The Learning Experience Is Taking Place Education Essay

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The learning experience is taking place in a mainstream school, where there is a high proportion of children with a statement of special educational needs. The school includes an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Base, which caters for six pupils with communication and interaction needs who come from the wider area of the city. In a recent Ofsted report, the school was described as welcoming and inclusive.

Over the last decade the understanding of effective interventions and information about people with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) has grown and is still growing. More and more children with ASD are now being included in child care, recreational and educational settings. A successful inclusive setting relies greatly on the practitioner's ability to develop and implement inclusive practices within that setting.   The Open University indicates in study topic 6 that "In an inclusive school, the governors, teaching assistants and teachers work to reduce barriers to learning and participation, informed by the variety of the children's different experiences and interests. " (Study Topic 6, p. 10)

The child, whom I will refer to as Target Child for the purpose of confidentiality, is 7 years old, is attending the school on a daily basis and has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

"Autism Spectrum Disorders, sometimes called Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD), are a range of neurological disorders that most markedly involve some degree of difficulty with communication and interpersonal relationships, as well as obsessions and repetitive behaviours." (Terri Mauro, Autism Spectrum Disorder [online])

The learning experience will be a phonics based group activity, targeting the child's Group Instruction IEP goals:

-will work cooperatively with peers in small group settings;

-will engage in appropriate cooperative social play interactions initiated by others;

-will engage in conversational turn-taking with others.

IEP, Individual Education Plans, "may be used to record the plans for an individual child and the progress they make. The aim of the IEP is to record the nature of the child's difficulties and how those difficulties will be tackled." (Study Topic 7, p. 28)

Whilst planning the activity the following factors have been taken in consideration:

-Proximal life kills;

-Size of group;

-Actual level skills;

-IEP goals;

-Child's communication deficit level skills.

As specified in the previous assignments, Lev Vygotsky's develops the idea of the social context in which learning occurs: "children learn specific skills in the context of interacting with an individual who is more competent in those areas." (Study Topic 7, p. 34).   During the group activity, 'guided participation' from typically developed peers assisted the child in learning how to participate appropriately within a small group setting and it was noticeable that the target child was imitating the other children's language and behaviour. (K. U 1.3)

The child's IEP was used to plan an activity that would address areas of deficit.   One of the key implications taken into consideration when planning this activity was the importance of supporting inclusive practice. Study topic 6 draws attention to the DfES statement that 'Inclusion is a process by which schools, local education authorities and others develop their cultures policies and practices to include pupils."   (Study Topic 6, p. 11)

The planning of the activity was made taking in consideration the need for a safe environment, helping the child to participate within a group setting, whilst promoting the proximal level development.

Special educational needs are now included under the term of equal opportunities. The Special Education Needs Code of Practice defines the term special educational needs as: "Children have special educational need if they have a learning difficulty which calls for special educational provisions to be made for them." (DFES, 2001, P. 6). According to the Salamanca Statement children's learning needs are different and: "Those with special education needs must have access to regular schools which should accommodate them within a child-centred pedagogy capable of meeting these needs. " (UNESCO, 1994, p. vii-ix) (2)

Mary Warnock believed that a proportion of children with varying degrees of SEN would benefit greatly from attending a mainstream setting. This lead to the Warnock report 1978 calling for change and amendments to The Education Act 1981 leading to The Education Act 1993 consolidated to form The Education Act 2006. The Act was also amended by Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA) 2001. This modification forced LEA's to set pupils with SEN in typical mainstream schools, unless they are incompatible with efficient education and the wishes of the parents. (K. U 1.2 )

The activity is considered to be supportive of inclusive practice. The learning experience was introduced to the group in the form of a game, which the target child was very excited about. Zhang (2011) states that various play activities also allows the student an opportunity to reinforce what they already know, as well as learn and try new skills.(1) In terms of social skills training, play games are good because it allows the learner to be creative and to practice new, learned skills in a more natural, realistic environment. The participants had to take a "mystery object" from a bag and tell the rest of the group the first letter of the object. The children would all agree if the letter was right and sound it out all at once. The object would then be removed.

The teacher helped implementing the activity and explained the children that they would all take turns to take an object out of the bag.(P. S 3.3) In Study Topic 6 it is specified : "Your role as a teaching assistant, along with other adults in school, is to support the participation of children in full range of curriculum experiences. "(Study Topic 6, p. 25) An inclusive environment encourages staff to expand knowledge and gain experience when working with a child with ASD. Inclusive education requires team work sharing knowledge, expressing ideas and working together as a team.

The key person took the initial turn to model the game. In the beginning he wasn't joining in for the group's answers, but after watching the other pupils he began to participate. At the end of the activity the children were allowed to play with the objects.

In order to enable success and full participation the target child's skills and their lack were taken in consideration. The activity took place in a small group setting, in order to provide a safe and supportive learning environment. "Underlying the theory of developing 'safe learning' is an understanding that our belief systems, attitudes and language as teachers have a great impact on our learners. We are role models and the more developed our emotional intelligence, the more able we are to influence our learners positively and nurture safe learning." (Julie Bennet, The Dyslexia Pocketbook [online] )

In the planning of the activity the relationship with the parents was taken in account. Is it very important to have a close relation with the child's carer or parent, sharing their knowledge about the child's behaviour and different methods that can be used. The most vital member it the child's parent, they should be seen as a wealth of information and vital to their child's experiences and development in the setting. A good collaboration between the carers and the teacher/teaching assistant would have a positive impact on the target child.(K. U 1.7).

In The Code of Practice is stated the fact that the children in all primary schools must have access to the National Literacy and Numeracy Frameworks, together with the National Curriculum. All the schools should provide different options and activities inside the classroom in order to enable the children to access the National Curriculum In order to ensure that the effective support is provided the children's self-esteem must be enhanced at all times and fair rewards and sanctions must be applied. They must be aware of what constitutes unacceptable behaviour and there must always be a good collaboration between the SENCO, the class teacher and other professionals.

With guidance from the teacher, teaching assistants can be involved with the work of the specialist in a number of ways: planning support for the pupil with the teacher; assisting pupils to perform tasks set by a specialist, reporting the pupil's progress to the teacher. Any interactions with other professionals should promote trust and confidence.

As an adult working in a mainstream school, I had to accept the social, cultural and linguistic diversity of all children, as The Open University specifies it, in Study Topic 8. Also, it is stated that : "It is important that you enable children to express their feelings and opinions from a young age. This means embedding anti-discriminatory awareness and approaches in your everyday practice."(K. U 1.6) (Study Topic 8, p. 35)

Dawson and Osterling (1997), as quoted in The Task Force on Autism evaluated intervention methods for children with autism. They concluded that there were a number of common elements across those approaches t hat have a proven record of increased learning and decreased autistic behaviour. It was these common elements that they used to devise their principles for effectively meeting the educational needs of children with ASD in the mainstream classroom. The Task Force on Autism (2001) supports the implementation of these principles for teaching children with ASD in mainstream schools. Classroom planning should make provision for the teaching of skills such as complying with requests from adults, turn taking, listening to directions from near and far, sitting quietly during activities, volunteering, raising hand to gain attention, walking in line, using appropriate toilets, tidying up after toy play, and communicating basic needs.

The activity planned is supporting the inclusion of a child with special educational needs in a mainstream school. As seen in the assignment, the activity targets the child's IEP goals, whilst using the skills already gained and provides a sae learning environment, enabling the target child to continue developing in his areas of deficit.