADHD. I am pleased to say the curriculum is slowly taking shape and has afforded a lot of flexibility in the education of the young people who attend. I was able to apply the program I have written which incorporates the principles of many evidence-based tools that address such needs as attachment disorder, executive function difficulties/co-regulation and play therapy. By taking a theme, which is ideally directed by the learner, I use my educational expertise to craft a plethora of possible learning outcomes that can be assessed and monitored. All the learner needs to do is to get stuck into an activity of their choosing and I will seek out the teaching and learning opportunities within it. The learner need never complete a worksheet (unless they want to!) or take a test. It’s a win-win learning environment.
My skills and experience teaching essay writing, including structured written English; The vast majority of my secondary subject teaching experience has been in English, both at the Key Stage 3 and GCSE level. My experience has also included functional skills. I have worked as both a GCSE English Teacher (for three years) in an SEND and tutor across different exam boards. I am a writing enthusiast by nature and find it very enjoyable to help students create their own writing styles and techniques that produce their best work. I have several templates I employ with my exam which helps produce a bespoke study guide for each student. I teach students how to draw on their environment (no matter what or where!) to help them with their writing as well as meditative methods that prevent anxiety and curb in during long-writing (essays/structured writing) tasks.
My skills and experience supporting students anxiety; I am proud to be part of the development of a cutting-edge training programme for educators who work with children who have additional needs. The programme addresses the core needs of the learner such as emotional well-being and sensory needs because when the core needs of a learner are unbalanced, anxiety is often the result and this becomes a barrier to learning of any kind. This programme has been created by a team of highly experienced professionals across many years of tried and tested methods when working with children who are at risk or are already disengaged from learning. The success of the approach I employ lies in a genuinely child-led approach that allows the child to feel in collaboration with their educator rather than simply meeting a continuous stream of expectations. For example, a real-world situation such as setting up a café can be used to introduce a topic and teach it. Opportunities for the specific concepts are embedded into the acitivites/projects and skilfully taught through parallel learning. In other words, the educator knows what learning opportunities lie within an activity and is prepared to support the learning of each concept as the learner work through the project. In this way, the learner does not bear the weight of adult-directed expectation which can trigger anxiety in any individual. Learning feels organic and self-directed because it is! This is difficult to achieve in a class setting which places a 1-1 educator in a perfect position to work without causing anxiety.
My skills and experience supporting students to develop their independence: The fundamental role of education, I believe, is to empower a child to succeed in life with their individual skill set. Imagine that skill set as a toolbox, full of useful like skills. No two children have the same skill set. Sometimes a tool in the set gets broken and needs fixing or might go missing altogether. Those tools are self-esteem, resilience, courage, curiosity and so on. No skill is stead-fast and all skills need nurturing to blossom. I have built a business around recognising and acknowledging every learner’s unique skill set and setting up programs to help those skills develop and/or repair as necessary. The skill set each child has can be added to and must be done in a way that sets them up fr as independent a life as possible. Functional skills in academic life (basic literacy and maths) are important to independence of course but so is the ability to find information in the real world, get assistance whenever needed and to take care of themselves. Resiliency and accepting set-backs are also valuable skills. I can help a learner create cheat-sheets for life as well as approaches and techniques that encourage independence and empowerment in their own learning and achievements in the wider world.
My specialist experience teaching English and Maths: I have spent nearly eighteen years in the UK school system in various capacities. I have taught Maths and English explicitly as a class teacher as well as an interventionist. In two teaching roles, I was the assistant Maths lead for a large school and so attended numerous Maths leadership-focused CPD and delivered training on Maths as well. In another teaching role I was the Head of English across all four key stages.
My skills and experience teaching children with speech and language delay/disorder; Working in the field of SEND, many skills can and should be applied as good practice for the benefit of all learners. Children who present with speech and language delay benefit from slower input, repetition and lots of visual reinforcement. In my opinion, that simply sounds like best practice and it is how I have always operated as a teacher. Being conscious of the amount of processing an individual learner would require to acquire a new skill/concept is essential to effective planning. For a child with processing delays of any type, priming is an important tool to use and should be used as a rule. Priming provides the learner with a head start in processing the input and can help alleviate anxiety ahead of a lesson. Anxiety could for example, come from anticipating the lesson will be hard to follow. Anxiety then becomes an additional strain on the learner’s ability to focus and work through the material. The methods I employ with speech and language delays are tried and true and ensure the sessions go as smoothly as possible.
My skills and experience teaching children with Down’s Syndrome; Having worked across a wide variety of SEND environments over the past twenty-five years, I have had the privilege of working with individuals of pretty much every additional need. After ASD and ADHD, the next additional need I have worked with most frequently is Down’s Syndrome. For the seven years I was employed as a residential care worker, the majority of the residents had DS. Additionally, in one of the special schools I worked at previously, many of the children had DS. As with any individual I work with, labels do not matter so much to me. I see a child with needs that need meeting and I do my level best to do so. That is my job!
My skills and experience supporting functional skills and exam revision skills in teenagers and young adults; Most of my experience teaching has been with secondary aged students. I spent four years in a London SEN school teaching Literacy in the secondary department. Additionally, the vast majority of my 1-1 tutoring experience has been with secondary-aged students, supporting their revision and study skills across a variety of subjects. This has included focussed work within foundation levels and creating an entire teaching and learning programme for a private SEN school for vulnerable young people. I have also been part of the development of a programme for educators that addresses the holistic needs of all learners. The approach empowers young people to break down their own barriers to learning. It is a method that works especially well for secondary aged learners. My extensive experience in both the secondary classroom and private tuition has informed this approach which is non-directive and collaborative from the outset which allows a focus on building a relationship with the learner before introducing academic concepts. A few sessions spent at the outset in this manner pays out tenfold in establishing a learning environment that young people respond to and engage with. This translates beautifully into creating a more confident learner who is equipped with a range of transferrable study skills and exam-taking techniques
My skills and experience supporting students with ADHD: My career has seen me teach and tutor in many areas of SEND but none more frequently than ADHD. This is likely because many children present with ADHD as co-occurring with other diagnoses such as ASD. As a result of this experience, I have a great degree of confidence and resourcefulness when supporting learners who struggle to focus and engage. I work exclusively in a non-directive, collaborative way which has been fine-tuned through my work with children and teens who very often have a diagnosis or are suspected as having ADHD. Unfortunately, in a classroom, the types of support that tend to work best with these learners is not always possible to implement but tutoring allows a different environment to be created. This involves allowing movement and brain breaks as and when the child needs them. It also involves being highly sensitive to the needs of the individual learner as they change across time and even within a session. Adaptability and a willingness to change course is key. Learning becomes accelerated when the child feels supported, not confronted. Once anxiety and the burden of expectations is eased, a collaborative tone is established and a child can then become receptive to learning. This is professional teaching joy!
My skills and experience supporting students with dyscalculia: I have had the pleasure of being a maths lead in two of my previous teaching posts. Being the subject lead involved extensive professional development in new teaching methods, theorem and technology in Maths. Intervention methods for children who were falling behind were a regular feature of this training. Additionally, throughout my years of teaching I was a specialist maths tutor in many instances. These roles involved the teaching of maths to children with specific learning disabilities in maths from Year 4 through to Year 10, including GCSE and Foundation Levels. Although specific methods for dyscalculia are essential (a few good practices are set out below) it is essential when working with additional needs, to address the holistic needs of the learner. I am proud to have just completed the development of a training programme which teaches educators how to support the emotional well-being of learners. Please see my paragraph about working with anxiety for more information.
When addressing additional learning needs (e.g. dyscalculia) in maths, the following is a set of standard best-practice methods that I employ:
- Use concrete manipulatives. Use a range of easy-to-handle resources for working through calculations. Where possible, include the specific interests of the learner. Use a range of sizes and texture.
- Play dice games. Dice can help to improve recognition of patterns for counting in groups larger than one.
-Learn through VARK methods as well as multisensory to improve engagement of all areas of the brain.
-Revisit topics in multiple ways to improve long-term memory
-Highlight the repeating decimal structure of the number system through repetition and the use of concrete resources such as Numicon (base ten blocks).
- Take a step-by-step approach, breaking steps into as many steps as necessary for your learner. Revisit often and never rush.
-Look for maths everywhere to help children to construct visual mental models, putting it into real-life contexts.
-Draw, sketch and doodle! This is a easy way to incorporate the learner’s interests whilst working through maths calculations.
-Speak Maths everywhere. Teach your learner to look for maths and narrate the operations out loud wherever possible to reinforce the use of maths concepts (more than, less than, etc)
-Use tech! Assistive technology is a part of life so explore it! There is a raft of excellent maths apps and programmes available now and many are specifically designed for dyscalculia.
-Don’t push written work, rather, include it once and a while when exploring other methods and gradually build up to incorporating written work more often.
-Teach for understanding across all areas of learning. Techniques that support short-term memory and processing are hugely important in maths.
-Do not rely on rote learning. Promote methods that employ logic and reasoning.
My experience with Modern Foreign Languages (French, German and Spanish): I am an unapologetic linguaphile and wish I could learn every language on Earth! Given the time constraints of a busy mum, I had to make the choice to instead maintain my knowledge of a few languages that I have used throughout my life, primarily French and German. I am fully fluent in French, having had a francophone mother and living in a bilingual country, Canada. I have tutored extensively in GCSE French and it is truly one of my teaching passions. My second most fluent language is German. I studied German at university and lived in Munich as an au pair. Though it has been a few years, I have also tutored GCSE German. I also have experience tutoring Spanish at GCSE level but this has been a considerable time ago. As a teacher, I offered language club wherever I went and delighted in alternating between German, French and Spanish clubs across the year. My language clubs were always full and lots of fun! As a result of engaging with these languages over time, I have amassed a rich resource of activities, ideas and knowledge of how to teach language effectively. I have also obtained a qualification in teaching English as a second language which has proved useful when teaching learners who are studying in an English system who do not have English as a first language.