Services for visually impaired pupils.

Within the pupil population of Northern Counties School, there is a distinct population of children and young people who have varying types and degrees of visual impairment in addition to other complex needs  including autism, hearing loss and additional complex learning and communication difficulties.

These pupils require a very specialist, highly structured educational and therapeutic provision which is delivered via a multi-disciplinary approach and delivered under a Total Communication ethos. We use a range of communication methods including speech, non-sighted means such as Braille as well as sign/on body signing, symbols, Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), Social Communication, Emotional Regulation and Transactional Support (SCERTS), low and high tech aids such as Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCA).

Some of our pupils with visual impairment may be susceptible to exhibiting high levels of anxiety if routines cannot be maintained and carried out with the support of familiar staff who understand each pupil’s needs very well. These pupils will require an individualised approach that recognises and responds to their specific sensory differences. Pupils may demonstrate challenging behaviours associated with their visual impairment and additional needs. These pupils may experience difficulty functioning in some group situations.

Rationale for the curriculum for visually impaired pupils

All pupils with a visual impairment work within a flexible yet well-structured teaching environment, where pupils follow individual programmes which are based on detailed knowledge of each child. A variety of innovative approaches are used including Intensive Interaction and Sensory Processing Programmes, whilst at the same time ensuring that each child has access to a broad, balanced and relevant sighted/non- sighted age appropriate but developmentally matched curriculum, which fully meets their needs.

An emphasis on functional skills, independence and communication is at the heart of the curriculum, which ensures that all children and young people are provided with learning opportunities that recognise and celebrate their uniqueness, develop their full potential and allow them to fulfil their aspirations.

High aspirations and ambition for all of our visually impaired pupils at individual levels is encouraged and attainment, achievement and participation throughout the whole curriculum is recognised and celebrated. Individual pupil progress is continually monitored via marking, dialogue between pupils and staff, annotating work and planning and photographic evidence which is uploaded onto the Earwig system.

Curriculum topics covered are selected according to the individual needs of the pupils. For some pupils, these will be taken from the iASEND curriculum maps for our hearing impaired pupils or the ASD scheme of work. For those pupils with additional complex needs, they will follow the iASEND engagement curriculum. The programmes provide teachers with a framework for individualised planning regarding what is to be taught within their class group.

All pupils are exposed to structured learning experiences in order to enable them to develop their anticipatory skills via the use of structured routines and verbal/tactile cues. Cognitive development of specific concepts is incorporated throughout the curriculum as appropriate (for example, on, under, right and left). Via detailed, pertinent monitoring staff are able to gain full understanding of a pupil’s responses to sound, touch, smell and taste via a range of multisensory experiences.

Some pupils may participate in pre-Braille activities daily focussing on tactual awareness and discrimination, developing left to right orientation leading to Braille letter/word recognition and Braille letter/word formation. Others may use large print with the use of optical devices, regular print, tactile symbols, on body signing and/or recorded materials.

Each child’s timetable is individualised, highly structured and, if appropriate, includes significant levels of physical activities to address their sensory processing needs. Other areas incorporated into individualised timetables may include:

  • Creative development.
  • Sensory awareness.
  • Body awareness (including motor skills).
  • Life skills/independence.
  • Mobility and orientation.
  • Social awareness.
  • Light stimulation
  • Sensory Efficiency Skills (use of residual vision, hearing and other senses).

We are able to support children in accessing the curriculum, achieving accreditation and promoting maximum independence and inclusion into the community.

We offer:

  • Individualised teaching programmes co-ordinated by the Teacher for the Visually Impaired who has significant expertise in designing programmes based on initial assessment processes, which will be carried out either in a school-based assessment week or alongside colleagues from another setting who know the child well.
  • A very experienced team of staff support the delivery of these programmes, with most children requiring at least one-to-one support.
  • Specialist speech and language therapy
  • Specialist occupational therapy which provides sensory processing programmes to support attention levels or any difficulties a child may experience with regard to developmental and/or physical learning challenges. The OTs use a range of child centred approaches to enable a child to develop skills, increase their performance and thus enhance their independence. Innovative ways for children to access the curriculum using technology are employed whilst children are provided with specialist equipment and furniture such as seating in order to encourage good posture, increase levels of alertness and thus engage better with learning. Developmental pathways are also planned to increase independence and life skills which include community based learning experiences.
  • An on-site NHS specialist physiotherapy team who are available to support children’s gross motor development and plan programmes to complement our PE curriculum.
  • Access to facilities  such as our on- site hydrotherapy pool, swimming pool, exercise equipment and activities such as rebound therapy which provide excellent learning opportunities for visually impaired pupils.
  • A creative teaching environment to maximise concentration levels with some children requiring a low stimulus approach to their working environment.
  • Individual programmes throughout the whole curriculum ensuring a child centred approach which takes into account a child’s interests or key motivators.
  • Sensory rooms/exploration rooms to encourage positive behaviour and to maximise communication skills.
  • Access to a vestibular swing
  • Partnership working with parents/carers to ensure consistency between home and school thus greater success in managing behaviour and reducing anxiety
  • Opportunities for off-site learning including educational visits, health and fitness programmes, social skills and learning opportunities within the community.
  • A functional life skills programme which is developmental and includes key areas of learning such as personal care skills, travel skills, household management.
  • Light stimulation programmes to maximise the use of residual vision and develop visual skills for example tracking/fixation/location
  • Orientation and mobility training
  • Development of tactual skills including pre-Braille/Braille skills as appropriate.
  • Access to a 24 hour curriculum (for children who access Percy Hedley Foundation Residential Services)
  • Access to medical and psychological services including ENT, CAMHS and regional psychology and psychiatric teams who work with us in a multi-disciplinary approach