Element: Developing communicative relationships
Ciarán is a very sociable young man who loves to chat and have fun. It can be difficult to understand what he is saying at times so he has developed a habit of using one word sentences supplemented with Makaton signs to answer questions and express opinions. His family, school staff and indeed peers can understand his pronunciations but out of the home and school environment it can be frustrating for him when people do not understand what he is trying to say.
Working closely with the speech and language therapist we devised a number of strategies for Ciarán. We used news time every morning to encourage him to use full sentences concentrating on his pronunciation of words. One sentence was enough to work on at any one time as he becomes frustrated when asked to repeat something a few times. Social group games with peers were very beneficial also. We created scenarios whereby Ciarán had to interact with classmates using questions or sentences i.e. you have a pain in your tummy, Sarah is the doctor – what are you going to tell her? You are thirsty. You want to tell your teacher – what do you say?
‘Color Cards: What’s Wrong?’ were excellent for this purpose. They consist of a set of photographs with something inappropriate or out of place and the students have to verbalise their ideas. We also incorporated the ‘Out and About’ CD-ROM which shows videos with people acting inappropriately in the community – this proved a very valuable and effective whiteboard board activity.
We found these exercises not only helped Ciarán express himself more clearly but as the months passed he has actually become more vocal in the classroom and his confidence has improved. We used the same strategy in assembly as he was using single words to answer questions. Ciarán was encouraged to provide more information to us i.e. what did you do at the weekend was invariably answered with ‘telly’. A more appropriate answer was modelled for Ciarán and he repeated it: ‘I watched telly’ and ‘I watched Mr. Bean’. Ciarán also relied on staff providing prompt answers to him when he could not pronounce a word—we were guilty of this and had to change how we spoke and interacted with him. He was encouraged to use other ways of letting us know what he was saying such as signs, pointing and gesturing.
Element: Measures and data
Teaching and learning activities
The students bring in money every Friday for the tuck shop. The most senior classes run the tuck shop and calculate all the transactions. Ciarán is operating at a stage where he understands the idea of a transaction but has no concept of price, change and cannot estimate. He thoroughly enjoys taking part in this activity and is proud of his independence. He identifies the names of the coins given to him to spend and again in his change.
As mentioned in the PLU Being part of a community, he goes to the diner and pays for and receives change independently.
Ciarán is currently matching coins and notes using to-scale pictorial representations of notes and to scale plastic coins. He can get confused when presented with too many at any one time so we are working on consolidating 1c, 2c, 5c and €5, €10, €20. He is also matching picture to picture but needs verbal prompting at times. We also use task boxes to match real coins.
Ciarán often visits the credit union with his class and is instructed to queue, ask for amount needed and place it in a wallet for the teacher.
Ciarán is very aware of the passage of time. He is excellent at following a timetable and can predict activities that are a part of his daily and weekly timetable. Ciarán cannot read a clock so activities were based on teaching him very basic time-telling skills. We used blank faces and the class had to place the numbers and hands in the correct places. For Ciarán this began with matching all the numbers on the face gradually fading the prompts. He can place the numbers in the correct places with three numbers left blank but a visual prompt of a full clock face on the whiteboard is still needed.
We also worked on recognising and naming numbers 1-12. This consisted of bingo, matching worksheets, simple number activities on the whiteboard using Topmarks and Starfall.
Element: Personal care and hygiene
Teaching and learning activities
As Ciarán is 15 years of age and his parents are elderly it was very important that we address some personal care skills with a goal to transferring these skills to his home life. We initially discussed a showering programme but it quickly became apparent that we needed to address more basic skills initially and it was decided that we would start Ciarán on a dressing programme. His academic work reflected this as his tasks were tailored to strengthen his fine motor and planning skills. We set up a task box system from TEACCH whereby each box had a symbol on it and I had matching symbols. At any given time during the day I could put my symbol on Ciarán’s timetable and he would go to the task box shelf, match the symbol to the correct box and take the task box to his desk to complete the task. The task boxes contain activities such as posting, lacing, simple wooden jigsaws, cutting and pasting, clothes peg activities, tweezers activity, tracing, and matching and folding socks.
Alongside his fine motor skills development, Ciarán began a dressing programme in October starting with his jumper, t-shirt, trousers and socks. We used a social story with photos of Ciarán and photos of our school uniform. As Ciarán is quite overweight, taking on and off his socks proved very awkward and time consuming for him—he often became frustrated also. Ciarán needed one-to-one assistance with every item of clothing initially. We taught Ciarán how to undress first. When helping Ciarán dress himself, I always showed him the front and back of each item. I showed him the tag or the wording—he now knows to check and can recognise when he’s put something on the wrong way. He still puts items on backwards sometimes but can correct when it is pointed out to him or questioned as to whether he thinks an item is on correctly. We use verbal prompting to help him correct any mistakes.
In February we began a showering programme alongside his dressing programme. Ciarán is quite independent in the shower but needs reinforcement when organising himself before showering (gathering shower gel, towel, fresh clothes etc). He uses a visual timetable and a pocket to ensure he completes every step. Each step is photographed and the photo ‘posted’ in the pocket when he has completed it. There will be a lot of collaboration with home, as he will have to transfer all of these skills to his home environment.
Element: Food and nutrition
Task: Making cheese and chive bread
Ciarán has participated in cookery for a morning each fortnight for the past two school years. This has been of great benefit to Ciarán as a life skill in itself and also in terms of being part of a team, using technology and being responsible for his own safety and hygiene.
Over the two years in question, Ciarán has improved immensely in terms of his abilities–for example; when first coming to home economics, Ciarán would have to be told to first wash his hands and then told to put on his apron. Now Ciarán is simply asked, how will he get ready for cooking and he will tell you what he is going to do and will independently carry out these tasks.
Ciarán has gained good experience in using a wide range of kitchen utensils. In making his cheese and chive bread, he used the weighing scales, sieve, baking tin, measuring spoons, measuring jug, pastry blender, wooden spoon etc. Obviously for other dishes prepared in baking and for lunch each fortnight, the equipment and ingredients changes.
To date, Ciarán has also used a good selection of electrical kitchen appliances including the cooker, microwave, toaster, kettle, sandwich toaster, hand blender and electric whisk. He is well versed in being safe and clean while preparing food and is always delighted with what he makes.
Although Ciarán’s reading and numeracy skills have improved, he still has difficulty with some areas in following his recipe, setting the electric oven temperature as he does not understand the high numbers involved and using his weighing scales accurately. For such difficulties as they arise, the recipe can be presented to Ciarán in picture format and he is encouraged to use the gas oven as he can identify the lower number settings for same and he can get help using his weighing scales if it becomes apparent that he is having a problem.
Being part of a team is very important in the home economics kitchen, getting units set up for cookery and cleaning up after cooking. In this area, Ciarán is very good. He can identify relevant equipment from pictures on his recipe sheet and knows where each piece is kept in the kitchen. He will set up for others in the class – if four people are in the class, Ciarán knows to take out four pieces of each item. This also applies to getting out ingredients.
Ciarán knows why we do certain things such as greasing baking trays, using oven gloves, using dry hands when handling electrical equipment, using a timer etc so it is not just a matter of having learned off these points by repetition; he can verbally explain the reasoning behind same.
Ciarán is being constantly stretched in terms of what is expected of him in class, yet is coached gently towards each new expectation in such a way as to ensure he succeeds and gains confidence, helping his self esteem and improving his life skills.
Element: Relating to others
It is important that life skills, safety skills and community skills be a component to every child’s teaching programme as they are vital to a child’s real-life education and ability to live in the community. Generally this area will require additional attention from the family where possible. However generalisation is key with regard to this PLU. A student may be taught to say ‘Hi’ and look at his/her teacher but may not do the same for his/her family members, they may be able to stand in line at break time but find it difficult to stand in a queue at the supermarket.
Ciarán is a very sociable, friendly and entertaining young man. This made this PLU very easy to deliver for him. However he tends to be over-familiar with peers, staff and strangers at times and this is addressed in his IEP. He is encouraged to ‘high five’ or shake hands rather than hug and kiss people.
Ciarán visits the diner every month with his class. We have menus in the classroom for each student, and we discuss their food preferences in a group lesson the day before going to the restaurant. At this time we tend to try and influence healthy choices and encourage Ciarán and his classmates to try new foods. Ciarán orders his own food from the waitress and pays for his meal at the till himself. He will ask when paying if any change is required, as he is not able to calculate this independently. Members of staff are present at all times but he makes the transaction independently.
We visit the library monthly and although Ciarán is at the pre-reading stage, he loves leafing through books and having stories read to him. He will choose his own books and queue, hand in his books, wait for them to be scanned and take them from staff member. We discuss favourite topics before we visit the diner and as he prefers factual books we can direct him to the appropriate section so he is not lost in a sea of selection.
The school actively encourages group activities weekly, and to date Ciarán and his classmates have taken classes for duration of 6 weeks each: they included yoga, boxercise, jiving, ‘couch to 5 km’, ‘try-a-tri’, samba and archery. Ciarán was encouraged to participate fully in all activities to the best of his ability with staff only providing assistance if absolutely necessary. All of the activities involved working in groups and/or in twos.
Assembly is an important activity for this learning outcome as we can teach Ciarán the skills addressed his IEP in a safe, secure environment. Ciarán is aware of his speech impediment and can sometimes become embarrassed so this enables us to help Ciarán as he is comfortable and trusts the staff and his classmates.
Element: Visual art
5.7 Work independently and/or collaboratively to produce a piece of art
A comprehensive arts education provides a rich and engaging curriculum that develops students’ abilities to think, reason and understand the world and its cultures. It offers students opportunities to respond, perform, and create in the arts. The school employs the guidelines provided in the primary curriculum for visual art: Drawing; Paint and colour; Print; Work with clay; Fabric and fibre.
Ciarán is quite an imaginative student and thoroughly enjoys art classes. We explored three of the areas above: Drawing; Paint and colour; and Fabric and fibre using a wide variety of media such as colouring pencils and markers, paint, collage, and pencil; Ciarán immersed himself in the lessons with enthusiasm.
Drawing: Ciarán was encouraged to make marks with hard crayons and with soft crayons and to make rubbings of various textured surfaces. We used hands and fingers to make marks on a chosen surface; make choices about the colours used; and become increasingly creative about the variety of marks made.
Paint and colour: Painting within line constraints is difficult for Ciarán, so free painting worked well; both standing at easel and on paper whilst sitting. We used very simple line drawings to help Ciarán paint within the lines. Ciarán also explored smearing, flicking and spraying paint. The messier the better! We mixed paints in pots and by blowing through straws. Ciarán can consistently name four colours blue, red, green and black. If we add more colours to a colour-naming task he will get confused. We are working on consolidating white and yellow. The reading programme for autistic students devised and written by Joseph Porter is an excellent resource, and lends itself very well to learning colours. Other activities included rainbow collage, various colour-sorting activities, whiteboard colour matching and naming activities, threading coloured beads, colour-themed sensory tubs, pom-pom colour sort bottles, colour sort and posting box, mixing coloured water, and playing with coloured scarves (music therapy).
Fabric and fibre: Collage is an excellent activity for a student working at Ciarán’s level as it lends itself to a degree of independent expression and it is often difficult to find tasks that provide this opportunity. Many different mediums were used such as paper, feathers, tissue, leaves and straws. We also made St. Brigid’s crosses, 3D Christmas trees and wreaths and a 3D map. Ciarán enjoyed a weaving paper activity and it lent itself very well to his fine motor development.
Element: Movement skills (athletics/gymnastics)
As part of the Athletics module, Ciarán took part in throwing activities. Ciarán’s gross motor skills are very good. With verbal instruction and visual aids, Ciarán is competent in working on his own during PE.
He is a visual learner and therefore videos/ demonstrations work well for him. At the beginning of the lesson I got Ciarán and his partner exploring different ways to throw the beanbag and ball. Ciarán enjoyed this as he got to use his imagination and come up with different throws. I praised him for coming up with many different types of throws.
During the ball activity, Ciarán struggled initially to throw for distance and didn’t reach his partner. I decreased the distance between Ciarán and his partner and he was able to complete the pass without the ball dropping. His technique was very good during the overhead throw. He stepped forward with his left foot and followed through with the throw.
He then progressed onto the Javelin. I showed him a video of an Olympian throwing a javelin and I broke down the steps for him. I then demonstrated the Javelin throw for him outlining the position of the head, hands and feet. He found it difficult at the start to remember his footwork along with the throw itself, but by the end of the class he had mastered all three (head, hands, feet). He began throwing into a large hoop in the air and progressed onto a smaller one by the end of the class.