20th August 2018 - Brain Fanatics

Neuroscience research has gained in momentum over the last few years, resulting in many findings that educationalists cannot ignore, especially those working in special needs.

Some publications (articles and books) are written by experts in different fields, though all the knowledge presented stems from the fascination with the brain that we, due to developing technology, are able to learn about more and more. For teachers, discovering potential for improving pupils’ learning, and becoming more effective practitioners, is a major attraction. And the motivation to churn through publications sometimes – by default - we learn about ourselves too!

I am, therefore, announcing our inter - schools Virtual Brain Book Club. If you’d like to join in informal conversations, book exchanges, jokes and anything to do with the brain, speak to one of the founders and members of the club.

Stephen, Angela, Amy, Kasia, Jonathan, Kamil (associate member)
(please contact Kasia Fejcher-Akhtar for more information)
8th February 2018

Three members of staff attended a Flagship lecture at Hertfordshire University delivered by Ros Blackburn, a spokesperson for people with autism. As a school, we have been awarded free access to regularly offered Flagship lectures on the subject of education through our well established and mutually beneficial partnership.

A witty and highly enjoyable address by Ros highlighted differences between neuro-typical and autistic people in the areas of communication and social interaction. She stressed that teaching conventional speaking to those with ASD is more important than reliance on PECS and Makaton. However, these alternative and augmentative communication systems do support the development of communication.

In autism, language and communication are two separate entities. Language is only the use of words, whereas communication encompasses functional and sociable exchanges of ideas and feelings. People with ASD need to be motivated to engage in talking for the purpose of communication, there is no sense of accomplishment when small talk feels like social onslaught to them.

Ros told us that social skills are rules that can be learned and autistic people don’t necessarily want to be sociable, they want to be socially accepted. She described Autistic Spectrum Disorder as a social instinct deficit.

We have taken on board her highly compelling advice to enhance our practice and to remember when teaching ASD pupils that:
· If it is obvious to you – you still need to state it
· Do things with them, don’t do it for them
· They can only know what they are taught, told and shown
· Broaden their knowledge and experience – moving away from fixed interests
· Observe what they do and ask yourself why. When you get it wrong, autistic people will let you know
· The ASD person may not want the attention of being praised in a social setting and this could make them reluctant to speak in a group situation (it may feel to them like social scalding)

Never make autism the excuse but help the person overcome the problems caused by it.

Reflection after Logical and Illogical, Information and Insight into Autism by Ros Blackburn

Anu, Angela and Kasia

13th November 2017

Angela Fox – MA Art Therapy
Angela engaged in therapeutic work within the setting to acquire skills in art therapy that deliver positive change in pupils’ emotional wellbeing. Her critical analysis of the passage from this extract explains some of the ideas that underpin her practice.

Alex Chaplin – MA in Education
The title of Alex’s dissertation was 'The Potential of the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS): Supporting the Development of Writing in Non-Verbal Children' and was the culmination of a Masters’ degree undertaken alongside full-time work at the Collett School.

11th September 2017

Research in learning profiles of premature babies reveals that these children are often present with complex needs and permutation of disabilities. As these pupils are declared to be “wired differently”, they learn differently too thus requiring teachers to teach differently, and the schools’ leadership to search for effective new ways to expand the existing portfolio of practice.

The debate supported by a neuroscience review of the current state of educational provision for prematurely born children calls for a greater understanding of their unique challenges and their origins to influence positively potential teaching styles and interventions.

The challenges for schools, mainstream and special, are to remove barriers for learning (something not often practiced in the UK) suggesting the benefits of deferred or delayed school entry as many prematurely born children (and SEN pupils, I would like to add) are not developmentally ready to follow a school’s daily routine: to sit for a period of time, to be attentive and learn as part of a larger group.

The Collett School’s solution to remove some of these barriers to learning is to bring home to school by adapting a fluid teaching style throughout the day and transforming the physical environment so that it oozes with homely features and exudes a feeling of home, security and coziness.

This response has been inspired by 'Born Too Soon' by Barry Carpenter and Jo Egerton