The key to being ready for learning is to achieve the calm-alert state i.e. calm enough to concentrate, alert enough to learn. Due to sensory processing differences and arousal levels, many individuals with ASD may rarely experience the calm-alert state.
At Wargrave House School we offer a number of holistic approaches to assist our children and young people in achieving and maintaining a calm alert state. Structured sessions are designed to provide regular opportunities for all students to get ready for learning. Typically, such sessions are conducted at the beginning of morning and afternoon lessons and involve either relaxing or alerting activities according to the needs of the individual. Individualised activities may also be incorporated throughout the school day and evening to ensure our children and young people can reach their potential.
Self-regulation is an important life skill taught at Wargrave House School and involves helping children and young people to maintain a calm-alert state by encouraging them to recognise:
Signs of increased stress or arousal
Low arousal levels and when they tend to occur (e.g. after dinner)
Environmental and sensory stimuli that are difficult to cope with (and some appropriate coping strategies for them)
The activities that help to maintain arousal levels and how to perform them independently.
Sensory experiences include touch, movement, body position, vision, smell, taste, sound and the pull of gravity. The process of the brain organising and interpreting this information is called sensory integration. Sensory integration provides an important foundation for later, more complex learning and behaviour. For many children and young people with ASD, sensory integration does not develop as efficiently as it should. This can result in problems with attention, learning, motor skills and behaviour.
The school’s Occupational Therapist is trained in Sensory Integration Theory and Intervention and uses a sensory integration framework for intervention within individual and group sessions.
Relaxation and Emotional Well-being
It is well-documented that anxiety problems are common in ASD and the whole school approach to promoting and supporting emotional well-being addresses this.
All students at Wargrave House have the opportunity to take part in relaxation sessions and are taught a variety of relaxation techniques as a life skill. These may include breathing techniques, massage, yoga, meditation and guided visualisation. Sharing pleasurable and calming experiences with a peer group has proven positive benefits for peer to peer relationships and social interaction.
Wargrave House School is committed to promoting a culture of emotional well-being for its children and young people in order that they are able to fulfil their potential in school and in their lives beyond. Our approach towards supporting children and young people in developing emotional literacy focuses on the five social and emotional aspects of learning: self-awareness, managing feelings, motivation, empathy and social skills. Children and young people are empowered to recognise and manage their feelings and emotions and are given opportunities to participate in a range of group and/or individual sessions. Children and young people also have the opportunity to participate in specific sessions focusing on, for example anger management, self-regulation techniques and relaxation in conjunction with the Speech and Language Therapy Department and the Occupational Therapist. Structured social skills sessions, self advocacy and assertiveness training, enables and encourages our children and young people to use their ‘voice’ and express their views and opinions.