20 Mar 2006

Educational philosophy for Duncan

This is what I have sent to our education board to demonstrate how I intend to educate Duncan at home. I've had to make it suitable for the purpose, so have written about 'literacy' and 'facilitating communication' and that sort of thing these people like to hear.
    We will provide our son with an efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability, aptitude and to his special educational needs as identified on his Statement, in accordance with Regulation 6 of the NI Education Regulations 1974, No. 78.
    Case law in England and Wales has established that an ‘efficient’ education is one that achieves what it sets out to achieve and prepares the child for life in modern civilised society, enabling them to fulfil their potential. Duncan’s education will be full-time as we consider every part of the day to provide learning opportunities.
    Duncan’s special needs are identified in his Statement. He has a diagnosis of ASD. He has difficulties with speech and language and with social communication. He also displays some obsessive behaviour. In his education, we aim to improve his;

    1. Communication skills
    2. Play and social interaction skills
    3. Behaviour
    4. Numeracy, literacy and all other areas of learning
    5. Self-help skills

    It is explicit in law that the education of our child is an aspect of our parental responsibilities. We aim to engender in Duncan, the desire to learn and the ambition to realise his potential. We want him to have empathy and respect for others. We will help him gain confidence and self-esteem. We hope to extent his ability to focus on goals. We want him to develop a health conscious life style, the skills to solve problems and the flexibility to deal with modern life as well as he is capable.

    We have taken part in the Early Bird autism course run by the National Autistic Society and have read extensively about autism from a variety of sources, with a particular interest in autistic learning. We have adopted many ideas to facilitate Duncan’s communication as much as possible.

    We have studied and work with Duncan’s personality type and sensory preferences. We can use this information to optimise the conditions to help him to learn, communicate and interact. Optimisation of his environment also helps to avoid problem behaviour.

    For example, Duncan enjoys physical activity. We try to make the most of his exuberance with rough and tumble games or by playing chase or hide and seek. These provide many opportunities for communication and social interaction. This also provides the balance he needs to be able to concentrate and engage on more focused learning tasks. Physical activity is also important for his health so we ensure he has many opportunities to exercise. He enjoys playing in the garden, on the climbing frame or with his bike and scooter. He likes to go to the playground, or soft play centre, which provide opportunities to play with other children. We also often go to the nearby beach or to the countryside park for family walks.

    The home environment provides the right level of stability for Duncan. He functions best with consistency. At home we have the chance to model empathy and to help him gain understanding of his emotions by labelling. There is no need for extrinsic modifications or rewards or punishments. These are counter-productive. We will help him to learn to do what is right and internalise these skills; not to do things out of fear or to gain gold stars.

    Every routine of the day provides opportunities to extend his communication. We are fostering routines and order. At home we have more time to help him develop skills in, for example, toileting, dressing, choosing clothes, tidying his room.

    Duncan is a clever boy and has demonstrated a great capacity for learning. It is clear that he is a visual and hands-on learner. Our role is to facilitate his development; to enable his talents and natural curiosity. He can learn at his own pace and will be encouraged to discover, explore and create. Duncan learns best in the security of his home with his family. He learns implicitly from his various special interests.

    Duncan’s communication abilities will improve as he develops reading and writing skills, so encouraging literacy is important. He now enjoys listening to stories, either alone or with his family. We often act out the scenarios or use toys as props. He has access to a large number of children’s books and we often visit the library. Duncan has a particular interest in everything to do with Thomas the Tank Engine, so I have bought a new set of ‘learn to read with Thomas’ books to capitalise on this. (Duncan learnt his colours and numbers through ‘Thomas’. The characters also helped him to recognise the facial expressions for different emotions.
    His first spoken word was ‘train’ and the first words he learned to read, after his own name, were Thomas, Percy James, Edward and Fat Controller!) As he is now starting to read some words, we will help to extend this ability.
    He has come to love many other stories too, and among his current favourites are ‘Duck in the Truck’, ‘We're Going on a Bear Hunt’ and the ‘Apple Tree Farm’ stories.
    A good deal of Duncan’s speech is phrases copied from videos and computer games. We play with him and act out the phrases to help him understand their meaning.

    The computer is a crucial tool in Duncan’s learning. He is adept at using the mouse and can write his name using the keyboard. We have a broadband internet connection, and Duncan can use bookmarks, move back and forward through pages and find the home page.
    I have bookmarked lots of excellent sites. He enjoys cbeebies which has lots of great games, stories and activities. He also enjoys the Starfall learn to read site and Literactive.com.
    We also have lots of educational CD ROMs. Using all these, he can listen to stories and songs, play games and follow instructions. They help to improve his literacy and numeracy in a fun way that holds his interest. Using the computer together provides a point of joint attention. Other tools that are available to facilitate Duncan’s education include DVD’s, Cuisenaire rods, magnetic numbers, letter cards, Lego, puzzles, card and board games, workbooks and craft resources.

    A lot of learning happens through real life situations. Duncan often helps to cook which gives him a chance to discover many principles of science like mixing and melting, and of maths, like measuring and counting. Learning about food will also hopefully increase the range of food he will eat.

    Duncan enjoys playing and having fun with all his family including his extended family and close friends. We have annual family membership at Belfast Zoo, W5 and the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum and visit all these regularly.

    Duncan’s home-based education will progress in a manner which optimises his continuing development while meeting all his needs.


Anonymous said...

We’ve also just started home educating our child. Things started off very positively but the last 6 months have been a nightmare at school. We feel much more able to give her an education she can thrive on.

Anonymous said...

Hello, the 'Educational Philosophy for Duncan' is most interesting. I do so wish that I had educated my son Jonah at home right from the start. As it turned out, due to social and communication difficulties, educational difficulties and difficulties with peer pressure which resulted in serious and sustained bullying, led us to remove Jonah from school at the age of 15. I home educated until the end of June this year. I am of the opinion that home is the very best place for children with ASD after hearing so many sad stories of children suffering in mainstream education.
Jonah is now suffering with a lot of difficulties and may find seeking and retaining employment difficult as a result. This is very upsetting and I just wish that our concerns in respect of our son had been taken seriously 13 years ago when he was not speaking or making connections and could not make himself understood.
We are now caught up in a legal battle to try to gain negligence costs for failing our son, in order to pave a way forward for him and give him every opportunity now.
Best wishes to you all.

Sharon McDaid said...

Hi Miranda
Thanks for visiting here and leaving a comment.
How awful that your son had to face horrible bullying. I really fear that for Duncan and am just not willing to risk it when he is so young and vulnerable. I agree that so many children would benefit from learning at home rather than at school. I've heard the sad stories too.
All the best to you and Jonah in particular. I hope he finds his way again. It can take a while for children who have had a hard time at school, but in every case I've heard about, they do feel better after a time, how long depends on how badly they felt about themselves before.