How can you prepare to support children with SEND in the new school year? Alex Grady, Education Development Officer for nasen, has kindly provided us with this essential guidance in her guest blog for Axcis. (Re-post).
Getting off to a good start in September
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
You can do this by looking at relevant websites, 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
The MITA (Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants) website is a goldmine of information for good advice on this. If you’re not already familiar with Rob Webster and his work in this area, take a look!
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!
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