Social Skills, Positive Interaction and Social Inclusion in EHCPs
Communication and Interaction
This is about how your child communicates with others, their relationships and social skills. This kind of need includes:
- speech and language issues
- difficulty communicating with others, such as not being able to say what they want to or having difficulties understanding what’s being said to them.
- not understanding or using social rules
- problems understanding how relationships with other people work
- autism (ASD)
Social, Emotional and Mental Health
These kinds of difficulties can show in lots of ways, such as a withdrawn or isolated child, or challenging and disruptive behaviour. This area of need includes things like:
- social anxiety, phobias or refusing school
- mental health difficulties such as anxiety or depression, self-harming or an eating disorder
- attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD)
- attachment disorder or difficulties or early development trauma
- self-esteem and confidence issues
- if they have tantrums or meltdowns or times when they seem to ‘lose it’
When an EHCP is put together it is important that the need is identified in both these areas with outcomes (both long term and short term) agreed with provision / support identified
Outcomes can be short, medium or long-term. There are two types of outcomes which are often written together:
• What is important to your child. These are usually big outcomes from your child’s perspective – such as being happy or confident, having friends or being independent. All services and professionals can usually play a part in helping to achieve these.
• What is important for your child. These are outcomes that can be measured and are valued by other people, including educational achievement, literacy, and numeracy or good health.
Provision is another word for support. It’s the things that the nursery, school or college do or provide that help your child to achieve and make progress. This is support that is different from, or extra to, what other children in their age group are getting.
In your child’s plan, the support they are getting should be written so that it is:
• detailed and specific – you should know what type of support is being given, who will be giving it and what expertise (if any) that person may need in order to give it
• quantified – you should know when the support will be given, how long it will last and how often they will have it
This is support that’s available in all schools and some classrooms, but for very few children. The funding and expertise may need to come from outside the school’s resources. If your child needs specialist provision, school staff will usually need to get specialist advice. It could be from a Speech and Language Therapist, Habilitation Officer, QTVI, Occupational Therapist.
Specialist support includes things like:
• access to sensory breaks and food breaks and a quiet room
• using a picture exchange system for communication
• individual mentoring
• an identified key adult and personalised curriculum
• one to one support for children with multisensory impairment
The ‘Golden Thread’
Your aspirations and your child’s should be the starting point for discussions about support. Once you know what your child’s aspirations are, you can link those to the things they need in school or college and the support that will help them. These are all linked to outcomes too, which are like stepping-stones towards your child’s long-term goals. All these things together form something called The Golden Thread.
Here is an example of a golden thread for an Education, Health and Care plan. It starts with Sarah’s goal to have more friends and takes a long-term approach to meeting that goal. Sarah’s school should have a plan they use with some short-term goals as well. For children without EHC plans, the golden thread should also be used to plan and give their support in school or college.
Aspiration: Sarah wants to have friends.
Needs: Sarah has a language delay and it affects her learning and social interaction with other children her age. It is also affecting her confidence and self-esteem which means that she can be socially vulnerable. (Communication and Interaction need and Social, Emotional and Mental Health need).
Outcome: By the age of 16 Sarah will have a small group of friends and is able to travel independently so she can meet with them. She will meet friends outside home and school and have and use a social network.
Support (provision): Sarah will have weekly travel training which will include buddy support. Sarah will have a mentor who meets her weekly for three hours to explore her interests. Her mentor will help her develop friendship opportunities and support her to take part in social and leisure activities. Sarah will take part in a twice weekly social skills group at school with a Teaching Assistant.
The targets (outcomes) set in an EHC plan are meant to be achievable for your child, but also ambitious. Everyone involved in the EHC plan should have high expectations for what your child can and should be achieving.
Your child’s EHC plan should help your child achieve the best possible results in their journey towards adulthood. Even from early years, the support set out in a plan should challenge your child to become as independent as possible. This means taking small regular steps towards developing the skills they’ll need for adult life. Friendships and connecting with others plays a big part in a happy, successful adulthood.
EHC plans are meant to be ‘living’ documents. That means they should be looked at and used regularly, rather than gathering dust on a shelf. It’s a good idea to use the plan sometimes when you have a school or college meeting to talk about how your child is getting on. If possible, always use a plan to guide you when you have a meeting to look at your child’s progress and support.
You and your child have an important role in making sure the EHC plan is useful and relevant. Your views are key to making sure the plan works – by helping to make sure that what’s in it is realistic, that it makes the most of your child’s strengths and that it focuses on what is important to them.
EHC plans are meant to be holistic. That means they’re an all-round look at your child’s needs and support in relation to their learning. The EHC plan should include health and social care needs if they are relevant. If these parts of the plan are empty, it’s always worth asking the professionals whether they should be. You can ask for a review meeting for your child’s needs to be added to the plan.
Acknowledgment: Information from DiAS website- Devon Information Advice and Support for SEND https://devonias.org.uk/
Curriculum Framework for Children and Young People with Vision Impairment
Area 9 p30 Health: Social, Emotional, Mental and Physical Wellbeing
Advice from Forming Friendship Panel Members
Laura Brooks – QTVI working in Bradford
- It is important to get the balance right between supporting students and not supporting them too much so they feel integrated into the mainstream classroom
- Peer awareness training – enabling students to understand a child’s VI is recommended
- Staff mentoring and buddy systems in schools – encouraging VI children to use these
- When child is struggling tell them, “It would be rubbish if school was all good because then you would face more problems when you get into the real world”
- Laura runs groups within the sensory service to bring the children within the local authority together. This opens up a lot of opportunities for the children to listen and meet people who have gone off and progressed onto the next stage of their life.
- Outlook Trust – open to all across the UK. They run activity breaks in the Lake District for children and young people with a VI.
- The best impact for the children comes from the staff’s training. This is so they know how to best support a child in their social life and engagement with other students in their school
- Staff training should be delivered regularly as teachers and support staff move on
Elin Johnson (mum of a blind child)
- In school, her son who is blind with a ASD diagnosis struggled to connect with fellow students and form friendships without any support and guidance
- It is really great for children with a VI to have an older VI mentor who they are able to relate to and chat to about friendships (LOOK mentor scheme or other VI role models.
- Having a safe space for children in school where they can have some down time and have a chat with a peer or staff member is vital.. Work with school to find the right place for this for the child
- Let the TAs know what the child’s social goals are too so that they can help as part of their role in supporting the child
- It is really important for the child to be sat next to another student in the classroom and if needed, have the TA on the other side
- Thinking about what can be done at different times of the day to aid social interactions – tutor groups, break time, lunch time, etc
- Letting teachers know to avoid sayings like ‘find a partner’ or ‘make a small group’ – it is very common that a VI child is singled out by this
- Having a meeting with the child and staff at the school every half term to talk about social goals, separate to the EHCP review
- So many things are learnt through visual cues so having good mobility skills will enable a child to improve their friendships and connections
- Communication – body language, posture, hand gestures, etc
- Social cognition – understanding the social landscape
- Social interaction – skills used to maintain conversations and communications
- Thinking of conversation starters and having answers prepared to aid conversations
- Request speech and language expertise to aid communication and interaction needs. Pragmatic language input is support with social language rather than speech (which is more about clarity)
- Social interaction skills fall under speech therapy. There just are not enough Speech and Language Therapists and getting past their referral barriers is the tricky bit.
- Connecting with VI peers outside of school is also important.
Moving to an FE or HE establishment
- There is less support from QTVIs in colleges. The responsibility for support is pushed more onto the college. However, it is common that there will not be as much expertise from the college as there is from QTVIs
- The main support that the QTVIs offer with transition to FE is the EHCP review and support for staff in the FE establishment
- For a Vision Impaired young person self advocacy skills are key.
- “Do people like you actually go to university?” – a comment that was made to Aliza whilst she has been studying at university
- It opens the eyes of people that aren’t disabled that we can go to university and achieve big things
- Starting from scratch in a new environment allows for a development in self advocacy
- Aliza has passed on some information about how she learnt her advocacy skills. (see separate document)
- Struggled in noisy, crowded environments
- Had a few friends in school but was easier when she moved on to college and lived in halls.
- Studied animal therapy as she knew she couldn’t become a vet.
- Has an emotional support dog that she trained that goes everywhere with her and helps her anxiety
- Purdy is a talking point and a way into a conversation separate from Imogen herself.
- Purdy makes life, connections and relationships so much easier for Imogen
- Buddy Dogs from Guide Dogs can do the same thing for children and young people with Visual Impairment
Tops Tips to Help Our Children Make Friends and Feel Connected
School/ College/ Education
- Friendship bench at primary school
- Early Passes for lunch with ‘lucky’ handpicked friends
- Identified safe space where they can socialise
- Understanding, supportive, trained lunch and break time assistants
- Trained play leaders at primary school
- Children given responsible roles to build confidence and self esteem
- Lunch Clubs
- After school activities
- Finding the common interest ie drama, music, sport, to build the friendship on.
- Positive Inclusion Training for staff by QTVI
- For fellow students to have positive inclusion training or for inclusivity and disability awareness to be incorporated in their lessons in some way
- Reassure your child that you don’t need a huge number of friends. A few good friends can be better and more lasting.
- Managed TA support (what each child needs is different)
- Small group work in class helps to build relationships.
- Agreed class layout. Where each child is going to sit for each lesson. The young person knows who is near them and builds a rapport.
- Games for break that are accessible to them. RNIB website
- Disability is a protected characteristic, school should encourage celebration of difference in the same way they have LGBTQIAS+ awareness days. This is who I am, this is my equipment, this is how I move around school, these are my interests etc….. This is tricky however if the child is struggling with accepting their Vision Impairment.
- Link with local sight loss charities and take part in meet ups
- VICTA activities
- Online Groups: RSBC Sisterhood group.
- Youth Groups / Clubs for young people with SEND
- Residential opportunities- New College Worcester, VICTA, Outlook Trust
- Have a go days British Blind Sport https://britishblindsport.org.uk/bbs-have-a-go-days/
- Encourage swapping of contact details
- Habilitation officers and Enablers (getting out without you)
- Henshaws I can do it course https://www.henshaws.org.uk/courses/i-can-do-it/
- Brownies, Cubs, Scouts etc can be very inclusive with training from Habilitation Officer
- Search your ‘Local Offer’ each local authority has an initiative and should provide free opportunities for children with additional needs to attend events/clubs
- Encourage independent interaction in a variety of settings if possible, these early building blocks will help in later life
- Talk to your child and let them know that not everyone is going to like them or want to be friends with them- but that’s 100% okay in life and that they don’t have to like or be friends with everyone either- FIND YOUR TRIBE
- Do plenty of what your child enjoys, it will help to fill the space where feelings of loneliness may start to develop
- Consider getting a furry companion and best friend through the Guide Dog UK Buddy Dog Scheme
- The young person can sign up to the Welcome to the VICTA Student Portal (victastudents.org.uk) lots of age specific information and support around wellbeing and connecting with others
- Parents can access the VICTA Virtual Wellbeing retreat for a hub of information and videos that aim to support the mental health of both you and your child VICTA Parent Wellbeing Retreat Live – VICTA
- Connecting with people who share similar experiences is vital in understanding that you’re not alone. E.g through Facebook groups, local young people’s vi groups (see separate list)
- Another important factor is having a role model to look up to. This really helped me in my journey to help me feel more empowered. Molly Burke – YouTube
- LOOK mentor scheme Peer Mentoring Projects for VI Young People – LOOK UK (look-uk.org)
Social Events and Opportunities for Vision Impaired Children, Young People and their Families
Guide Dogs https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/getting-support/help-for-children-and-families/living-well/family-events/
Usher Kids UK
Microphthalmia, Anophthalmia & Coloboma Support (MACS)
London and the South
Blatchington Court Trust- Support for VI young people in Sussex
Sight for Surrey
Southwest and Wales
Bristol, Bath, South Gloucestershire and Wiltshire
Moorvision- Devon and Cornwall
Vista- Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland
Sight Advice South Lakes
Henshaws Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Yorkshire
Useful Vision North East
Outlook Trust- Adventure Sports weekend activity breaks and holidays for Blind and Partially sighted Children
Residential opportunities for different ages ranges- see link at start of the document
Sports and Drama
British Blind Sports
Metro Blind Sports (London based)
Ucan Productions- Welsh Arts and Drama Cooperative for VI children and Young People