I have been working with SEN (special educational needs) children at Jubilee primary school every Tuesday for a number of years. The age and ability of the children varies considerably with each session adapted specially to include children between the ages of 5 and 11.
Most of the children I work with have autism which makes it difficult for them to interact with other people, including their peers and teachers. They also have other issues with behaviour and this can mean they are very disruptive to the other children.
Playing team games is a challenge as they often find taking turns hard to deal with, so we play a number of different sports, including cricket, which are adapted to suit their needs. Little games work particularly well, for example, catching and throwing, new age curling and target throwing are very popular because they are easy to understand and can be demonstrated visually.
Visual demonstrations are vital when working with these children, but you must make sure you get it right – as I discovered recently!
During a lesson, I had a problem with my foot and needed to take my shoe off to relieve the pain, so I whipped my shoe off and turned around to find that all the children were now standing with only one shoe on!
This was hilarious, but also brilliant because the children were doing exactly what I have always said – watch Denise and copy what I do.
To provide some added benefit to the sessions, we always incorporate some numeracy and speech and language skills into the games. This has worked fantastically and given the children greater confidence to do things for themselves. They also learn important social skills, such as being patient with others, sharing and not getting angry when mistakes are made, but, instead, learning from them and trying again.
These skills may seem quite easy to learn, but, for a child with autism, it is extremely difficult.
It is amazing to see the children work so hard and have so much fun every week. They love their PE sessions with me and the staff often comment on how the children have progressed with other lessons in school as a result of their PE.
I’m very proud of these lessons and long may they continue!
Denise O’Neill – CKC Inclusion Coach