Tips and training

Training update

During the summer, our therapy staff team were trained in Intensive Interaction and in Attention Autism, so that we could further develop our provision for our learners. Following this training, we have been trialling a new structure for some of our Wellbeing sessions (group therapy sessions) to be at a pace to suit our learners.

So far, this has proved very successful, with this new format enabling learners to engage in their learning in different ways. This has also meant that we, as staff (both therapy staff and our education support colleagues), have been learning about different ways to communicate and interact with our learners.

The sessions comprise Intensive Interaction, the Curiosity Programme, and Attention Autism.

Intensive Interaction is an approach that is used to develop positive social communication with learners who have differences in the ways that they communicate and socially interact. Staff work one-to-one with a learner and spend time with them, responding to, joining in with, and copying the actions or sounds the learner makes.

It is such a useful tool to build a relationship and to be sharing space with a learner, using their own language and following their lead.

The Curiosity Programme’s main aims are:

  • To create connection  
  • To build engagement 
  • To provide opportunities to be spontaneously interested in the world 
  • To create more opportunities for interactions 

It is an approach used to help teach learners to develop the skill of curiosity, form positive relationships with others, and to learn to engage with a wider range of stimuli. Staff are asked to avoid prompting learners, in order to help them develop their skills.

The aim of Attention Autism is to create an irresistible opportunity to learn. The activity is led by the therapist and everyone who is in the room models giving all their attention to the leading adult. Staff are part of the learning. Again, this activity should never be prompted. 

Naomie Mullarky, Speech & Language Therapy Apprentice

St. John’s was awarded with Autism Accreditation by the National Autistic Society (NAS) in 2017. St. John’s Wellbeing department includes speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, positive behaviour support, psychology, and nursing. We work closely with our education and residential departments to support our learners’ skills development in the NAS’s four focus areas of:

  • differences in social communication and interaction
  • self-reliance and problem-solving
  • sensory experiences
  • emotional wellbeing.

Each month, the Wellbeing team will be providing an autism tip in relation to one of the above areas. We hope these will be useful for parents and carers, as well as other professionals. Please note that good autism practice applies to all of our learners, whether or not they have a diagnosis of autism.

Autism tip of the month – balancing comments and questions

April 2022

To support social communication and interaction

It can be tempting to ask lots of questions but this can be
demanding for someone with attention difficulties or challenges with
understanding and using language.

Instead, try balancing four comments to one question asked. For example: 

  • I went to the beach at the weekend
  • It was cold and windy
  • I wore my new coat
  • I had a cup of tea
  • I wonder what you did at the weekend?

March 2022

By pushing or pressing our hands together, we create proprioceptive (deep pressure) feedback in our muscles and joints which has a calming effect on our sensory systems.  It creates a greater sense of body awareness and results in feeling more grounded and relaxed.

For someone with sensory processing difficulties, this can be a simple and effective way of reducing anxiety and expelling some energy. We’ve been modelling this with our learners and young people recently. 

The NAS has some great information on differences in autism sensory processing here.

January 2022

Thank you to Karla Brazel (Occupational Therapist) for January’s autism tip which relates to sensory experiences and specifically auditory sensitivity.