WHAT IS FOREST SCHOOL?
The idea of ‘Forest school’ was developed in Scandinavia in the 1950’s. It is an inspirational process where children are provided with learning opportunities in an outdoor environment. Children explore and experience the natural world in all seasons and weathers. It’s an ideal environment to develop communication, problem solving, risk taking, creativity and teamwork. There is also a strong focus on developing confidence and self-esteem.
WHAT DO WE DO?
Forest school provides opportunities to make links to many parts of the curriculum including, science, speaking and listening, maths, design technology and PSHE. We lead activities including
Environment arts and crafts
There are also lots of opportunities for children to follow their own interests.
WHEN DO WE HAVE FOREST SCHOOL?
All of our children are lucky enough to access forest school throughout the year. We have weekly sessions either in our own forest school area on Larkhall Primary Campus or at Oasis Nature Garden (a local facility).
Oasis Nature Garden
Forest School Association
PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) is a communication aid which uses picture symbols to help support children to use language to communicate. It was first developed as a communication aid for children with Autism and is widely used by pupil’s at Woodlark Autism Provision.
PECS is designed to teach children a way to communicate within a social context. It focuses on teaching functional communication skills such as asking for a desired activity or item (e.g. ‘I want a pen’). The goal of PECS is functional and spontaneous communication.
PECS begins with teaching the student to initiate with another person e.g. to exchange a picture of a preferred item with another person. Concepts used as size, colour, shape are also taught to provide more detailed information.
LEGO therapy provides a promising approach to improving social skills in children, especially those with a diagnoses of ASD. The children engage in collaborative LEGO brick building activities and other projects, tailored to their skill level. The team works together to assemble the project with an emphasis on verbal and non-verbal communication, task focus, collaborative problem-solving, sharing and turn-taking (switching roles during the task).
Intensive Interaction is an approach to the teaching of early communication skills. Intensive Interaction provides a way to explicitly teach these skills. The outcomes of Intensive Interaction include:
• Enjoying being with another person
• Developing concentration and attention span
• Learning to do sequences of activity with another person
• Taking turns in exchanges of behaviour
• Using and understanding facial expressions and other non-verbal communications
SCERTS® is an innovative educational model for Social Communication – the development of spontaneous, functional communication, emotional expression, and secure and trusting relationships with children and adults; working with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families.
It provides specific guidelines for helping a child become a competent and confident social communicator, while preventing problem behaviours that interfere with learning and the development of relationships. It also is designed to help families, educators and therapists work cooperatively as a team, in a carefully coordinated manner, to maximize progress in supporting a child.
The acronym “SCERTS” refers to the focus on:
“SC” – Social Communication – the development of spontaneous, functional communication, emotional expression, and secure and trusting relationships with children and adults;
“ER” – Emotional Regulation – the development of the ability to maintain a well-regulated emotional state to cope with everyday stress, and to be most available for learning and interacting;
“TS” – Transactional Support – the development and implementation of supports to help partners respond to the child’s needs and interests, modify and adapt the environment, and provide tools to enhance learning (e.g., picture communication, written schedules, and sensory support). Specific plans are also developed to provide educational and emotional support to families, and to foster teamwork among professionals.
What is TEACCH
Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) is a program founded by Dr. Eric Schopler in 1972 and has since been adopted internationally.
The TEACCH approach is a family-centered, evidence-based practice for autism, based on a theoretical conceptualization of autism, supported by empirical research, enriched by extensive clinical expertise, and notable for its flexible and person-centred support of individuals of all ages and skill levels.
How does it benefit children?
The TEACCH program attempts to capitalise on preferences and strengths shared by individuals on the autism spectrum. It helps our students to process information and maintain a calm, regulated state in order to access learning.
Structured teaching, a key element of the TEACCH programme, is designed to address the neurological differences that affect the way individuals on the autism spectrum understand, think and learn. The four guiding principles are: structuring activities and the environment in a way that is understandable and predictable to the child; building on the child’s relative strength in visual processing; using special interests to engage the child; and facilitating self-initiated communication.
Structuring the Environment, Sequence of Events and Activities
The environment is structured in ways to give visual cues about where specific activities take place and to reduce distraction and potential sources of dysregulation. Structure is provided by making the sequence of daily events and activities understandable and meaningful to the child.
Highly structured and predictable classroom environment with reduced visual distractions
Classrooms have separate, defined areas for tasks such as individual work, group activities and play
Visual timetables are used to provide predictability
Activities are broken down into step by step tasks to support engagement and independence
Visual learning builds on the child’s relative strength in visual processing. It helps clarify expectations and makes tasks predictable. Supports such as visual timetables, the use of whiteboards and visual checklists increase the predictability of activities and reduce the reliance on verbal instruction.
The use of visual learning
Supporting adults use pictures or ‘visual supports’ to help communicate and to help students transition between activities
Visual supports help the student approach activities in a step by step manner
Special interests are widely observed in autistic children and structured teaching uses these to engage children in learning and reward them for completion of tasks
Pupils use visuals to follow routines and access learning activities independently. Structure and the use of visuals helps develop executive functioning skills such as flexibility, planning and sequencing.