Today I worked in a small special school for children with autism and some with severe learning difficulties. The level of children’s needs is intense and most of them have one to one support. Of necessity, the numbers in the school are small yet interestingly, because there are so many adults involved and so many are assigned to individual children or to a small class, it is hard to open everyone up to being part of a large family where it’s not your child but it’s everyone’s child.
What we must never allow to happen is that we begin to think of the children in terms of the disability or the need – children are children and all need … fun. Everyone needs to feel a sense of being in a group. Everyone needs to be able to be curious and explore things. Everyone has the right to make mistakes and start again. Everyone has a right to choose at playtime what activities they might like to do. It was utterly heart-warming today to encourage the older children to come with their helpers to the younger playground and play the old fashioned ring games. It was such good fun to do ‘Ring a Roses, a-tishoo, a-tishoo, we all fall down’ and have all the adults and children falling together and rolling around laughing. It is just so important that adults allow themselves to play at the level of the child and don’t try and safe guard them too much. We adapted some clapping games, we sang ‘In and Out The Dusty Blue Bells’, we played ‘Grandmother’s Footsteps’ and marched around to ‘Farmers in the Den’. The older children loved the idea that they were helping the younger children and this increased their sense of self-esteem.
Just reflecting quietly, I think that if children have too much support and help, something called ‘learnt helplessness’ settles on them and they lose their own sense of power. The dining hall and the playground offer children a range of responsibilities that they can do to help others. So it is a wonderful forum for building self-esteem. It is very important that when a trainer or consultant has been in a school and worked with the staff that a working party is set up to carry on the work. I am hoping that the people I worked with today will now meet regularly to keep the flame of positivity and playfulness going.
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1. Jenny Mosley delivers keynote speeches, seminars and workshops at conferences and training events including headteachers’ conferences. For further information about Jenny’s work and availability please phone 01225 767157, email firstname.lastname@example.org or see our training section on the website.
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3. Jenny Mosley’s training, consultancy and conferences are for teachers, teaching assistants, headteachers, midday supervisors and everyone who works with children in primary schools, special schools and early years settings.
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