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Starting a new job

Discussion in 'Special educational needs' started by nicfernie, Jun 16, 2011.

  1. Hi;

    I am starting a new teaching job in an SEN school with a class of 7 pupils all with severe or profound learning difficulties in September. With the next few weeks and the summer to prepare I am keen to get on with anything I can to make sure that I hit the ground running as well as I possibly can next academic year.
    I have taught plenty of SEN in mainstream schools but not in an SEN school before, please could I have any shared wisdom on what sort of things would be useful for me to be getting along with?
    Thanks for any advice.
  2. Hello. First of all, congratulations on getting the job! I love working in my SEN school (I work on the residential side but do help out in school occasionally too) and I literally don't think I could ever teach in mainstream whereas my brother, who is a secondary school teacher and my sister, who is starting a PGCE in Early Years in September, say they could never work in special but it's what each person prefers. I apologise in advance for the lack of paragraphs-Google Chrome doesn't like paragraphs on this site for some reason!

    The main thing I would say is to use the knowledge of the support staff and read up on all of the students documentation. In my experience, the majority of students in an SLD/PMLD school will have specialist therapy programmes such as eating guidelines, toileting guidelines and speech and language therapy guidelines. Most of them will probably use a communication aid to help them express their needs and wants-there are a wide variety of these and, where I work, we see them all, and some of them will probably use PECS books as well, where they will give you a picture of an object such as a drink or a biscuit, and the object is then given to them. There will probably be a lot of Makaton/Signalong sign language used as well so a knowledge of the basic signs such as "Hello", "Goodbye", "drink" and "toilet" would be beneficial to start with-at the school where I work, all of the class teachers and support staff use sign language daily to back up the spoken word, particularly when greeting the students and at snacktime although it is used in lessons as well. At my school, the sign language training is run "in house" by qualified trainers-I'm not sure whether it will be the same at your new school but it's worth asking. Some students with SLD and PMLD have highly complex medical conditions so make sure you read up on their medical information that should be in their files too. I work with a student who is fed through a gastrostomy tube and, until recently, had a colostomy bag. Other students, depending on their individual conditions, may wear back braces or be doubly incontinent.

    Some children with SLD and PMLD can display physically challenging behaviour, usually due to the frustration in not being able to communicate effectively to those working with them or sometimes due to the sheer amount of sensory stimuli they are exposed to (particularly in students who are on the autistic spectrum). Again, read their files and ask the support staff for strategies to reduce this and to deal with it effectively when it occurs. At our school, all contact staff are trained in restraint but I'm not sure if it's the same in every special school-our special school has a high number of students who display high levels of physically challenging behaviour. However, in two and a half years there, I haven't yet had to use a hold on a student as it is a real last resort intervention when all other methods of deescalation have failed and the student is endangering themselves or others. We use a strategy called "One Voice" which is where only one member of staff is talking to an individual student at any one time as a lot of children with SLD/PMLD, particularly if they also have autism, get overwhelmed by more than one voice and thus may not respond to any instructions you are giving them.

    Above all, relax, enjoy it and treasure the students you work with. My job is very stressful but I love the students refreshing honesty-"You need to stop eating fatty foods!" and they can be very endearing. I have never found the situation in special where a student targets a particular staff member maliciously as I remember my classmates doing in mainstream-when they hit or kick me, it's usually because they are trying to communicate something to me rather than done out of spite. It is hard work but I love my job and want to continue in it for a good few years yet although I am looking for a day school for my next job as working shifts is tiring me out. Good luck!
  3. I forgot to say all of the above is based on my particular experience of working in my school-obviously other special schools will be different but I hope at least some of the advice is helpful.
  4. I was in a similar situation to you this time last year. I found that reading all of Flo longhorn's books helped! Also, Jean Ware's book 'Creating a responsive environment' was execllent.


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