Livability joins the call for protection of disability benefits

Students are gradually returning to Livability’s two special education centres – and they’re excited to be back! Super-safe virus prevention measures are in place at Livability Nash College and Livability Victoria School, where staff have also prioritised the wellbeing of their students, after months of lockdown. We ask staff how they’re reassuring students and their families, with plenty of fun in the mix, for returners and those still at home.

What are students telling you that they’ve missed most?

Adele Audin, Head of Nash College: Our students have missed getting out the house and getting into their classrooms. In some cases we’ve had to almost hold them back from charging down the corridors!  The biggest smiles have been from students playing sports outside in this fantastic weather.

Gill Lyon, Headteacher, Victoria School:  It’s the same for our students. They’ve said they miss having fun and laughing with friends, routine, swimming and sports – and even school lunches!

How many students are back?

Gill: We have 26 students at the moment, and plan to take in three more next week.  They are taught in age and peer appropriate bubbles in four separate groups by three separate staff teams.

Adele: At Nash, 14 students have returned with six classes running.

Please tell us about some of the wellbeing measures you’ve put in place

Adele: Our staff teams have considered our curriculum for each individual student very carefully. We know students have been very isolated and some of our young people have very limited outside space at home, which means even getting out into the fresh air has been difficult. Nash College represents freedom and, as I type this morning, music and fun.

Gill: We are giving all students the time to talk about or express how they are feeling and recording this. Staff are modelling how they feel and showing the students that we all feel a wide range of emotions. We’ve made a PPE video with all the staff dressed up in a variety of PPE, so that the children can see us all in different attire for different tasks. Each class has responded to the lockdown restrictions and their delivery of the curriculum in innovative and creative ways. We believe it is vital that the students whom we don’t currently have in school don’t feel abandoned, so staff are continuing to support those students.

How do you support students with learning disabilities to understand what is going on?

Gill: A whole raft of support, including social stories that are specifically tailored to their needs but that are factually accurate; photos and videos of places to share with them; phone conversations and video calls, so they can hear the voice of a familiar adult reassuring them, along with home visits and access to the school counsellor.

Adele: We take a total communication approach to find the right combination for each young person. I know some students found it very strange initially that Zoom permitted lecturers to apparently be ‘in their homes’ but very quickly adapted and enjoyed intensive interaction sessions to support their understanding.

And finally, Nash College lecturer Jenny Guard explains how students are learning

We have been regularly sending out work sheets and activities sheets; parents have all said they are very grateful for these. My support staff plan new activities to do with the students and parents via Zoom each week.  One popular game has been showing the young people photographs of different singers or bands so the student can choose a song and which we can then play via Zoom. This has proved to be great fun, the staff in class dance and the students and their parents do the same at home! Students have also been given the opportunity to express their feelings and emotions through using flash cards.