Structured Learners

Overview

Most pupils who are under the umbrella of Structured Learners have a diagnosis of autism.

People with autism have difficulties in:

  • non-verbal and verbal communication,
  • social understanding and social behaviour,
  • thinking and behaving flexibly (rigidity of thought) according to the situation
  • sensory perception and responses

Children in the Structured Learners may also present with a range of additional needs, such as physical or health needs and behaviours which challenge.

All pupils within Structured Learners benefit from a structured approach to teaching.

There is a wide range of cognitive ability within the Structured Learners department which ranges from children working below P4 on the Engagement Profile through to children working above P8 within Delamere Steps.

The curriculum will look very different according to where children are at within this continuum.

As an example;

Children at a higher cognitive level (above P5) must have access to formal phonics regardless of them being within the Structured Learners department.

At the other end of the scale, children at a lower cognitive level (below P4) must have access to Intensive Interaction regardless of them bring within the Structured Learners department.

This situation further demonstrates the need for highly personalised learning journeys and provision.

Intent

At Delamere School, we recognise that our pupils within the Structured Learners Department require access to a specific learning style. Our intent is to: 

  • Work collaboratively with families and other professionals to provide a highly personalised flexible and adaptable curriculum
  • Provide an environment which is calm, distraction free and has a low level of visual and auditory stimulus
  • Provide pupils with a high degree of visual and physical structure
  • Provide a ‘total-communication’ environment, where all children are encouraged to communicate their wants, needs and interests
  • Provide access to personalised sensory programmes to support regulation and increase access to learning
  • Provide pupils with a means of requesting withdrawal to a chill-out area (Safe Space or other) when their levels of anxiety become raised

Implementation

Learning Environment

Children with autism typically learn best through routines and repetition as this ensures greater predictability and meaning, therefore reducing any possible anxiety.

Children with autism typically learn best through routines and repetition as this ensures greater predictability and meaning, therefore reducing any possible anxiety.

The curriculum incorporates elements of the TEACCH approach (Treatment and Education of Autism and related Communication Handicapped Children) under the overall umbrella of the SPELL philosophy (Structure Positive Approaches and expectations, Empathy, Low Arousal environment, Links with other agencies), as promoted by the National Autistic Society (NAS).

Classroom structure includes:

  • Low visual stimulation
  • Personalised visual timetables
  • Clearly labelled areas, visual cues and instructions
  • Distinct areas; workstations, relaxation and continuous provision opportunities for independent learning

Personalised Learning targets (PLT’s)

At Delamere, all pupils’ personalised learning journeys are designed in collaboration with families and other professionals, with reference to:

  • Delamere Curriculum
  • EHC Plan
  • Personalised Learning Targets
  • B Squared online assessment tool
  • Communication assessments, in collaboration with SALT
  • Sensory Profiles

Structured Learners

Underpinning all teaching and learning is an emphasis on the development of Communication and Personal Development including: social interaction, social understanding, social communication and sensory regulation.

Pupils in the Structured Learners need access to a highly structured environment and teaching approach. Learning is broken down into small steps and repetition is key to help consolidate skills.

Structured Learners access the Delamere Curriculum, which includes:

  • Communication: Receptive and Expressive Language
  • Literacy: Reading and Writing
  • Maths: Numeracy, Measurement, Geometry and Statistics where appropriate
  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development including: social interaction, social understanding, social communication, eating and drinking skills.
  • Physical development; gross motor skills, fine motor skills including games and swimming.
  • Expressive Arts and Design; music, creating art and design, music, dance and drama.
  • Humanities; Geography, History and RE
  • Science
  • Computing

Lessons are planned to facilitate development in these areas but specific teaching, for example in social skills, life skills and sensory desensitisation are also necessary. Pupils all access a full differentiated curriculum delivered in a way that addresses the triad of impairment and sensory issues.

Equal Opportunities and Inclusion

Some pupils with a diagnosis of autism also attend classes in either the Experiential or Independent Learners Department. Staff throughout the school have a knowledge and understanding of autism and autism-specific strategies to ensure consistency for those who require a more structured approach to teaching and learning.

Structured Learners are provided with many ‘real life’ opportunities, for example, educational visits are used to help reduce rigidity, develop appropriate social skills such as waiting in shops or having snack in a café and learning about the world in general.

Pupils may also have opportunities to attend inclusion sessions with a range of local schools.

Communication

Classes within the Structured Learners Department at Delamere School promote a ‘total communication environment’ where every, or any, available means is used to enable a pupil to communicate effectively.

Pupils are provided with visual support for language through the use of:

  • Objects of reference
  • TOBI’s (True Object Based Images)
  • Personalised visual schedules
  • PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System)
  • PODD mats
  • Snap+ Core
  • ‘Signalong’

Attention Autism

Attention Autism is a strategy developed by Gina Davies, a specialist Speech and Language Therapist.

It is both a structured and fun approach to developing attention and engagement in children with autism, which supports the development of joint attention, turn-taking skills and independent work through a clear four-step approach.

Sensory

Many pupils with autism have sensory difficulties which can result in unusual or uncomfortable perception of sensory stimuli; this means that many children are easily distracted which can have a profound impact on their ability to focus on teaching and can impact upon behaviour.

All class staff at Delamere are trained in sensory needs and have access to a range of strategies to support children who experience these. Class teams may seek advice from the Head of Structured Learners and the sensory integration lead in order to develop individual personalised sensory diet plans. Longer Sensory Profiles/assessments may be conducted for pupils with autism with more complex sensory needs, following referral to the Sensory Occupational Therapist.

The Engine Room

“Children and young people need sensory motor experiences to occur with frequency, intensity and duration to assist with the more complex aspects of their development.”

(Horwood, 2008)

The Engine Room was renovated in September 2022, following ongoing research into the impact of “sensory circuits” on behaviour and engagement. Sensory circuits provide a regular, structured opportunity to explore an environment which requires complex movements and concentration with the intention to prepare them for learning. Sensory circuits aim to reduce challenging behaviours in the classroom such as fidgeting or disrupting others, and essentially improve engagement for learning.

Sensory Playground Equipment

Children also have access to sensory regulation equipment in our specially adapted playground. Equipment includes a pendulum swing, sunken trampoline and climbing net which provide integral vestibular and proprioceptive input to support readiness for learning.

The Delamere TASC Pathway

The TASC Pathway group meet three times a year at Delamere School to decide collaboratively whether a diagnosis of autism should be given to an individual pupil. The group includes professionals from a variety of agencies including a Paediatrician, Educational Psychologist, Clinical Psychologist, Speech and Language Therapists and lead staff at Delamere.

Information is gathered from a range of professionals working with or caring for the child along with input from the child’s parents and carers and brought to the meetings to inform the decision. NICE guidelines are referred to throughout. Parents or teachers can refer pupils to the TASC Pathway (with parental permission).

Assessments such as the Early Signs & Symptoms Checklist or ADOS will be used to aid diagnosis.

Impact

  • All children will form positive relationships with staff at Delamere
  • All children will have access to a personalised curriculum and receive a wide range of experiences
  • All children will have access to a total communication approach
  • All children will make a good level of progress based on their starting points
  • All children will receive high quality input from a range of professionals
  • All children will have a functional form of communication
  • All children will be able to recognise relevant emotions in themselves and others
  • All children will have strategies to support self-regulation
  • All children will have a basic understanding of rules and boundaries
  • All children will have strategies to support transitions (micro or macro)
  • All children will be able to form positive relationships
  • All children will develop independence skills

NAS Accreditation

In 2020, Delamere School achieved “advanced” status from the NAS accreditation programme, which we joined in 2014. Delamere’s autism provision is reviewed by specialists in autism on a tri-annual basis. This ongoing programme provides a valuable opportunity to gain an objective judgement of the quality of provision as well as informed future whole school planning and development. Provision for pupils on the autism spectrum is continuously monitored and evaluated as part of the self-evaluation process and forms part of the whole school development plan.

The Head of the Structured Learners Department is Rebecca Sutton

At Delamere, as well as teaching our children to develop their learning, we also offer support to families in a variety of ways. The attached You Said, We Did document offers a few examples.  CLICK HERE to see what our parents say.

Delamere School Irlam Road Flixton M41 6AP
T: 0161 747 5893 E: delamere.admin@trafford.gov.uk
Ofsted Outstanding Provider
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