At Oakfield Park School we endeavour to ensure the following key principles underpin our practice, enabling us to provide the best possible education for our students with autism.
- Knowledge and understanding of autism and current research.
- Implementation of the interventions, approaches, behaviour management strategies, and communication systems most appropriate to each student.
- Promote collaboration between parents, outside agencies, and whole school staff to gain comprehensive understanding of individual students and how best to support them in a cohesive and consistent approach.
- Continuous monitoring and evaluation of provision.
The Learning Environment
Research and experience show us that having autism has a profound effect on a student’s ability to learn. Sensory difficulties can result in unusual or uncomfortable perception of sound, sight, smell, touch and taste, and make it difficult for students to focus on the learning priorities as other stimuli pose a considerable distraction. Therefore, we aim to provide an environment which reflects the SPELL framework (Structure, Positive approaches and expectations, Empathy Low arousal and Links) is quiet, calm and has a low level of distracting visual, auditory or sensory stimuli. Students have access to separate working areas within their classroom environment. Read more by clicking the link below:
In order to ensure that pupils with autism can access the curriculum, the school uses a variety of approaches and resources. Monitoring and evaluation of approaches is continuous and the school favours an ‘eclectic’ model which draws on best practice from a range of interventions.
Our staff are trained in the TEACCH. TEACCH stands for 'Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-Handicapped Children.' TEACCH approach benefit of: use of symbols and visual references to help students understand what is happening and what is going to happen next through a non-auditory means of communication; use of social stories to help students understand social expectations, conventions, and the thoughts and feelings of others. All of these, supported by an appreciation of the need for a highly structured daily routine which the students can predict, help to alleviate anxiety and enable our students to both enjoy and learn. Read more about TEACCH approach by clicking link below:
We also run daily morning SPARC (Sustained Physical Activity for Relaxation and Calmness) which supports the successful transition from school to home. We believe the exercise reduces anxiety and stress which can reduce challenging behaviour and create feelings of well-being. SPARC also focuses on communicative interactions. Supports the understanding that they can influence the behaviour of others and develops social rapport and a sense of mutual enjoyment.
Through the creation of an appropriate learning environment and the use of specific approaches and interventions, we seek to ensure that all students with autism are able to access the National Curriculum and ASDAN qualifications.
Students have an Individual Education Plan. These plans often focus on developing skills of communication, social interaction and increasing flexibility of thought which are particular areas of difficulty for students with autism. These reflect the Outcomes in the Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP).
Developing social skills and independent thought are vital in raising self-esteem and preparing students for life after school.
Musical interaction and music Therapy may help to promote wellness by managing stress, enhancing memory, and improving communication. It can also be thought to improve social behaviors, increase focus and attention, increase communication attempts (vocalisations, verbalisations, gestures, and vocabulary), reduce anxiety, and improve body awareness and coordination.
Children with an autism will usually have an extremely uneven learning profile. As teachers of students with autism we are aware of this, and we build on strengths. Students are supported to overcome the weaknesses that are proving to be barriers to their learning, but a focus on ability above disability instils confidence and a positive attitude towards tackling learning challenges.
We also use Sherbourne developmental movement programme which develops students awareness of themselves and others. Benefits of using Sherborne Developmental Movement:
- develop good self-esteem, form positive relationships
- improve emotional and physical literacy
- extend and improve communication and creative expression
- build learning power, challenge thinking and increase problem solving
- create pathways for inclusion; enable differentiated, productive engagement leading to positive achievements
If you would like to read more please visit: http://www.sherbornemovementuk.org/about-sdm.html
We also believe it is important to provide as many ‘real life’ opportunities as possible. For example, visits to local shops, cafes and museums help to reduce rigidity and teach students about using money, travelling safely and using appropriate social skills. Following such work, parents often report how much easier it becomes to go out and about as a family.
Working closely with parents is also vital if students are to generalise skills and transfer them to a variety of situations.
All students with autism have difficulties in communication. Even the most verbally able may have processing difficulties and all will have some impairment in their understanding of social communication. Students with autism are visual learners and using symbols – line drawings – to support spoken language can be enormously valuable. For some students who have little or no speech, object, photos, symbols and/or communication aids including IPad apps are used as alternative or augmentative forms of communication.
Through our knowledge of autism we understand the challenging behaviour our students are likely to present. We aim to reduce anxiety through providing a calm environment and structure. Objects, pictures, symbols and social stories help to clarify what is expected of students and what they can expect to experience. We know that behaviour is a means of communication and we endeavour to understand the function behind the behaviour. Specific strategies are used for each individual and for some, an Individual Support Plan and accompanying Risk assessment and Traffic light form is devised. Consistency is necessary and all adults involved with the student commit to its delivery. Parents are consulted and make a vital contribution to the contents of the plan. Our staff are trained in de-escalation strategies, behaviour management and positive handling techniques through the nationally accredited Team Teach organisation and the school currently has two Team Teach tutors on its staff.