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Resource Ideas to Support Children

If you do a course about special educational needs with me, you’ll find that it isn’t too long before I suggest that all resources you use the children with SEN are good for children who do not have SEN.

A good case in point was recently, on our accredited course, we had a very knowledgeable and experienced teacher come to talk to us about her work with children who have SEN. By the end of the 3 hours there was no doubt left in my mind that good practice with children who have SEN is good practice for all. Let me give you a few examples to show you what I mean:

Two-way communication with parents, families and carers. For a child with SEN this is an essential part of the practitioners work. Without good communication joint targets cannot be realistically set. Hospital appointments, speech and language therapy, physiotherapy and the myriad of different professionals that a child may see, need coordinating effectively.

For the child who does not have SEN, good communication is still very important. And it is essential that this communication is two way. By this I mean that the parents offers information and the practitioner offers information and between them this becomes greater than the sum of the whole.

For example, an activity may well benefit from a parent coming in and demonstrating their skills. Without good communication or understanding of the parents abilities, this would not happen.

Describing emotions. For a child who has difficulty communicating with speech or finds it difficult to make sense of the world around them, it is essential that the practitioner gives them the tools to express their emotions. This may be an emotions board or a picture exchange system.

This is just as important for the child who does not have SEN. Giving a child the ability to express their emotions can reduce behaviour problems and frustration for the child. It has also been shown in research that children who have better emotional intelligence, or the ability to express emotions effectively, do much better later on in life (Goleman, 1996).

Other elements of good practice are as simple as having the right equipment for a child who has SEN. For example, having a calm space where child can retreat to if it’s just getting all too much for them. This could be as simple as a curtained off area in the corner with a few comfy cushions.

Or, for the child who has a visual impairment, using bubblewrap or the rough side of Velcro along the edge of the wall can help them move around the setting more easily. Different textured materials can be used on the handles of different doors, so children know where they are going.

One idea which I particularly like, is having a colour and a smell of the day. For example, Monday could be orange. This would be demonstrated using an orange piece of material and an orange scent spray in the entrance hall.

When children first enter the setting they will know immediately that it is Monday because they can smell orange and they can see the orange fabric up. Similarly each day will have a different smell and a different colour. Others which could be used are lime, strawberry, apple, peach, cherry, lemon, cinnamon and vanilla. Or whatever takes your imagination!

Another excellent idea is using objects of reference rather than pictures on the outside of storage boxes and for the day’s timeline. Objects of reference are objects which are representative of the pieces in the box. For example instead of putting the word Lego, or putting a picture of Lego, on the outside of a box, you could superglue a piece of Lego on the outside of the box.

This is particularly good for children who have difficulty interpreting pictures or who may have a visual impairment. But it is also an excellent visual clue for other children.

This could be extended to the day’s timeline. Instead of having pictures for snack time or playing outside for example, you could attach a a plastic cup for snack or a laminated leaf for playing outside. This can often be more meaningful for children who have difficulty in understanding pictorial representation.

You could involve the children and have them choose what object they would like to have represent different activities during the day.

You will see that most of these ideas cost very little, if anything at all, but have great benefits for the children in your care. By embedding these good practices into the setting, you will be prepared when a child who does have SEN joins you. This will ease the transition into your setting, and demonstrate professionalism in your working practices.

Goleman, D. (1996) Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. London: Bloomsbury Publishing

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  • Maria Aug 9,2014 at 3:00 am

    Meant the child would not feel dependent sorry wrote independent. Note to self stop rushing things and think first.

    • Kathy Aug 9,2014 at 10:33 am

      Hi Maria,

      Many thanks indeed for sharing your experiences and personal insights.
      It is always good to know that the blogs are helpful.

      Very best regards

  • Maria Aug 9,2014 at 2:58 am

    oops sorry Kathy I should have proof read it before posting, a few spelling mistakes in there, lol

  • Maria Aug 9,2014 at 2:56 am

    I loved reading this and as the mum of a disabled child (who is a man now with 4 beautiful children that he never ever envisioned he would ever have because of his disability) I agree totally with everything you said. As my son grew up I refused to allow him to be treated different to anybody else because I wanted him to be able to fit in and make friends, if he was treated differently eg. the ice cream man always wanted to give him free ice cream, the other children would’ve resented him.
    Your point of making this accessible to everyone is on the ball, if they all recognise something together nobody looks of feels ‘different’, the velcro idea is brill, the child would not have to keep asking for help and not feel independent. They could possibly even play hide and seek with a little patience from the other kids because they could find their way around everywhere with such a simple everyday item.
    I could go on for ever about lots of ideas you have given me here, but I will spare you the bore. Thank you for such a brilliant blog.

  • Penny Webb Oct 25,2012 at 8:24 am

    Some lovely ideas Kathy – as a grandmother of a child on the autistic spectrum, I relate very much to the idea that what is good practice for SEN children is good practice for all children.

    I also find with my grandson (who is 8) enjoys coming to my setting and using the resources provided for the under fives – especially the open ended resources.

    His first piece of independent writing happened here while playing in a den he had made in the kitchen out of those open ended resources – and while in the role of ‘king’. He needed to write me an important letter – and asked for paper (like many children on the spectrum he has issues with materials and in particular paper). He then wrote a letter than was readable (with some skill on my part) – it said ‘Dear Granny I will not chop off your head’ – which as he was in the role of king was good to know. I wonder if he would have made this huge step without the ‘everyday’ resources in my setting? When his home tutor arrived that afternoon she was amazed as up to that point he had refused all activities involving paper – and would only touch paper if his hand was covered with his jumper.

    • Kathy Oct 26,2012 at 10:36 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing this story, Penny.

      You are absolutely right, of course. Having the ‘everyday’ resources is key to so much learning!

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