Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Good Advice is Always Welcome

I've been doing my job as an LSA for about 8 years now, as well as bringing up my own daughter who has Down's Syndrome, so most of the time I pretty much know what I am doing.  However, there are always opportunities to learn and I am always very grateful when they come along.

For the past few weeks the little boy I am looking after has been visited by a speech therapist from an independent company, and she has requested not only that I sit in on her sessions but join in too.  It's all very informal and child friendly and gets the best assessment out of the child whilst I can see her methods and get explanations of why she is doing what she is doing.  Last week the little lad was off school sick and I was unable to cancel her visit in time, so we sat together for the hour session and discussed strategies, child development, progress, and went over what we in the school have been doing so far this school year.  It was extremely useful and shed some insight on certain issues that I have been worried about and also validated the methods I have been using.

I learned a lot too, simple things that now sem blindingly obvious but hadn't occurred to me:

- If the child you are working with is one age but their cognitive age is considerably less, you have to lower your expectations to match the cognitive age.  It is no use getting upset when the child is working within a group of their peers and is completely unable to even comprehend the activity, let alone complete it.  Therefore, break activities down into simple steps, as simple as you need in order to get a result.  Don't worry about comparing them to the other children or whether it is worth doing group work - if nothing else, the child is experiencing working within a group, learning to take turns, learning to listen, all skills which are necessary in mainsteam schooling.  If the only thing the child has managed is to sit quietly, then praise this as next time they will remember that in this activity we sit quietly.

- Simplify tasks to have attainable goals.  We have been rehearsing a Xmas play with the whole of Reception year, and I have been trying to teach the little boy signs to go with the songs.  I was advised to keep it down to one sign per song line in order for him to learn something really well and not get flustered with too much to do when so much is going on.  Same applies to daily tasks - make sure there is something they can be praised for and that you are not asking too much from the child.  When you break what seems to be a pretty easy request into just how much the child has to process and remember, it is surprising to realise just how much has to go on in the brain.

-Don't be afraid to be unconventional in your approach - this is not something I have ever worried about, but it was nice to see someone else down on the floor doing silly voices with toys in order to keep the child focussed.  You may look daft, but it works.

-When working on one specific target, don't concentrate on one resource i.e. we have been teaching the little boy two word phrases such as 'cat eating' using photographs.  This should be backed up with toys, people, whatever you can find throughout the day so that these phrases are not just associated to the particular photos.

-Whilst it gets your point across when you stress 'b-b-b-ball', make sure you are not teaching the child that the word for ball is 'b-b-b-ball'! Children take adults literally at the best of times, so you have to be extra careful when working with children with special needs who cannot differentiate whether or not you are just showing them how to say the first sound of a word.  (Oops, I am very guilty of this one - good job this was pointed out before he learns a stammer!)

The above are just a few of the very useful tips I have picked up lately - hopefully there will be many more before the visits come to an end.

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