Communication

Communication can be a massive barrier to sensory learners, and a big part of what we do is finding a method of communication that can help support the individual child. We want the sensory learner to understand what is going on around them, and the ultimate aspiration is to offer them a means to tell us how they are feeling and what they want. This is no easy feat.

Here are some communication strategies that might be helpful in your sensory classrooms. Pick one (or two) for certain pupils and link the strategy to their annual targets. This way you know you will practice the strategy every day and you can easily monitor, assess and show progress within the target.

  • TASSELS- http://www.communicationmatters.org.uk/conference-session/2014-tassels-tactile-signing-for-sensory-learners This is a form of on-body signing for your P1/2 pupils. Your school will require training as it is something everyone needs to do and use with each sensory learner. You only pick a few signs, for example in my classroom we tend to use; hello, move, hoist, wipe your face, drink/ food (if applicable). It’s a lovely way to consistently cue your learner into what is happening next. Over time might your learner show some slight anticipation to the cue.
  • Objects of reference (OOR)- http://www.communicationmatters.org.uk/page/using-objects-of-reference These objects, once decided upon by your whole school team, will be used with every child P1-3, to cue them into what is happening next, or to show them where they are going. As a team, think of what is important to your pupils, and ensure that every class have the exact OOR available to pupils using them. It is not effective practice to give them a stand in object if it is just going to confuse the child, so whole school consistency, is as always optimum. We tend to use OOR to help pupils understand where they are going from the classroom, so PE (quoit), swimming (arm band), home (seat belt). The pupils will be introduced to the object in the classroom, and be encouraged to hold it to the venue, where the adult will reintroduce it, linking it to the venue.
  • Switches/ High tech AAC- http://www.communicationmatters.org.uk/page/what-is-aac I have discussed switches before in my blogs (see ICT, Cognition blogs), as they are so versatile. We use the big mack switches to record simple phrases onto; e.g. ‘more please’, ‘hello’, or song words. We will encourage pupils to use the switch by pressing it to request more of what they like, or to finish a song. What you do with the switch will depend on what you want the child to learn. Switches are great for consolidating cause and effect. You press a switch, and you get something back. You can challenge pupils with double big mack switches, or “2 talkers”. Add photographs to two switches and ask pupils to press the switch which shows what they like. Switches can also be placed by elbows, feet and heads, so they can be accessible to children with limited hand/ arm movements.
  • Intensive Interaction- http://www.intensiveinteraction.co.uk/about/ Follow the link to find out more. Intensive Interaction is a beautiful activity completed in a 1:1 context. It allows you time to work on eye contact, responses, turn taking and really can bring out the best of your P1/2 level pupils. Your school should have training to ensure best practice.
  • PECS- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picture_exchange_communication_system Again, follow the link to have it explained much better then what I could hehe! PECS is something to offer the more able sensory learner, so a P3 pupil who may be able to exchange a photograph for the actual object. Again, schools may require a key person to be trained in PECS to offer correct guidance.
  • Makaton- Surely you have all heard of the magic of Mr. Tumble 😉 Makaton reinforces language rather than replaces it. Makaton is useful to work alongside symbols to develop understanding of language. It can be a successful method of communication for your more able pupils. As for all these methods, courses are available so your whole school can be consistent in the usage of signing.

As ever, please share effective communication strategies that you may use with your sensory learners and enjoy J

ICT in the Sensory Classroom.

I am in awe of technology at the moment as we can do so much (as long as we know how haha!), but at times simplicity is the key. I often wonder if sometimes we can be too technological and too focused on the WOW factor. We have to remember that sensory pupils are learning how to be reactive on their environment and need suitable opportunities to have an impact on the world around them. Sensory pupils may also prefer to take in one colour/ visual/ sound effect at a time, so they can learn to understand what has happened. Put the needs and interests of your pupils first and create individualised technology sessions that really cater for the individual.

So here are some simple ways to bring ICT into every sensory lesson you deliver, that require very little technical skills as I’m stuck in the 90’s 😉

  • The Interactive whiteboard (IWB)- I tend to use ours to share videos from you tube that relate to our topic, e.g. this term we are following STOMP (the use of household items to create rhythms) and in this context, I would use it for a whole class session, because, let’s face it, sometimes a group music session is FUN!
  • The interactive whiteboard- We can tilt ours/ change the height of it, and this really makes it a useful teacher tool as any child can then access it at their level. Once you find the perfect angle, pupils working at a P1/2 will enjoy tracking activities. I use this program a lot-http://www.northerngrid.org/senswitcher/ . You can change the colour and the images. You can change the setting from experience to cause and effect, so pupils can press the screen to make the shapes move. It’s a really useful resource, as a teacher led activity, or as continuous provision.
  • The Interactive whiteboard- 2 Simple software- Have you seen this software http://www.2simple.com/ ? We use 2 Paint to encourage pupils to make marks on the whiteboard. This reinforces cause and effect, and will tick off any mark making objectives for your pupils. While we are on 2 simple software, check out the music programs as they can bring ICT into your creativity/ music sessions.
  • Floating switches- thanks to the invention of wireless switches (http://www.inclusive.co.uk/helpkidzlearn-easyswitch-p6315 and adapted plug in switches( http://www.inclusive.co.uk/inclusive-kidtrac-p2408 ) you can make your IWB accessible to those pupils with limited arm movements. They press the floating switch in a position that is accessible to them, and see the effects on screen. The wireless switches are amazing as because you don’t have to worry about stretching the wire too far, you can place the switch by their head/ food/ elbow, wherever you know the child can be most independent.
  • The Powerlink http://www.inclusive.co.uk/powerlink-4-uk-p2575 – I just love this!! It’s so simple, yet makes sure every lesson can be related to ICT/ communication (cause and effect). You can plug almost any electrical item into it, add your pupil’s preferred switch and the pupil can turn on the electrical item, finding out about the world and learning about their effects on the environment. The settings can be changed from either a direct on/ off control, to a timed on/ off or a latched setting. I quite often use the fan/ lights (in the dark den/ sensory room)/ massager/ foot spa, as these have a strong effect. I like to see if my P2 pupils can press the switch with greater independence and begin to show anticipation of what is happening.
  • The eye gaze http://www.inclusive.co.uk/articles/eye-gaze-say-it-with-your-eyes-a490 – this totally blew my mind when I was first introduced to it 4 years ago. The pupils can control the screen with their eyes!!! The Speech and Language therapy team linked to your school should recommend this for specific pupils. The programmes that we use in class develop pupils understanding of cause and effect, control, anticipation and encourage independence with those how have limited movements. This therefore links to both communication and cognition targets in your classroom.
  • The ipad- Has so many options. The two main features I use it for are the apps and the camera. Get your ICT co-ordinator on task in finding lovely cause and effect apps. We like the piano/ xylophone, as the pupils can move their fingers across the screen to make sounds. It is handy if you need to work with another pupil in your group. Ipads are so accessible as you can hold them in the preferred position for your pupil to watch visual movements/ listen to sounds. You can move the ipad, to see if they will track and follow light or sound. They are also small enough to take into the dark den with you! As we like to be on trend in class, who doesn’t enjoy a selfie, or watch themselves back on video to celebrate recorded successes!

As ever, enjoy and please share your easy ICT tips J

PE and The Sensory Learner

As a teacher of pupils with very severe and complex physical needs, PE can often be quite a tricky subject, mostly because we don’t have 1:1 support for the pupils.

Here are some tips and ideas to make a PMLD PE lesson on the way to outstanding….

  1. Lots of space, so every child can come out and stretch.
  2. Interesting props- Some scarves, tactile balls, light toys, A-frames/ floor gyms to encourage stimulation whilst waiting their turn, or to encourage reaching and grasping targets (link to cognition targets for cross curricular evidence).
  3. A routine- use the same music for a block of lessons, and work on similar movements, for the pupils to repeat over a few sessions. These can be built on if necessary and appropriate to their progress.
  4. Use the pupils’ physiotherapy targets as a focus for part or all of the lessons, use the time and space to collect evidence, of which you can build on each week.
  5. Encourage pupils to explore different pieces of equipment, as it could be fascinating for them. Adapt your co-active exploration of the object depending on the level of your child; are they encountering/ experiencing/ reacting/ responding/ causing an action?
  6. Engage in body awareness songs and massage.
  7. If you work in a school with a Post-16 dept., could you ask for some sensible students to support your lesson? This could develop their work experience and PSE skills, as well as giving you an extra pair of hands!

It’s not just about football and athletics on the PE curriculum, have you thought of trying…..

  1. Rebound
  2. Disability bikes/ balance bikes
  3. Sherbourne http://www.sherbornemovementuk.org/
  4. Sensory orienteering
  5. Hydrotherapy and swimming
  6. Boccia
  7. Balloon volleyball
  8. Motor programmes with familiar songs
  9. MOVE

There are national training courses for rebound, Sherbourne and balance-ability.

Google should help you with the rest!

 

Good luck and please, share your good practice in PE 🙂