A Year at Dawn House School
I started working at Dawn House School on 22nd June 2020, 13 weeks into school being closed due to the Covid19 pandemic. I worked remotely until the school summer holidays.
It was immediately clear that the therapy team had worked incredibly hard to set themselves up to deliver therapy remotely, from offering regular online therapy sessions using Zoom to setting up use of My Therapy Tracker to enable them to keep secure, online, GDPR compliant notes.
I was lucky enough to join several SLT and OT sessions during my first couple of weeks. I was impressed with the level of engagement from students and families, and with the high quality activities provided by the team, including the use of IT (screen sharing documents and the use of the Symplify app) and fun, engaging activities. It was apparent that staff had very quickly built up their knowledge, skills and confidence in delivering therapy in this way, all of the sessions were delivered very professionally and naturally.
The nature of the sessions varied, reflecting the individualised, pupil centred provision offered by the school. For some pupils, the sessions were focussed on maintaining a connection with school and encouraging engagement. Other pupils accessed high quality, evidence-based approaches focussed on working towards specific targets to develop their speech, language and communication skills.
I started offering sessions via Zoom to 2 pupils from my 2nd week in post. This was a steep learning curve for me having never done this before, and I was very much out of my comfort zone. The therapy team were very supportive and patient in helping me to get up and running with the many bits of IT that I was unfamiliar with (setting up Zoom appointments, screen sharing, enabling remote access, providing interactive and engaging activities virtually, using Symplify, using My Therapy Tracker, completing various spreadsheets to provide data and information about the online therapy sessions offered). This was supported by clear guidance and a wealth of resources that had been saved on a shared drive, more evidence of great team working.
It has been a real challenge to engage with and build relationships with colleagues and students through virtual meetings and sessions. I have, however, been grateful for the opportunities that technology has given me to be able to start my job, meet people and begin to offer some meaningful therapy sessions within the current situation. I am excited to be part of a therapy team that have showed such flexibility, initiative and resilience during a difficult time.
We returned to school face to face in September 2020, with a range of different ways of working in place to reduce the risk of Covid19 transmission - bubbles, face masks, one-way systems, continued virtual meetings and training for staff, enhanced hand washing and cleaning procedures.
The therapy team worked together to produce a range of social stories to support pupils to understand these new ways of being in school. This support was ongoing throughout the Autumn Term. The therapy team also quickly moved back into working 'business as usual' to support pupils, offering a variety of 1:1, small group and whole class interventions as well as supporting in class. I was placed with Key Stage 4, which has been a steep learning curve as I am more familiar with supporting primary aged pupils. I have enjoyed working collaboratively with teaching staff and the occupational therapy team to plan and deliver sessions together. I am excited to be starting with a research post from September, which will enable us to evidence how and why this way of working is effective.
We worked to redecorate the assessment house in order to use the space differently. We were able to offer some virtual assessment sessions and follow them up with face to face visits to school, as well as offering a number of face to face assessments. I have enjoyed working together with teaching colleagues to offer multi-disciplinary assessments.
We continued to use some of the new ways of working alongside our face to face work, for example, virtual meetings on Zoom, Symplify and interactive PowerPoint activities for therapy activities and My Therapy Tracker for keeping notes. We were able to support pupils who remained at home due to shielding. Our targets were largely based around pupils settling back into school, building relationships with new staff and re-establishing relationships with familiar staff and peers. The SLT team were able to provide assessment and advice for 2 pupils with eating, drinking and swallowing needs.
I resumed working from home from January - March 2021. During this time, the therapy team introduced a themed daily morning session to start each school day. We worked together to deliver a range of virtual sessions that supported sensory and emotional regulation, vocabulary and social interaction. I continued to offer therapy sessions, support in class and to co-deliver lessons, albeit virtually rather than face to face.
I have been thankful to have been supported to access a number of CPD opportunities during my 1st year in post, including a wealth of mandatory training courses through Educare, Thirsty Scholar, extended briefing sessions and INSET days. I have also completed Shape Coding Part 1 training, Team Teach, webinars about the vestibular system, clinical practise & leadership and whole school approaches to managing behaviour. I attended the NAPLIC conference. I have delivered training on the Blank Model of Language Learning and Social Communication.