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Stimulating Environment


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The special needs co ordinator has just critisised my classroom for being too stimulating. I understand that some children with autism would find it so, but i do believe we have to provide an exciting and stimulating learning environment for the children. She hates hands on messy activities and i find that rather strange for a special needs teacher. Hands on multi sensory experiences lend themselves nicely for chn with learning difficulties. Just needed to get that off my chest.

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Guest LucyQ

What exactly did she say was over stimulating? It can be very difficult to get the environment right, but would have thought that children getting messy wasn't over stimulation!!

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oh Rocket, thats the first time Ive heard that one. Sounds like she feels threatend that youre doing a better job than she is!? Are your children responding to you and their environment appropriately. if the answer is yes, I wouldnt worry too much and as for messy activities, dont give up on those! Its always the caretaker Ive had to do battle with on that one!!

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I think you might be right Susan i think she is threatened but it did upset me. The children love the environment and i have a lot of creative thinkers in my class. Her department is so unstimulating but i am too nice to say it to her face because i always think before i speak.

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Hi rocket

 

Yes, I've heard this kind of thing before.

Some SEN children cannot cope with an over stimulating enviroment and can casue them great anxiety and become very disruptive in class. Sometimes, children especially with autism have dislikes to certain colours. Again this may cause any number of behaviour problems. Some children cannot deal with getting messy and again this can cause great stress.

These children cannot explain why they feel this way to them it just is. The idea is to minimise their stress in order for them to be able fuction positively in a classroom enviroment with causing too much disruption.

 

I think it's unfair to suggest that the the special needs co-ordinator feels threatened. Sounds to me like she's doing her job.

 

However, if there aren't any special needs children in the class at the moment the I don't see what the problem is. Maybe she is just preparing you for the day when you might get a child with specific needs. I don't know your stiuation.I too have a very stimulating and colourful classroom, however I may need to change things in future to accomadate a child with specific needs before they come in to the class. But what about the other children in the class and their needs for a more stimulating environment? Don't know. I suppose it's all down to the whole inclusion issue. Until that day I shall continue the way I have been doing all term.

 

rocket - I wouldn't worry about it for now - sounds like you have a fun learning environment which benefits the children you have now.

 

regards

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Rocket, I am presuming that the special needs co-ordinator and the fact that you have mentioned "Autism" means you do have a child in your class with special needs. I may be wrong.

 

On Thursday I had a "difficult" experience with a "special needs expert"( for want of a better term).

I have a child in my preschool who is Autistic, he also attends a "Special needs unit" which has children with profound learning and physical disabilities. The "expert" ie: she works in the special needs unit and not in a (meer) preschool came to observe " Fred" at my preschool.

Her 1st comment was when he held hands with another child and skipped happily around the room, "she said" he couldn't do that with us because the other childrens needs couldn't enable such interaction". She then commented on his ability to show he knows and feels comfortable with our "basic" routine because when it was group time he easily joined his group and went with them to the lower hall.

"Fred" is known to be, or his "label" is to be "difficult, unpredictable, aggressive etc" We have seen this only on a very few occasions, mainly when we try to "enforce" a particular adult led activity.

 

When "fred" was messing about and not joining in with the group time the "expert" demanded he sit in a chair, physically tried to enforce this and aggrevated the situation, my staff member took over, encouraged him to hold the book ( story time) and got his co-operation without force.

 

This "expert" also intervened with another child who had her favourite cap and was upset about other children wanting it. My staff held the cap and said to her " Kay, give me the cap, you are getting upset, so I will look after it", she said "NO", my staff continued to talk to the child, at this point the "expert" stepped in and said "It's my turn now" she forcefully took the cap from the child and said to my staff " You can snatch it because you asked for it" ( What lesson does this teach?)

 

Later we went out for a walk, "Fred" has a "label" as a runner, but over the last term I have built a trust and mutual respect between us ( yes, an autistic child) and he has been responsible and sensible on our daily walks.

 

This day however, long story short. "Fred was walking holding another childs hand, he then asked to hold the "experts" hand. He became a bit excited, giggling and throwing his head back in laughter, he then spat towards the ground. I said to the "Expert" oh he's excited sharing this experience with you. I then said to Fred "Oh we don't spit" He didn't repeat it but the "expert" let go of his hand and said "Yuk, spitting is dirty, I don't want to hold your hand". Fred then held his hand out to her again, she stepped away from him and said, "No" I don't want to hold your hand" ( he only did it once) At this rejection he did a runner, the first time whilst out on a walk with our group, he ran across a road, luckily a very quiet one on our local estate. She said, "Oh, that was very dangerous, I didn't know he would do that".

 

My point is, is that she knew this child, any "expert" should know that responding negatively to a child ( autistic or not) he/she would react in a negative manner.

I just could not believe that this persons expert knowledge is basically, all children should comply, by force or fear if necessary and there was no regard or respect of this childs individuality, no trust was shown that he could develop without a constrictive timetable of adult led "work tasks" ( that is what there programme is for him at the special needs unit).

 

I have shown this child respect and trust, and I have tried to see life from his point of view and not from what "experts" say are the "right" way to deal with Autistic children. I'm not saying I am right, I am not the "expert" in special needs. All I can say is what I observed from an "expert" was not in the best interests of this particular child.

 

Sorry, rant over. I also have full support from the parents, who value the opportunities their son has to develop socially and emotionally within my preschool. He is socialising way beyond the "experts" ever thought he could because of his "Autism".

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well done Peggy, sounds like youre doing the right thing with this little boy.

 

I didnt mean, in case I was misunderstood, that I was questioning the needs of autistic children. But I dont think it was very professional of the Sen coordimator to critisce Rockets classroom in this way. I have been in the position of working with members of my team to improve or change their classroom environments and in supporting them to maintain what they have achieved.

Even if Rocket has an autistic child in the class, which I was not sure about, if the children are behaving appropriately then I wonder if there is a problem?

The classroom environments that we provide for our children can be very different, depending to some extent on our own personalities and the way in which we as teachers work.

Rocket were you told as a blanket statement that your room was too stimulating ? Were you given help / advice as to what was inappropriate? Why was your Senco involved with you in this way, anyway?

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Susan, I wish more "advisors" had your approach, my (very long) example was really to show that, like you say, each situation / environment is different, and is meeting different needs.

I just despair of a never ending "troupe" of advisors coming into my setting who do not value what we already do and are to quick to tell us how we should do things differently. My anger at the experience that I had was that the purpose of her visit was to "Observe" and not to "intervene". If more advisors spent more time observing then they may understand the individual circumstances a bit better, to then offer constructive support, which I am always open to receive.

Rocket, have faith in your knowledge of your children and ask your SENCO for more specific, constructive support.

 

Peggy

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No i don't have any autistic children in my class. She often pops in for a chat but the main reason was to tell me about a boy who will be coming to our school next year. He is not autistic but has difficulty concentrating. She felt it was best not to put him in my class because of the environment. Our school is very hot on brain friendly learning and i feel it is important to create a multi sensory learning environment to stimulate all the senses. But i do agree that sometimes these people judge too much and don't see all the positive and exciting things that are taking place. Obviously if i had an autistic child in my class i would have to adapt the environment slightly but without making the other twenty odd children suffer.

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It's a very complex issue. How to balance the needs of the many against the needs of one specific child.

I thought there might be a reason to her questioning your environment and I was right. (see my earlier post). Not really anything to do with her insecurities as a teacher as was one theory.

A multi sensory environment is great for most children but think about the possiblility of a child who can suffer severe stress levels being in that kind of environment. People often seem to think they are being put down and critised when all they are being given is advice for a 'what if...' situation. Sounds like that was what the special needs teacher was doing, just pointing out that another less stimulating environment would suit the new child better. Althought it might have been better if she was more forthcoming with the information in the first place. We live and learn.

 

regards

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