Collaboration | Free to use adaptable activities for SEN children during the school closures

This post is dedicated to parents, carers, relatives, friends, childminders and our Teachers and LSAs. 

As we know, the British Government made the decision to implement complete school closures from Friday 20th March, leaving millions of children across our country anxious and worried about their education and what will happen next for their school. Yes, many of my Year 8s were hysterical with happiness, however for many, they felt scared and frightened. Not only those who were due to sit their exams which dictate their future, but also for our children who have special educational needs. Children who need routine, routine that is not disrupted, routine that not only guides and supports them, but also provides them with the learning that they deserve. In my eyes, teachers and parents of pupils with SEN are superheroes, particularly with how they manage and facilitate learning to make it engaging and adaptable. Many parents will spend weeks and months training their child in preparation for change to their routine – with these school closures happening so suddenly, my heart breaks for these children, children who don’t understand, children who are now suffering, and parents who are lost in what they can do to maintain provisions so that their children don’t fall behind.  

As a teacher with several years of experience, I know how difficult it is to create positive relationships and routines for pupils, so what I’ve decided to do, whilst in isolation, is to create several adaptable activities that you can use for your children. Even if your child isn’t considered SEN, you can still adapt these in any way you see fit for your child’s individual needs. I am working in collaboration with Kyra from @mybrokenbronchi who also has a post dedicated on advice for parents to ease anxieties regarding the school closures. 

1) set a routine

Before your start anything or begin to implement any form of education, you need clear routines. I would suggest sitting down and taking time to consider what it is you will be actually teaching. The routine you set needs to be clear and concise, I would suggest using images and colour to explain what the subject is. For a lot of SEN children, having your child sit and do work for 6 hours a day just isn’t feasible or manageable- trust me as a teacher it’s impossible. Break activities up, even if it’s a 15-minute activity, a 30-minute break or 1-hour free time and then return again for another 15 minutes, that’s completely ok. This is a tip I picked up working in a special needs school, small bite sized activities with long breaks. An example routine timetable is below, I would suggest focusing on Maths and English first! 

2) PE

Children need exercise, not just for their physical health but also for their mental well being. Joe Wicks- The Body Coach is offering free fitness sessions that he is streaming on his YouTube channel every day at 9am. Not only can your child get involved, but the whole family can as well! With many learning difficulties, most children need the stimulus that a physical workout can give them. It keeps them focused and they can learn about their bodies but also have fun as well.  

3) GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY

The times we are in are dark and uncertain, and there are so many people in our country who are alone and scared. Something you can do with your children is to have them draw or paint pictures, or even write a letter that can be sent to care homes, the elderly in your neighborhood or even to the emergency services. Focusing on kindness will build character and help to encourage their empathy, a trait that many SEN children struggle with.  

4) CREATE A PROJECT

Many SEN children have a hobby, something that they love and obsess over. Use this as an educational tool. For example, the railways. If your child has Minecraft, have them create their own railway line, have them consider the surrounding areas and question why they are used? How are they used? What’s the science behind them? The History? If you have a notebook spare, take photos of everything they do in order to keep a record. Have it all glued in and presented in the notebook. Another suggestion is that on the first page of the notebook, you could have a list of emojis that represent feelings and your child could draw the emoji to indicate how they were feeling whilst doing the activity. Alternatively, they could write a sentence explaining what they did during each activity. Once the school closures end, they could even take the project to school and show their teachers what they did. 

5) KEEP IT PRACTICAL

SEN children thrive with practical activities. They cannot sit for six hours a day so you will need to make the activities you are doing practical. This could be painting, baking, cooking, building dens, planting flowers/vegetable seeds in the garden – have them take ownership! It will allow your child to thrive and to feel responsible- just like an adult! With baking in particular, if you set everything out for the child, leave stickers on the jugs for measurements as a way to control the activity, but leave the rest for your child. Show that you trust in what they can do, it might surprise you! 

6) WHAT ABOUT ACTUAL LESSON RESOURCES?

Websites like Twinkl are currently offering free resources for all subjects for everyone. I have personally used this site to set activities for my own lessons. Take a look at what they have and if you can use it, do it! Places like Waterstones and WH Smith are selling activity books that you can buy online. These are usually very clear in providing the essential learning.  

7) DON’T BE TOO HARD ON YOURSELF

At the end of the day you are not a teacher, please don’t feel disheartened if you don’t know subjects or content – especially if your child is being set work by their school. Just by giving it a go, it shows how much you care. If need be, reach out to others. I will happily help as much as I can and if you want to message me about anything or ask for material then you can leave a comment, send me an email or DM me on Twitter. 

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To conclude, those are some suggestions that you could use for your children. The most important thing you can do is spend as much time with your child as possible.  Give them all the love and support they need during this difficult time.  

Make sure to follow my socials for any extra guidance and also follow @mybrokenbronchi on Twitter and Facebook – My Broken Bronchi 

Be sure to check out our other post which is available on Kyra’s blog.  

Love, Leo and Kyra x

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