Parents, teachers and friends

This week i delivered the first of our Intensive Interaction workshops for parents.  The school has a budget for parents events and it was decided this year that Intensive Interaction would be the priority.  This is an important element of my strategies for developing the community of practice at Woolley Wood and I am happy to say the the morning went very well.
We received the names of 23 parents who said they would like to attend on Tuesday morning and by 10am there were 30 people in the room.  This represented almost a third of the families for the whole school and is the first time that there have been more people than expected from the responses to the invitation.  From initial chats with parents it was clear (as we would expect) that the issue of communication is very important to them and any hope of a more meaningful relationship is worth checking out.
We began the day talking about the purpose and principles of Intensive Interaction and why it it is important in the context of the school and the community of children, teachers and parents. I then introduced the basic techniques and showed several films of the work that has taken place over the past 18 months at Woolley Wood.  On the days that I am at the school I make sure that everything is filmed so we now have a great archive of footage capturing some wonderful interactions and moments.  This is very useful for training so that people can see the work, reflect on the practice and enjoy the emotional connection for themselves.
After having sat and listened to me for long enough everyone split up into groups and started to discuss ‘ways in’ and how to communicate with children who are ‘difficult to reach’.  The parents have little opportunity to engage with other parents because the bus drop-off replaces the typical mainstream school pick-up.  Group discussion was really well received for both the chance to engage and for the content and by the end of the morning everyone seemed happy and gave good feedback about the training.  As a result of the morning I have now made contact with parents of some of the children we are working with and I have been told stories of how these children are at home which puts what I have seen at the school into an overall context.
The morning was also very interesting for me because I had the opportunity to ask a question that had interested me for a while.  In last week’s post I talked about emotional and functional communication and the importance of these types of communication.  I think that we will find that the day-to-day social experience of a typically developed person is a balance of functional and emotional communication and I believe that it is therefore important that a child learns how to be literate at both. Thinking about this further I came to the conclusion that, on the whole, a typical child at a mainstream school will learn more functional communication skills through interactions with the teachers and more emotional communication skills through interactions with their friends.  As a parent I know that I send my child to school to learn both functional and emotional literacy and my question to the parents at Woolley Wood was whether the parents of a child with a learning disability send their child to school expecting them to have the same opportunities.  The unanimous answer was yes, each of them sends their child to school to learn both these forms of communication.
It is clear to me then that, in order to give learning disabled children the same opportunities for learning social skills as children in a mainstream school, the teachers and teaching assistants must adopt an approach like intensive interaction.  Why? Because many of these children do not have friends and have much less opportunity to learn emotional communication skills from their peers.  Following the principles of intensive interaction can help the staff to fulfil the role of both friend and teacher, fulfilling the expectations of the child’s family and enabling the child to realise their full potential.

One Reply to “Parents, teachers and friends”

  1. Very nicely put. So many (special) schools fail to recognise the absolute fundamental importance of social skills and emotional well-being.

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