The structure, familiarity and predictability of school offers comfort to most young people, but for some students with additional needs, school also plays a pivotal role in their wellbeing.
However, during this surreal period of remote learning and skeleton schooling, many may struggle to adapt and find their wellbeing suffers as a result.
So, what can we do to ensure the wellbeing of learners with SEND?
Collaboration between home and school is key to supporting the wellbeing and success of a young person with additional needs – regardless of whether there’s an international crisis or not.
All teachers, but particularly SEND teachers and SENCOs, will need to be available to listen to and advise parents/carers remotely.
It’s more important than ever that we work together.
2. Create a routine
Many young people with additional needs, particularly those with a diagnosis of autism, respond well to routine. Now that the traditional school day has gone out of the window, it is essential to establish a new regime.
Be aware that students with SEND attending school may struggle with new groups, different timetables and unfamiliar adults. Where possible, try to surround them with familiarity.
Teach them in one of their usual classrooms, if you can, and let them sit in their usual seat. If your school’s TAs are in, or there is a high teacher to student ratio, prioritise the most vulnerable for extra support.
For those staying at home, suggest that parents/carers follow the usual morning routine. Get up at the same time, breakfast, get ready (even put on school uniform – if that helps) and then start learning.
If parents need assistance, you could help them devise a timetable, whereby the day is split up into different activities – eg, learning, play, eating and physical exercise.
Those students who are rigid in their thinking may struggle to reconcile the idea of doing schoolwork at home. Suggest to parents that they create a “school area” or an “office” if they have space at home.
Be available to talk to children about their worries, whether face-to-face in school, or remotely. Answer questions honestly (bearing in mind their level of understanding) while staying positive.
Reassure them and be prepared to squash any rumours. The British Psychological Society has some great advice that schools can share with families.
Social stories may be more effectual, than “just” talking, for those with communication difficulties. Keep it simple: what is happening, why is it happening, how should they respond (for example, by staying calm and taking sensible precautions, such as hand washing).
For younger children, drawing pictures may help – stick people will suffice.
4. Camouflaged learning
Those attending school may be miffed that they are in, while their peers are kicking back at home, watching TV.
Those at home may struggle to get their heads around the idea that they are expected to do some schoolwork.
Either way, getting students to be productive may prove challenging. Camouflaged learning could be the solution, whether at school or at home – not only to help them learn but also to give them structure and a sense of accomplishment that keeps them feeling upbeat.
For example, get your young people to create their own tuck shop, where they bake the goods to be “sold” and price them.
They will be doing maths without even realising it (measuring, ratios, money, calculations etc) – you could also get them to advertise their shop and practise their persuasive writing.
Plenty of other suggestions for disguised learning can be found on The Scouts’ website, where they have put together some great indoor learning resources.
Gemma Corby is a freelance writer and former special educational needs and disability coordinator