Curriculum Access Team and the Eagle House Approach
At Eagle House Group, we have developed our own unique approach to teaching and learning, which we have designed specifically for learners with an autism spectrum disorder. Our approach has been developed across many years and has sought to combine the ‘best of the best’ approaches including TEACCH, PODD (Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display Communication), Makaton and elements of ABA (Applied Behavioural Analysis).
We understand that every learner is different so in order to support their individual needs appropriately, we complete a 6-week comprehensive baseline assessment to include the ‘Underlying Characteristics of Autism’, which ensures that we realise the ‘what’ and ‘how’ impact their autism is having on their learning and other aspects of their lives. We also understand that learning can only happen when these core elements have been addressed: their ‘autism impact’; their sense of wellbeing; their motivation; and sensory processing difficulties (see below). We look at every learner’s physical, social and communication environments and ensure they have appropriate structure, visual support and curriculum differentiation.
How do we achieve this
Each school has their own multidisciplinary team of therapies – the Curriculum Access Team. This team, lead by clinical psychologist Dr Jenny Alvarez, includes speech and language therapy, clinical and assistant psychology, occupational therapy, a behaviour support specialist and music therapy. Every learner works regularly in the classroom with various members of the CA Team, who support teaching staff in providing the appropriate equipment, environment and provision for each learner. A learner will also have individual sessions with a therapist if this has been stipulated in their statement or education, health and care plan. If additional support is flagged up by teaching staff then the team can become quickly involved through the referral system.
In addition to the ongoing support in the classroom, the CA Team provides regular training for staff, external professionals and also for families. Working with families allows a wider understanding of a learners holistic needs and a greater consistency of approach for that learner across both home and school. The team will work with a family to create goals and programmes, which address any issues or difficulties a learner may be experiencing, helping them not only at home, but also at school in their learning, friendships and independence.
SPEECH & LANGUAGE THERAPY
Communication is an essential life skill and one every learner that comes to us has difficulty with. As such, our speech & language therapists work closely with each teaching team to support learners by embedding a ‘total communication approach’ into every classroom. This involves creating a visual environment, which enables learners to access every lesson throughout the whole school day. Learners can access speech & language therapy either through class groups (maximum of 6), small groups or individual therapy, both in and out of the classroom.
PODD (Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display Communication Tool)
Many of our learners have severely challenging language and communication difficulties so our therapists use PODD, which is a tool used to help develop talking (expressive language) and listening (receptive language). PODD works through the use of a multilevel communication book, which learners quickly become familiar with. The symbols offer a vast vocabulary and allows for spontaneity in their use of language, which learners find very motivating. PODD can also be used in conjunction with other communication approaches such as PECS, helping them to grow in confidence day by day. Indeed, many of our learners have found their voice and their humour, often for the first time.
Occupational therapists support learners to function effectively in their everyday activities and to learn about being safe in their environment. They work with them in their self-care, schoolwork, their play and social communication and their independence. Through assessment, therapists are able to determine where learners are struggling and are able to put appropriate programmes in place to support them. Our therapists also assess learners’ physical abilities – their gross motor skills, and can support them to improve their strength, muscle tone and posture. Improvements in fine motor skills, such as threading, buttoning and pencil grip, can be live changing so individual programmes of support will be provided where required. Therapists assess every learner for sensory processing issues, as they are extremely common in autism. They work to improve their ability to modulate sensory experiences in their daily lives and to learn to respond to sensory information from their bodies and from the environment.
At Eagle House Group, we have a clinical psychologist, a behaviour support specialist and assistant psychologists. Collectively, they work to understand every learner’s strengths and areas of difficulty through assessment of their cognition, emotions and behaviour. Individually, they work on the different elements.
A significant part of their role is to look at any behavioural difficulties learners may be experiencing, whereby they will devise supportive strategies and programmes in collaboration with other CA Team members and the parents. A behaviour support plan will be developed with a positive and proactive (avoiding ‘reactive’) focus, taking the learners likes and dislikes very much in to account. The psychologist may then support the learner in a group situation or on an individual basis, looking at their anxiety, low self-esteem and anger management.
Our team works to develop every learner with their well-being and confidence, helping them to access both social and learning opportunities.