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Upon receiving a referral (including the Statement or EHCP), the Academy will identify not only if it can meet needs but how it will meet all identified needs. This will include the provision of all necessary therapies to support each student’s learning and attainment including a speech and language therapist (SaLT), Occupational Therapist (OT) as well as Psychological Therapies such as Art and Music.
Speech and Language Therapy
All of our students will have key difficulties in the areas of communication and social skills. We, therefore, employ the services of an in-house Clinical Lead Speech and Language Therapist to work with students, staff, and parents/carers in developing Personalised Learning Plans for all students to develop their communication skills. The following methods are employed to achieve this:
- Derbyshire Language Scheme (DLS)
- Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
- Social StoriesTM
- Comic strip conversations
- Tacpac® (Tactile and Communication Pack)
- Intensive Interaction
Students entering the Academy will arrive with different communication aides and methods. It is expected that the majority of students, given that children and young people with ASC are visual learners, will come with experience of PECS and in some cases Makaton (or equivalent sign language). The therapists train staff in the different techniques required to enable students to freely communicate in the Academy environment. All staff will be skilled in PECS and Makaton and will use these communication methods within the classroom on a daily basis. DLS is used to identify those students with minimal language in the staff understanding their pre-requisites for communication. DLS provides a systematic assessment protocol that identifies different levels of students’ needs and attainment. This assessment identifies learning sets for students across the age-range within English and Communication.
Wherever possible, the SaLT will work within the learning environment. It may be a requirement of their Statement or EHCP that a student receives one-to-one therapy sessions outside of the classroom. If so, time will be allocated alongside their peers’ equivalent subject lesson. This ensures as fluid a re-integration as possible when the student is considered able to learn and communicate effectively within their ability grouping. One- to-one therapy will most often be of 20-45 minutes per week, per student. The SaLT will determine when the student is capable of returning to the main class. A report from the SaLT will be part of the Annual Review process.
An Occupational Therapist (OT) provides individual treatment programmes to help our students carry out their daily tasks with more confidence and independence. The OT is responsible for assessing each student’s sensory and physical needs and providing an appropriate programme including:
- Sensory Integration (tactile, vestibular, and proprioceptive especially)
- Functional difficulties such as dressing, eating, toileting
- Academy skills such as pencil and scissor skills
- Play skills
- Sensory abilities such as touch and balance
- Fine motor skills and gross motor and movement abilities
- Social skills
- Behavioural responses during the child's day
The in-house OT has the responsibility of completing the requirements specified in the Statements/EHC Plans. Often students will be withdrawn from their classrooms to work with the OT in an appropriate area, such as a Sensory Room. 20-45 minutes per week will be allocated dependent upon needs and attention-capacity of the student. The OT determines when occupational therapy is no longer required. The OT produces a report for the Annual Review process.
Two psychotherapists are employed to provide music therapy. Music has proven to be useful in countering the difficulties that ASC students have in understanding, processing, and communicating their emotions. Emotional factors can severely affect learning potential and in utilising music therapy we can enhance our students’ well-being. Being free from emotional anxiety significantly increases capacity for learning and all students, ability to realise their potential. Statements/EHC Plans will also indicate therapy time. This will often equate to 30-45 minutes per week for each student over an 8-12 week period. The dedicated Music Therapy Room is used to conduct this. The psychotherapist produces a report for the Annual Review process. In some cases Speech and Language, Occupational, and Music therapy provision will be prescribed by the student’s Specialist Consultant/Paediatrician.
Venturers Academy employs the services of a Clinical Psychologist who provides training for all staff and supports the Multi Disciplinary Team (MDT) in making informed choices on appropriate interventions for students. He also ensures that clinical advice is available at the point of need and that specialist assessments can also be undertaken without delay. This provision ensures that everything possible is done in a measured, insightful approach from a MDT perspective to meet the needs of all students at Venturers Academy.
Mindfulness and Sand Tray Therapy
All staff are trained in either Mindfulness or Sand Tray Therapy, which complements the specialist therapies led by the SaLT and OT.