Our integrated therapy teams have structured their work across 3 different support strands which enable them to have the biggest impact within the school and care communities:
Strand 1: Timely support.
We know that the needs of the children that we support can sometimes change quickly and may require support plans to be set up in a timely manner to resolve challenges that arise. Therapists have time built into their schedules so they can quickly be responsive to children’s changing needs to ensure that they can attend Team around The Child meetings, review existing support plans and contribute to building new support plans for children which may be designed to increase their wellbeing.
Strand 2: Enhanced and Specialist Support.
Therapy sessions are often delivered in ‘blocks’ over a longer period of time and are scheduled for times when they will have the most impact. These sessions can be delivered in-home, classroom or community settings. Therapists offer a combination of individual and small group interventions and work closely with staff so that support strategies can be successfully used by all members of a child’s team across their day.
Strand 3: Universal Support.
Our Therapy team is committed to working with the class and home-based teams to increase the use of specialist practices across the Acorn Park Site. The team do this in a number of ways from running projects, delivering training sessions and coaching adults to supporting children in ways that support their engagement in everyday activities.
Class and care teams regularly liaise with members of the therapy team to ensure that support is delivered across each of the 3 support strands so the needs of each child is met.
We integrate the support offered by our therapy team into children’s classrooms, their homes and their communities to enable their communication and learning across every setting.
Communication is fundamental to learning both in and out of the classroom and we place a high priority on developing the young people’ communication skills.
The Speech and Language therapists work alongside teaching and care staff, selecting activities that engage, motivate and focus the young person’s attention; a necessary skill for learning. They work in partnership with the teacher to develop programmes that are embedded in everything the young person does and to monitor progress, refining the programmes as the young person advances.
Occupational therapy supports young people by helping them to develop the skills they need to function in their everyday life activities e.g. self-care, schoolwork, play, social interaction and independence. Our Occupational Therapists assess each young person’s ability to carry out age-appropriate life tasks and identify challenges in their motor and sensory abilities that get in the way of their ability to function within these tasks.
Parents and carers also have access to support and advice from our occupational therapists and speech and language therapists who can help parents to understand the programmes that have been developed for their children so that they can be continued at home.
Therapeutic caregiving is a highly nurturing parenting approach, which has empathy at its core and so at Acorn Park we aim to approach our young people from this perspective – to understand the functions of behaviour which in turn allow needs to be met.
Many of our young people have come to Acorn Park following difficult experiences in other settings and may have suffered trauma or other adverse childhood experiences. Therapeutic Parenting uses clear and consistent boundaries and routines to aid the development of new neural pathways in the brain enabling children to gain trust in adults. When trauma is suffered the lower parts of the brain (survival brain) do not consistently connect with their higher brain (prefrontal cortex/thinking brain) so it is difficult to link cause and effect. A therapeutic approach allows those connections to repair and develop.
Using boundaries and routines helps children to understand there is consistency and predictably in their lives and that their needs will always be met. At Acorn Park we use a range of visuals, including timetables, to support children with this.
We respond to young people displaying dysregulated behaviours with empathy using the PACE model (playfulness to connect and diffuse a situation, acceptance of the child whilst not accepting of aggression, curiosity to detect your child’s need, all steeped in empathy). Again this leads to a feeling of consistency and a no judgement approach which means that young people’ shame responses are reduced – ultimately leading to higher self-esteem and feelings of security.
The Therapeutic Parenting programme has truly been embedded into the school community and the language and ethos of Therapeutic Parenting has given the school its own unique identity. We call this our One Voice approach to behaviour.
Our Therapy Team
We believe that autistic children and young people benefit from a range of therapeutic interventions. Our multidisciplinary team consists of:
Therapy and Wellbeing Lead
Speech Language and Communication Lead
Occupational Therapy Lead
Psychotherapy and Counselling Lead
Speech and Language Therapist
In addition, we work with a range of private providers for services such as Play and Music Therapy as required to ensure that every aspect of a young people Education and Health Care Plan is met.