Specialist Experience and Skills
My SEND career began at the age of eighteen when I began to working as a recreational counselor 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. 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... Read More
My SEND career began at the age of eighteen when I began to working as a recreational counselor 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. 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. 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 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 social communication and friendship development skills: This aspect of supporting children is a very sentimental one for me. I have been the parent of the child with complex needs who does not get invited to parties or playdates because other children often misunderstand them. Behaviour, whether low-key or distressed is all communication. Children who are under stress may express their emotions through actions rather than words. This is even more so the case when those emotions are complex and new or unfamiliar. However, children can be the best co-regulators for other children who are distressed. My aim is not to just equip the child I am working with to learn to manage their feelings in a healthy way but to empower them to become advocates for themselves when trying to express their needs and thoughts. When it comes to particular communication-affecting challenges such as autism, it is important to see each child as an individual and to support them in creating a way of communicating that works best for them. This could be through gesture (Makaton) image (PECS) or a blend of multiple approaches. All methods of communication are valid. The only requirement is that the message is received! Social stories can be very helpful when preparing to engage and communicate in a new environment or with new people and can allow for the child to input what works best for them. Collaboration is key, no matter the size of the child’s involvement.