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North West Support School
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Active Learning

“What FIRES together, WIRES together!” 

Current research about neuroplasticity confirms that growth in the brain is dependent on ACTIVE participation in learning.  The Active Learning Program supports students who require Extensive Levels of Adjustment to participate in meaningful motor planning opportunities.

Students involved participate in 1 to 1 sessions with a facilitator who observes and monitors their engagement and progression, offering objects relevant to individual interest and skill levels. Each student has the opportunity to explore, experiment and play at their own pace with a vast range of toys, sensory objects and most importantly everyday household items spending as much time interacting with each item as they choose.  

The developmental level of each child is carefully plotted and a curriculum of motor skills is used to plan for future growth.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

We all use multiple modes of communication when we are “talking” to someone. Gesture, facial expression, pictures, photos and technology all add meaning to what we say. If a student has not yet developed enough speech to allow them to say whatever they want/need/think, Speech Pathologists can help consider other modes of communication available in addition to speech. This is referred to as Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and includes sign, picture symbols (e.g. PECS, PODD, chat displays, core vocabulary boards), speech output devices (e.g. Proloquo2Go, LAMP, PODD), text and interaction strategies used by partners to help the child understand and be understood.

Scientific research has shown us the use of AAC with speech does not hinder a person’s speech development. In fact, AAC speeds up speech development for people who have the potential for speech, probably due to the extra language learning and communication success they are experiencing.

AAC has benefits for people who have difficulty understanding speech, using speech, relating to people or all of the above. For AAC to offer most benefit it must be highly individualised with clear goals and purpose. Communication is a two way process and a shared responsibility. For best outcomes, AAC should be shared and used by as many partners as possible. 

Learning to express words in any mode develops vocabulary, knowledge of how words combine into phrases, ability to talk about things not in the here and now, ability to talk about past and future, ability to think in words, ask questions, be less reliant on behaviours of concern, and participate in literacy learning.

Community Access

Students have the opportunity to participate in numerous activities within the local community to support goals within their Individualised Learning Plans. 

Our community access program enables our students to further develop their learning and social skills in a non-school setting. This program allows students to follow social values when in the local community such as staying with group, using preferred communication tools, using appropriate language, behaviour, regulating to remain calm and having positive interactions within the community.

Eat, Learn, Grow Program

The Eat, Learn, Grow program was established in 2019 in the commercial kitchen area of the North Block. The program offers an innovative approach to learning, touching, tasting and eating food for students from kindergarten to year 12. Students in the early years are offered sensory food and introduction to food tastes and basic cooking experiences.  Our school supported by our Speech Pathologist and Occupational Therapist work with specific groups to explore new sensory tastes and smells and to encourage students to explore new food tastes and textures.

In the Primary classes, students visit the kitchen for hands on cooking experiences using a range of seasonal fruit and vegetables. In the Secondary classes, students prepare food for the school café, with the Year 11/12 Tasmanian Assessment Standards Certification (TASC) students from the Burnie and Devonport Campus responsible for the twice weekly café and hot lunch program. Students in the Burnie TASC are currently underway with a gardening project planting herbs and vegetables, which will be used in the kitchen program.

ELG includes some individual programs for students with higher support needs. 

Kitchen staff are aware of student’s dietary requirements and these are catered for when planning the student menu and recipes. 

Our well-resourced kitchen features a range of modern kitchen equipment including two new thermomixes, a coffee machine, grinder and café equipment.  We are registered as a commercial kitchen by the Burnie City Council, and provide monthly luncheons to the Acton Child and Family Centre.

Eye Gaze

Eye Gaze provides access to computers for students who lack the motor skills required for using a mouse, so that they are able to make choices about activities by just using their eyes! Eye Gaze provides our non-verbal students with the priceless opportunity to have a voice. Using an on-screen PODD (Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display) to select what they want to say, they can activate a voice to literally “speak out” their thoughts. 

So how does eye gaze work? The eye gaze camera is calibrated to the students’ eyes and tracks where on the screen the student is looking, activating via a set dwell time instead of a mouse click. Students can access music, videos and games as they grow in their understanding of each task. 

The visual skills of each student are assessed and skills of visual attention, fixation time, and tracking are developed if needed. For students who have Cortical Vision Impairment we reduce all distractions by working in a dark, quiet environment with high contrast activities that incorporate music or fun sound rewards. We gradually build up their attention and looking skills until they can work in a more natural environment.

Our aim is ultimately that students will be able to communication and access all curriculum areas using eye gaze within the classroom setting and beyond. Reading, writing, numeracy, emotional self-regulation, attendance, craft choices and artwork are all made accessible through eye gaze.  Some of our senior students are researching on the internet and writing papers with the onscreen keyboard, to complete projects about different topics.

We are committed to creating new resources to include our high needs students in as many communication and learning opportunities as we can.  And we are excited to continue exploring the possibilities for our students in the future as technology develops!

Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy therapy sessions offer benefits of health and wellbeing for our students with a range of disabilities and health conditions. Students with specific physical conditions that require an individual hydrotherapy program have access to the hydrotherapy pool for an hour one day a week. Each child receives 1:1 extensive support to complete their programs.  Hydrotherapy can help relieve pain, promote relaxation, mobilize joints, strengthen muscles, develop balance and coordination, and improve general fitness. The healing properties of warm water and the use of gentle manipulation and therapy are extremely beneficial and essential for many of our students. Our school Physiotherapist assesses and writes individual programs for each of our referred students, setting them achievable goals, which are reassessed as required. Hydrotherapy is a wonderful experience for all involved.

Individual Education Plan

Our teaching staff work collaboratively with families, therapists and other key stakeholders, including mainstream school teachers for dual enrolled students, to develop a personalized Individual Education Plan (IEP) for all children attending the North West Support School. 

IEP’s are developed to reflect each child’s individual needs; identifying specific learning goals to support the current learning priorities for each child across a range of developmental and curriculum areas.  

IEP review meetings are conducted twice each year, at the beginning of Term 1 and again at the end of Term 2.  Each child’s progress against their IEP learning goals is reported on within both Mid-Year and End of Year school reports using a combination of teacher comments and markers on achievement rating scales.

Literacy

At the North West Support School we focus on providing all students with access to a comprehensive and balanced literacy program with daily interventions to support student participation, engagement and skill development. Our Literacy Framework and Assessment Pathway is used to collect baseline data, identify complimentary and holistic assessments which encompass students’ communication skill level, track and monitor student progress and guide the implementation of appropriate interventions and teaching strategies in the classroom.   

In consultation with our Speech and Language Pathologists, the key components of our literacy instruction are designed to include the use of programs to support the development of phonological and phonemic awareness, vocabulary development, reading fluency, reading comprehension, spelling and writing. For example, shared reading teaches children how to interact with books, promotes communication and engagement, builds vocabulary and concepts about print, and can be done individually or in small groups. 

To support the development of writing skills we consult with our Therapists and Technology Support staff to ensure that our students are provided with a writing tool which is well suited to their needs. Alternative pencil tools may include: low and high tech flip charts, standard/high contrast/on screen/Eye Gaze keyboards and computer programs such as ‘Clicker 7’ and ‘Clicker Docs’.

Music

At the North West Support School music is enjoyed in many ways. 

  • Listening; YouTube is frequently accessed for student appropriate music, listening and watching favourite songs artists and styles. In specialist lessons, new or unfamiliar music is also explored either through the internet or ‘live’ in the room to broaden the students’ experience and to teach new repertoire.
  • Singing; according to their ability, students are encouraged to use their voice to add to the sound of both recorded and live songs.  Many new songs become old favourites by being sung frequently.
  • Moving; combining music with movement encourages understanding and can be a powerful expression of personal response to what is being heard. Movement can be encouraged with props like scarves, ribbons, stretchy rings, or a parachute and guided by the directions of a game or dance. 
  • Playing; Students are introduced to various instruments and encouraged to explore the sound produced as well as how to play them safely and appropriately to the tune or song in focus. 
  • Fun; above all, music is explored, learnt about and practiced for the joy it brings both to the observers and performers involved. The intention at the North West Support School is for students to be actively involved in music as much as possible.

Numeracy

Students across all grades are engaged in learning experiences to support them with developing key numeracy understandings and skills outlined within the Australian Curriculum and General Capabilities.  Numeracy programs, learning activities and experiences are planned to accommodate each students’ unique developmental, learning and access needs and are designed to be ‘hands on’ and connected with real life experiences to support students’ participation, engagement and understanding. 

Play based and interactive experiences are used as a platform for learning with students being supported to learn about early numeracy concepts such as number, colours, shapes and patterns through exploration of tactile materials, play, song, the Arts, and sensory based experiences.

Development of numeracy based life skills are a core element of our numeracy programs aiming to support our students to become as independent as possible within the community and their day to day lives.  Students’ understanding about currency and its application in real life settings is supported through the use of programs such as ‘Next Dollar Up’, which assists students to develop greater independence with successfully purchasing goods and managing transactions when out in the community.  Particular emphasis is given to providing opportunities for our students to apply this knowledge in ‘real world’ contexts.  This is supported through programs such as Community Access and the Eat Learn Grow Café (Burnie Campus) which allow students to have regular opportunities for them to practice and use these skills and understandings in a meaningful and practical way. 

Occupational Therapy

Our Occupational Therapist helps our students to participate in daily tasks and activities. They help our children learn to use the toilet, participate in self-care activities such as dressing, using buttons and zippers, tying shoelaces, using cutlery and other essential activities of childhood such as eating and playing. Our Occupational Therapist also helps our children to remain regulated so that they can focus on their learning. Our Occupational Therapist supports our teachers to create calm and happy environments for our children to learn in.

Physical Education

At the School of Special Education we provide all students, ambulant and non-ambulant with an inclusive Physical Education program that encourages students to do their best, play respectfully and have fun. We ensure that every student has the ability to participate either through modifying the activity, equipment or the environment. The main focus for our early childhood classes is to improve fine and gross motor skills and explore games that focus on social skills such as taking turns and interacting with peers. We also teach specific skills within a number of different sports, with the aim of students becoming life-long participants in physical activity. SOSE and Special Olympics Australia have been working together to provide the school with registered coaches to run sports clinics at the schools and in the community, this allows a direct link for students to make connections with local sporting clubs.

Physiotherapy

Our Physiotherapist is able to assess students and work with parents and teaching staff to establish appropriate gross motor goals, such as walking. An individualised Physiotherapy Program is developed to work towards achieving these functional goals. This program is then integrated into the student’s educational program. 

Interventions may include exercises, hydrotherapy, use of the HOPSA-dress and prescription of specialist equipment including walking aids and positioning equipment.

Our Physiotherapist runs an annual “Bike Skills” program aimed at teaching our students to ride a two-wheeled bike.

Social Thinking and Emotional Regulation

Social thinking is something that is hardwired neurologically at birth and learned intuitively. We know children with learning challenges do not learn intuitively, they need specific teaching on how to think socially and develop social skills. 

Children with social learning challenges often have high anxiety levels which have a huge impact on their learning and daily life.

We provide specific teaching from the Social Thinking curriculum, implementing resources and strategies to meet each child at their development level. This specific teaching helps children to understand, engage and participate in their world. They learn concepts relating to language development, joint attention, social communication/relationship development and sensory integration. Learning to regulate their own emotions, sensory needs and impulses to meet the demands of the environment and behave in a socially appropriate way. 

The Zones of Regulation curriculum has been introduced as a school wide approach. These concepts are introduced in context to situations where students visually and verbally self-identify how they are functioning at any time depending on their emotional state and level of alertness. We have introduced the curriculum in a safe and supportive environment which we hope will reduce anxiety levels and allow the students to develop more self-awareness and understanding of the world around them.

Speech and Language Pathology 

Our job is to support the engagement and participation of students with complex speech, language and communication needs in the North West Support School. Speech and Language Pathologists (SLPs) also assess and support students with feeding and swallowing difficulties.  

We support and train school staff to deliver high-quality, inclusive teaching that helps all students access and participate in the curriculum. This means being in the classroom with staff, working on communication supports. This also means adjusting the classroom environment to help the students understand their day and be able to express themselves in a functional way using speech, sign or other AAC*. We often provide professional development to teaching staff around the links between language, literacy and learning. 

Some students require additional targeted instruction, in the form of small group work or classroom programs. This might be for specific language skills like understanding questions or following instructions. Or it might be a small group working with the SLP on sound awareness skills, or feeding skills. This can happen in the classroom or in a separate setting with an aide or SLP. 

SLPs complete comprehensive assessment, diagnosis and applications for funding to support educational programming. We work closely with school psychologists in this area. We help with individual programming and developing learning plans to target specific skills in the classroom that help the child participate (for example: expressing emotions, using words for a range of social purposes, transitioning between activities). 

*AAC – Alternative Augmentative Communication – please see AAC section for more information.. 

TASC

The Office of Tasmanian Assessment, Standards and Certification (TASC) is an independent statutory office responsible to the Tasmanian Minister for Education and Training.

TASC is responsible for the development of appropriate standards, the accreditation of courses, and the assessment and certification of student achievement in senior secondary schooling across all educational sectors in Tasmania. 

As a school we offer a variety of Preliminary to Level one courses to our students. This enables our student to work towards achieving a TCE or TCEA on completion of Year 12. The TASC courses provide students with practical experiences at school and in the community including for example Eat Learn Grow Café, work placement, community garden. Students have the opportunity to work on life skills, transition to work, simulated work-related task, along with personal and social skills. 

Vision Services

Vision Services provides support to Tasmanian children and students (0 -18) who are blind or have low vision – at home, in the local community or within their government school. 

Vision Services aims to gather information about each child with a vision impairment by communicating with eye specialists, organising visits to the Low Vision Clinic, or working collaboratively with staff on a functional vision assessment.  Once the student’s vision is understood, recommendations are made to maximise access to learning using magnification or by engaging senses other than vision.  

Vision Services provides professional learning about vision impairment. Some of our students with physical and intellectual disabilities may also have a cortical vision impairment (CVI).  This is when the eyes themselves are healthy, but the brain is unable to process visual information. CVI has a huge impact on learning and targeted adjustments can improve student learning and visual function.  

The nature of support varies, depending on the child’s visual profile and additional learning needs.  Support may include direct teaching time from a Specialist Teacher (Vision), Orientation and Mobility support, access to adaptive technology and technology specialists, involvement in student events (inclusive sports, blind cricket, multisensory art exhibition), and support in preparation and production of adapted learning resources. 

Vision Services also supports our Active Learning program by reviewing student abilities and setting goals for future learning. 

Work Placement

Work placement for students currently falls under the TASC subject Access to Work. This subject is completed by students in Grade 11 or 12. Students are placed in a local business and supported by a teacher or teacher aide. Local businesses who have supported the work placement program to date have included: Crusty’s, IGA Wivenhoe, IGA Spreyton, Alpha Electric and North West Off road (Spreyton) and Vinnies (Wynyard).

Students are assessed and prepared individually. Placements are matched to the students’ area of interest and tasks matched to their level of ability. Work places are visited by the teacher prior to placement. Photographs of the site and the people with whom the student will be
working are undertaken. Where required, these pictures are used to make a book that will tell a story (Social Script) which assists the student to familiarize themselves with the surroundings prior to their first visit. The worksite is also assessed for OHS and the safety requirements of students. Department of Education Work Placement documentation is completed prior to the students’ first visit.

Pre-placement visits for the student is then organized. The school staff attending pass on relevant information/strategies to aid in understanding how to best work with the student. These orientation visits are initially short. Once students commence the formal placement the time at work is gradually increased as the student feels more familiar with the placement. During these visits the students engage in activities that they recognize and enjoy. Some students have attended work placements on more than 1 occasion during a year.

Placements are usually of 6-8 weeks duration and are usually organised for 2nd, 3rd and 4th terms for the Year 12 students.