St John’s provision for pupils with multisensory impairments.
We have a small cohort of MSI pupils, whose combination of sensory and other needs vary. Some of these pupils have the potential to gain nationally accredited qualifications and progress onto FE college course and ultimately university, but the specialist teaching and environmental adaptations they need have not been available in other settings.
To enable young people to reach their academic potential despite the barriers of sensory impairment, we have specialist teachers of MSI and hearing impairment who are subject specialists. High staffing ratios allow pupils to successfully study a wide range of qualifications at Key Stage 4 and 5, including GCSEs and their equivalents, BTecs and Entry Level courses.
Our residential provision is a vital ingredient in supporting young people to develop confidence, communication and social skills. Our MSI pupils have living areas and bedrooms that are adapted for their needs and our care staff have additional training and experience in working with MSI students. The support in the residential setting is planned and implemented to maximise these pupils’ ability to be self-reliant when they leave St John’s and prepare them for a successful adult life.
We have one group of MSI pupils who have additional learning difficulties. These young people are supported by expert staff such as MSI teachers and trained intervenors who understand the impact of complex sensory impairment on individual responses. Learning is planned in small steps and concentrates on presenting meaningful experiences that avoid sensory overload. This group is based in a suite of classrooms with specifically designated learning zones and low arousal areas. This quiet area of school includes a newly developed outdoor learning and sensory area. Three sensory rooms, specifically designed for MSI pupils, provide a range of visual, auditory and tactile stimuli. These are used to teach specific skills such as visual tracking or to develop more meaningful understanding of sensory experiences. The integration of motor and sensory stimuli is taught through interactive computer technology and a soft play area allows pupils to relax without sensory overload.
Close liaison with families ensures that we consistently use meaningful ways of helping children make sense of their world, both at home and at school, and express their questions and responses. At St John’s we see this as one of the most important aspects of our work.
The timetable for pupils with complex difficulties includes a range of learning experiences outside the classroom. Students take part in equine therapy with Riding for the Disabled (RDA), and we offer art therapy, aromatherapy and massage. Weekly visits to local amenities, including shops and cafes in the village, enable our students to explore their environment and use their developing social skills in the community.
Speech therapy has a special emphasis for MSI pupils because communication may be harder to achieve. Teachers and therapists plan together to improve children’s expressive as well as receptive language skills. Communication systems are built around the child’s preferred communication mode. We are flexible in our approach and use a range of methods including PECs (Picture Exchange Communication system), hand over hand signing, and computer aided systems.
Our multidisciplinary team works closely with other agencies to improve the outcomes for our pupils. The school and care staff work with the school nurse, audiologist, speech and language therapists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists to address the wider aspects of students’ development. Other partners include the National Deaf Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (NDCAMHS), specialist VI teachers, mobility officers, social workers and SENSE, the national charity for deafblind people.