My first class was with a teacher who also started the same day as me, and with a very patient, very experienced Teaching Assistant, who had been at the school for a few years. I owe so much to this TA. She taught me more than I can ever remember. There were about seven pupils in the class, ages ranging from 7 to 12 years old. I still see some of them out and about in the community and feel proud that the school has given them the tools and opportunities to live as full a life as they are able.
All the staff were (and still are) inspirational. Their collective skills support the pupils to achieve wonders, that sometimes seem impossible at the beginning.
I learned that communication is the key to everything. All forms of behaviour are communication. Acceptable, pleasing behaviour is typically easy to read, and can show the person is happy. Challenging behaviour is also easy to read, but easy to misunderstand. Challenging behaviour could be a means of saying “Help”, “I’m scared”, “I don’t understand” “You don’t understand”. The longer it takes to read this behaviour, the more challenging it can become.
Identifying the most appropriate method of communication is key. Before working at the school, I never appreciated how many forms of communication are out there. Speech (obviously), signing (I had seen BSL in action), symbols, communication books, Touch Cues, Eye Gaze technology, iPad programmes, to name but a few. And everyone is individual, unique. What works for some, does not work for someone else. One size does not fit all.
I fell in love with Makaton. Why? Everyone can use it. It is multi modal, using signs and symbols with speech. The symbols are not for everyone, but I think they are great. Imagine you are communicating with a learner who needs time to process the information you are trying to get across. Once spoken, words “disappear”. Signs give another clue to what is being said, but like words, once they have been signed, they “disappear”. Can you think how frustrating that might be, when you only have time to process half of the information before it is gone? So this is where symbols are invaluable, they are a permanent representation of the spoken/signed word. There are so many more positives about symbols. To find out more about The Makaton Language Programme, please check out my Makaton training workshops.