Daily Archives: March 3, 2018

During my recent visit to the hospital school at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), the Special Education Needs (SEN) arm of the hospital asked for my feedback on the service. You see, my son Otito was admitted there for one year before he passed away. It was a service that made an absolute difference to him. He loved school and was very fond of all his teachers. They were absolutely brilliant. Looking back, I can only be grateful for their input because they not only gave him the best time in  what became the final days of his life, but also they provided us as a family with lasting memories which we will treasure forever. They asked me to highlight areas where they did badly but sincerely, I could not find any. All I found as I took the trip down memory lane were areas that could be improved on. Many of the you here have sick children or know people who do. Some of your children use GOSH London and other hospitals. I thought that it would be a lovely idea to share the feedback here to help give everyone an idea of what to expect from a hospital school SEN service. Another objective of this article, in addition to leaving this feedback, is to also add to the visibility that you will hear me propose at the end of this article. I hope you all find it useful and also gain confidence in using this service in whichever hospital your child is admitted especially if they have Special Education Needs (SEN). So let us start with the good bits…What worked? Child-led interaction: The GOSH SEN school program was centred around my son Otito. I thought that the fact that he was allowed to dictate the pace and direction that the activities took made him feel in control. This method respected and acknowledged not only his needs as a child but gave him dignity. It saw him as a human being and not just as a statistic that needed to be ticked off the box. The result was a boost in his confidence because he felt more able to flourish in his own peculiar way without being pushed beyond his abilities.  Do I think this child-led style of interacting with him worked? Yes! and here’s why It increased his confidence: Otito was given choices of activities to choose from each time. By selecting an activity he felt in control of the space and made him feel like he took part in deciding what he wanted. The child led approach helped the teachers decide the pace and speed that the session should go by not being pushy and overbearing in delivering the session. It helped the teachers stay in control of the plan and intended outcome for the session.This in my opinion, increased his confidence and modelled good behaviour to him. It helped him build trust: It helped him build trust for his teachers. Children like Otito with special educational needs- SEN are accustomed to being interrupted for interventions as a result of their complex health needs. This means that they become very protective of their own space. The child-led style of interaction helped reassure him that his opinions were acknowledged during the learning sessions. This helped Otito build trust towards the teachers that allowed him to learn. For a child like Otito whose complex health needs challenged everyone including the teachers, it was a relief for him to be able to take sessions slowly on gloomy days and enjoy more fast-paced sessions on perkier days. I remember times when Otito became unwell during sessions and how the teachers tactfully ended the session. For Otito his response was usually a mixture of dismay and relief. It made learning fun: The child-led teaching helped my boy look forward to teaching sessions. The fact that he was kept at the heart of the flow of the lesson meant that the whole experience became less of an ordeal for him. The child led interaction helped the teachers become more sensitive and empathetic towards Otito’s needs. As a result, they were more able to identify cues and behaviours that signified engagement, distraction or disengagement during the sessions. The teachers were very innovative in their expressiveness and choice of activities meaning that sessions were absolutely fun for him. This helped the teachers form a bond with Otito. This  further improved the teaching and learning experience for both teacher and student. Tailored teaching: It was very encouraging to see that at GOSH the teaching plans were tailored to suit the specific needs of the child. How? Initial sessions were used to assess the peculiar needs of my child before determining the particular equipment or tools to suit him specifically. This assessment also acknowledged feedback from us as Otito’s main carers about his particular likes or dislikes. There was a lot of observation of my child during individual play to help the teachers familiarise themselves with him, It helped the teachers make sense of what would or wouldn’t work with him. This method of teaching struck a chord with me as I felt that Otito was respected and dignified throughout the process. It allowed his perculiarities to be taking into consideration during the process of planning, preparing and executing teaching sessions. In his case, the teachers were able to determine what worked for him (for example music toys, light up toys, cause and effect toys and sensory toys) and what did not work (for example messy play and water play). Engagement: By mirroring Otito’s preferences with their choice of tools for teaching him, they were able to tailor the teaching sessions to suit him every time. Engaging him in this way not only kept him interested for longer, but gave the teachers the chance to keep steering him towards more complicated outcomes. It gave him the chance to excel at tasks we believed were impossible. For example by using light up toys, giggly balls, cause and effect toys and sensory toys […]

Did the Hospital school make a difference to Otito at GOSH London?