How can you prepare to support children with SEND in the new school year? Alex Grady, Education Deveolopment Officer for nasen, has kindly provided us with this essential guidance in her guest blog for Axcis.
Getting off to a positive start with your new class/es in September will help to set the temperature for future lessons, but knowing how best to do this can feel daunting, especially when you know that there are pupils with SEND (as there will be in almost every class). There are lots of things you can do now or early in the term to prepare to meet the needs of every child you teach to make for a more successful start to the year for everyone:
- Find out as much as you can about the pupils (particularly those with SEND – make sure you speak to the SENCO). As well as using data and assessment outcomes, also aim to find out about them as people – every pupil coming into your classroom is an individual with their own needs, strengths, fears, family, hobbies etc. Try to find something you can talk about or refer to for each child– the personal touch really helps with building relationships, and relationships will help to see you through any difficulties ahead.
- Find out as much as you can about any identified types of SEND (by looking at relevant websites, finding books etc) so that you have an idea of what particular strengths and needs might be. For example, most people with autism have sensory needs, so you may want to consider the impact of lighting, noise, seating etc However, do be aware that the child is not the diagnosis – every pupil with autism/dyslexia/Down syndrome etc is different, and knowing about this area will simply give you an indication of what an individual’s needs may be.
- Consider your classroom environment – even if you don’t have your own classroom, you can think about the aspects of the environment that are within your control. Clutter can be extremely distracting for many pupils, and some will not be able to filter it out, so aim for as little clutter as possible – tidy up piles of books, pen pots, desk tops etc (and train your class to keep them tidy!). What’s on the walls? Do you have word lists or prompts that you want pupils to refer to? If so, make sure they can easily be seen from everywhere in the room and teach the pupils how to use them. Are there old/tatty/irrelevant displays up? Take them down – a bare board is better than one with useless/confusing information on it. Can pupils access the equipment you want them to use? Can those pupils who need a writing slope or a chunky pencil get themselves one? Arrange resources so they can be used independently.
- Think ahead about how you want to respond to the individual needs of your pupils – for example, if you have pupils with literacy difficulties, what support will you offer them for writing? How will you manage spelling tests? For all pupils, but particularly those with SEND, how will you try to develop independence? What strategies could you employ to support the child with autism who needs a routine? (Think visual timetables and preparing them for changes). How will you avoid, and if necessary respond to, situations where a pupil challenges you verbally? (Read about restorative approaches to behaviour to help with this). You cannot possibly think through every possible scenario, but if you are clear about having inclusive values and respond using these, this will take you a long way.
- Make sure you know what resources you will need for particular pupils. For example, a dyslexic pupil may benefit from topic vocabulary lists, common exception word spelling lists, coloured overlays, high-interest low-reading age books etc whereas a pupil with autism may need a now-next board or emotions cards and so on. You will probably discover there are other resources you need as time goes on but having some prepared gives pupils the message that you care about them and want to support them
- If you are lucky enough to have support staff, consider how you will work effectively with them – use the MITA website information for good advice on this.
Remember – every pupil in every class is an individual with their own personality, so enjoy getting to know them – you will all learn a lot as the year progresses!
About Alex Grady, Education Development Officer with nasen
Alex has worked in education for 25 years, almost all teaching children and young people with SEND. She has worked as a primary class teacher and SENCO, for a dyslexia teaching service, in a language resource base, with Looked After Children, for a Learning Support Team in a local authority, and she has been a Reading Recovery Teacher Leader. She recently taught in and coordinated outreach support for a special school federation and has been a SEN governor for ten years. Alex has a wide understanding of the needs of pupils with a range of SEND and the challenges that providing the right support can bring to mainstream and special school staff. She is now an Education Development Officer for nasen, the leading organisation supporting professionals working in the field of SEND, where she has led the development of their Early Years SEND Resources. She is currently working on the Whole School SEND project. This project is based on collaboration across the sector and the sharing of effective practice to meet the needs of all children and young people, and Alex is excited to be a part of it.
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