What We Do
The school’s ethos is underpinned by a guiding principle that the students are at the heart of everything we do. This means supporting them to achieve their potential, but much more than this, it means making sure that the things that are important to them are important to us. We make every effort to make sure that the young people are respected as individuals, and encouraged to exercise choice, whether this is about a colour of duvet cover, a special diet, or celebrating particular religious and cultural festivals, and every member of staff is tasked with advocating for the young people they work with. We make sure that we work in partnership with families, recognising that we share a commitment to the students’ welfare and valuing the knowledge and experience that family members offer.
Play is a key part of learning for our students and we are fortunate to have an indoor heated play barn that is used all year round for games, sports and trampolining. Students are particularly fond of the enclosed large soft play area with its interactive sound and music equipment and a large ballpool. Play gives the young people the opportunity to build reciprocal play skills, such as turn taking as well as supporting the development of individual motor skills and core strength. Above all, the students enjoy having fun together.We are continuing to develop our outdoor play areas with plans for the purchase of a range of sensory and interactive equipment.
A Sensory Curriculum
Some of the children that we work with require a curriculum that is aligned to meet their developmental needs. This means that, their day to day learning needs to be built around multi sensory experiences. The fully equipped sensory room provides a learning environment for students to explore experiences including different textures, sights and sounds. The young people can choose to access the sensory room for leisure and relaxation and it is also used to support specific work with individual students to achieve their development goals.
Managing Sensory Sensitivities
It’s common for children on the Autism Spectrum to have sensory sensitivities which can impact on their ability to access different settings, on their engagement and on their emotional wellbeing. We recognise that children can find different environments stressful or aversive and work in partnership with them to ensure that their classrooms and home are set up in a way that minimises the impact of sensory sensitivities a child may be vulnerable to.
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 students’ 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 student does and to monitor progress, refining the programmes as the student advances.
Occupational therapy supports the 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.
Our visiting Consultant Psychiatrist and Psychologist supports our multi-disciplinary team. The consultants usually visit monthly to provide advice, see individual students and if necessary make recommendations about the use of medication supporting well-being and behaviour management.
Our Therapy Team
We believe that children and young people on the autism spectrum benefit from a range of therapeutic interventions. Our multi disciplinary team consists of:
- Two Nurses
- Three Speech and language therapists
- Three Occupational therapist
- A Psychological Therapist
- Consultant Clinical Psychologist
- Additional specialisms are contracted as needed, including play therapy, music therapy and Clinical Psychiatry
How does the therapy team work?
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. The teams are an essential part of Acorn Park and enable teams to increase the range of specialist supports that is offered to children and their families.
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: Targeted Support: Targeted 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 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 support 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.