The school environment –The Link School satellite site has a large amount of green outdoor space, and playground equipment ,available to students throughout the day. For Thomas, this means he is able to access space and equipment that helps him to regulate and get sensory feedback whenever he needs. The classrooms are large and spacious, having been built to support 30 pupils, providing ample space for the 7 children accommodated in each class.
The personalised curriculum–The Link School satellite site offer different education pathways for their students. Thomas accesses a semi-formal curriculum meaning that he accesses English and Maths at the start of the day and then the rest of his learning is achieved through a “back door learning” approach. This is where staff carefully blend learning outcomes into activities that motivate and interest the young person. It is a child led process, with lots of flexibility and choice. For Thomas this all means he now accesses formal learning every day alongside child-led and interest-based learning.
Flexibility –A flexible approach is hugely important for PDA children and at The Link School satellite site timetables are rarely used unless the student themselves want them to be. Movement breaks can be taken whenever they are needed, resulting in Thomas not feeling that being in the classroom is a demand imposed upon him. Transition into school was also flexible with short school days and the ability to alter the school day whenever needed. This slow and steady increase meant that by his fourth month at the school Thomas had a 100% attendance – something he hadn’t had the opportunity to achieve since Reception.
Prioritising connection –The need to get to know Thomas and for him to know and trust staff was recognised as being hugely important. In addition to the work completed by the outreach team, staff spent the first six weeks learning what Thomas liked, even trying out new apps that he enjoyed. This helped them to make asocial connection with him. Thomas’ Mum feels that this connection has been key in ensuring that his placement at The Link School satellite site has worked.
Supporting emotional regulation –The school’s approach to dysregulation has been key to helping Thomas to feel safe and build trust with the adults supporting him and his environment. Physical intervention is only used as a last resort for safety reasons so as not to breakdown the connection between staff and students. The positivity of staff in the face of a difficult day was key to maintaining trust and positive relationships. Thomas is met every day with the same positive response and attitudes by staff no matter what the previous day has been like. Parents report how important this was to Thomas as he felt that staff had not “written him off” or punished him for his dysregulation. Instead, it was understood that the incident was tricky for him and something had raised his anxiety so high that he experienced a fight or flight response.