As the parent of a baby, goal posts constantly change. Routines that work amazingly well, all of a sudden aren’t appropriate anymore. Strategies that were once golden become redundant. There comes a very significant point, typically in the second half of a baby’s first year, when one of the biggest shifts occurs. No longer can your baby be contained in a 1 metre squared space – they have discovered something magical – that they are able to travel around from one place to another! This is usually the point when some serious changes happen to the positioning of objects and furniture in the home, and the number of calories burned by parents increases exponentially. This intensifies further over the coming 6 months when a toddler discovers that it is quicker and more efficient to walk around on their feet. Cue even more alterations to the home environment! The learning and development that is achieved over this period is incredible – and not just in terms of physical skills.
The newfound freedom that a young child experiences when they first learn to move independently leads to a wealth of opportunities. For the first time, they can take ownership of the direction that they would like to go and make choices about where and what they would like to explore. This also helps us to understand some of the frustrations that a toddler encounters when we burst their bubble by grabbing them just as they are about to touch something dangerous or stroll somewhere they shouldn’t! Everyone who works in the Early Years is aware of the power of child-led learning. As children follow their curiosity and try new things, they build strong neural connections which develop at their fastest in the first years of our lives.
Now, consider a child who has barriers to their physical development. How impactful is this for their learning in all areas? Imagine that a child is permanently ‘restricted’ within a small space and remains entirely reliant on adult support to get from one area to another. What if this child was also not yet ready to communicate verbally, so it was very difficult for them to let others know their needs and choices? The impact of this limitation of movement cannot be understated, especially in the EYFS where our philosophy is based on children taking ownership of their learning. There can also be other knock-on effects for a child who is confined to the same position, for example if they are in a wheelchair for the majority of their day, they may experience constipation or pressure sores.
There are multiple reasons why practitioners working in mainstream nurseries or schools feel anxious about how they can best support a child with physical disabilities. It may be due to the fact that they are inexperienced, or nervous about causing pain or discomfort to the child. It could be linked to concerns around other children being too boisterous nearby the child if they are not stationary/in their equipment. There are usually limitations in the amount of training or CPD that is available to Early Years settings linked to children with physical disabilities, and the quality can be variable. It is for this reason that a new programme, designed specifically for those working with children in the Early Years, is about to be launched by a reputable charitable organisation, the MOVE Programme.
Since the 1990s, MOVE Europe has been coordinating and expanding the MOVE Programme in the UK. The MOVE Programme is a functional mobility framework that teaches the skills of sitting, standing, walking and transitioning between, enabling disabled children to better access the world around them and make their own choices. The programme aims to upskill the whole team around the child (education, therapy and family) to feel confident supporting the development of children with physical needs. A key strength of the programme is that it focuses on identifying and utilising naturally occurring, motivating opportunities throughout the day for the child to practise and develop their movement skills, which allows settings to continue following a child-centred approach to learning whilst supporting staff to develop their confidence supporting children with physical needs.
MOVE Europe typically works with SEND settings, and so the impact of the MOVE Programme is often not seen until a child is over 5 years of age. It is for this reason that ‘Mini MOVE’ is being launched. Mini MOVE is an adapted version of the MOVE Programme, specifically targeting children who are under 5. The aim of Mini MOVE is to ensure that children with physical needs in mainstream early years settings receive high quality support to develop their functional movement skills and improve their physical outcomes as early as possible.
Mini MOVE allows settings to effectively meet sector expectations, adapt to the challenges found in the recent ‘Supporting SEND’ report, and create robust evidence for Educational Health Care Plans. By using Mini MOVE, mainstream early years settings can effectively meet the needs of all children, creating an inclusive learning environment and facilitating greater access to learning opportunities.
To find out more about how Mini MOVE can be used in mainstream education, specifically early years, you can watch this webinar.