Children with autism (ASD) or other communication difficulties need to have aspects of the curriculum presented to them in a way that takes account of their unique learning styles. This means, especially in the early years, that methods and approaches which may be appropriate for typically developing children will not necessarily help children with ASDs to access learning opportunities in the same way. Curriculum plans at the Puzzle Centre reflect a balance between the unique needs of each individual child and the broad and balanced requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum.
Children may attend the nursery for a minimum of two, and a maximum of six, sessions per week. Each family receives a home visit or consultation each term in addition to a meeting each term to review their child’s individual education plan. Children may stay for lunch and an afternoon session on one day a week. The afternoon curriculum includes music, movement, a sensory/relaxation session and either a cooking or gardening activity.
Three main teaching rooms are used – the main classroom, the messy play room and the specially designed soft play/sensory room. The garden has a sensory area, a soft tarmac area, as well as a large trampoline and Summer House. Other toys and resources made available outdoors reflect the curriculum offered inside.
There are termly, weekly and daily curriculum plans as well as an overview of a year’s scheme of work and play; these are available for parents to view. Staff will all be involved in the curriculum and IEP planning and record keeping.
Puzzle provides a specialist environment with educational/therapeutic approaches which are ‘autism specific’. Well established practice in the field of autism, communication and learning difficulties, special education and early childhood education is used to help each child to develop.
Puzzle Centre incorporates:
- The SCERTS model
- The TEACCH approach
- The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
- The National Autistic Society SPELL approach
- The Hanen approach
- Intensive Interaction
Underpinning all approaches used at Puzzle Centre is the belief that a thorough knowledge of early child development, and the impact that communication difficulties and autistic spectrum disorders has on this development, provides the framework from which to begin to understand the learning needs of each child.
The National Autism Plan (2003) states that targeted interventions should begin as early as possible. Puzzle is committed to providing the earliest possible specialist intervention for children with social and communication difficulties.
Puzzle particularly incorporates the SCERTS Model, which is a research-based educational approach and multidisciplinary framework that directly addresses the core challenges faced by children with ASD and related disabilities, and their families. It focuses on the areas of Social Communication, Emotional Regulation and Transactional Support as the highest priorities.
To find out more about SCERTS go to http://www.scerts.com/
Puzzle is staffed by professionals with specific expertise in this field and is developing its reputation as a centre of excellence and resource base with regard to early intervention for children with autism/communication difficulties.
Early Years Foundation Stage
At the same time, Puzzle Centre enables children with autism spectrum disorders and other communication difficulties to access all aspects of the Early Years Foundation Stage. It is the unique interplay between enabling children to access experiences and learning that all children should have whilst, alongside this, catering for their different and particular needs and learning styles, by using specialist methods and approaches, that distinguishes the curriculum and teaching approaches used at Puzzle from most other Early Years settings.
The four guiding themes of the EYFS are incorporated into our planning to ensure we address all of the child’s needs. These are:
- A unique child
- Positive relationships
- An enabling environment
- Learning and Development
The full range of Learning and development areas are offered as well as practitioners reflecting on the different ways children learn, incorporating the characteristics of effective learning in planning and guidance. The characteristics of effective learning include: playing and exploring; active learning; and creating and thinking critically. All of which, can be particularly challenging for children with ASD and need supporting.
The seven areas of learning and development are:
- Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED)
- Communication and Language (C&L)
- Physical Development (PD)
- Understanding the World
- Expressive Arts and Design
The environment at Puzzle is organized to promote learning for young children who have complex communication difficulties. The specialized environment is created by controlling the overall level of stimulation, adopting a communication based curriculum, utilizing visual supports, pacing activities to teach attention and group learning skills and using each child’s interest to extend and develop their learning.
Puzzle has developed a large number of specialist resources and materials which enhance our ability to teach and deliver the foundation stage curriculum, adapted and differentiated to meet the particular needs of very young children with significant communication and interaction difficulties.
Puzzle has a parent’s area and a library of relevant books, articles and resources, which parents and staff can borrow. We ask that you sign for these in our library book when you borrow them. Puzzle also holds regular training workshops for parents and other professionals.
Much is being researched and learnt about ways to optimise learning for children with communication difficulties. Puzzle Centre is committed to keeping abreast with the latest developments and training in this field.