I am a primary teacher currently working in a communication centre alongside four other teachers and four classroom assistants. We also work closely with our speech and language therapist and assistant as well as other agencies such as Educational Psychology, Clinical Psychology and Occupational Therapy. Our centre is part of a mainstream primary school and we are a dynamic part of the school: taking part in assemblies, inclusion in mainstream classes, school trips and educational visits from outside agencies.
After qualifying, I initially intended to work within mainstream education but I always had an interest in additional support needs and the chance arose to work with children with autism and communication and language issues. During the time I have worked in the centre, I have also undertaken a Post-Graduate Certificate in Autism (Children) from the University of Birmingham which I passed with distinction. This has helped me understand the theories that help direct my practice.
The children I teach access the mainstream curriculum but have work tailored to their individual needs. It is also important that the children work upon their social and life-skills and, to this end, I take the children out into the local community to visit local shops and the library. Language skills are worked upon in class: we talk about specific tasks we will be working upon such as buying stamps at the post office and look at the key questions we can ask and questions we might be asked. By practising these language skills in class and then using them in a real life scenario allows the children to understand the social language and cues more fully than by just doing role play in a class environment. Social understanding and the associated language skills go hand in hand and by building the children’s confidence in such a manner, it makes social situations less anxiety ridden.This hopefully has a knock – on effect for their families as, by building their confidence through enjoyable social experiences, they may be more willing to go out on day trips and shopping excursions.
By working closely with parents, all the teachers at the communication centre strive to help children and their families by providing support in with specific issues such as visits to a doctor or a dentist. We have a range of resources built up over the years and can tailor individual social stories to each child and work with them on an individual basis to look at their fears or worries surrounding such visits. My role is very much involved in supporting the child in their educational life and extending support to their families and parents to aid them in making life more enjoyable and understandable for their child. The teachers and staff in the centre support each other and we share good practice and strategies to aid the children’s development.
I try to make life as stress-free as possible for the children. To this end, I often play calming, ambient music at a low level. It appears to aid some children in reducing their anxiety levels. Classical music, (especially Debussy and Satie), is also often used in class. I have also used yoga as an aid to relaxation and focusing attention upon the body rather than outside stresses.
I have to be inventive with resources and materials I can use in the class. For some children, I have found that a pop-up play tent allows for an escape from anxieties and this can be easily accessed and time built into an individual’s time-table to access sensory activities by themselves such as scrunching and tearing paper as well as playing with soft toys with various textures. For children with sensory issues, providing stimulus as simple as Play-Doh can aid sensory feedback for the child and allow for developing proprioceptive awareness in the individual as well as working on hypo/hyper issues of touch.
My motivation is to make the children as happy as possible and to allow them to develop their abilities and skills through exploring the social world in a supported way which allows for individual issues and abilities.