Specialist Support Centre

The Specialist Support Centre (SSC) at Desmond Anderson Primary Academy is a department, within the mainstream school, which provides specialist support to twenty children that have an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP). We offer places to children that have autism and require a specialist teaching approach. The privilege of being part of a mainstream school is that we can offer pupils opportunities to learn alongside their peers in the mainstream school for some lessons and activities

The SSC is organised into two mixed age classes:

  • Gardner Class supports children in EYFS and Key Stage 1 
  • Wiltshire Class teaches children in Key Stage 2 

Each class has ten pupils and is taught by a Special Educational Needs qualified teacher. Further support is given by SEN teaching assistants who have a high level of knowledge and experience in supporting children with autism. Our classes work with a ratio of one adult to two children. This high level of adult support enables us to provide an outstanding level of teaching and learning support for every pupil.

The SSC offers a warm, caring and nurturing environment which follows the pedagogy of good autism practice. We recognise that our children need additional support to understand the world around them as it can seem a very confusing and unpredictable place.  Our children may have difficulties coping with unexpected changes and this can cause distress and anxiety. In the SSC we follow clear, predictable and structured routines which help the children to feel safe and calm. We know that when children feel calm and settled, they can optimise their learning and reach their full potential.  We understand that some pupils thrive when given opportunities to break away from the whole class to work individually, in pairs or in small groups.

The SSC provides teaching and learning opportunities in line with the National Curriculum. Teachers ensure that the learning is differentiated to meet individual children’s needs. It is recognised that every child has their own strengths and challenges therefore children are supported with individual learning programmes and interventions which support pupil progress.  Regular opportunities to practise skills based on repetition and small steps are scaffolded by appropriate adult support.  The staff team share an absolute commitment to helping our children develop the skills necessary to become successful and independent learners. We aim for all of our children to flourish and become happy, confident, responsible members of society and to work towards leading successful and fulfilling lives. 

The SSC curriculum follows a carefully planned topic-based approach which allows the teachers to plan fun, motivating and engaging activities which are supported by opportunities for practical, hands-on learning across all areas of the curriculum and beyond.  Children are encouraged to learn through exploration and play as well as more formal activities which utilise skills in literacy and maths.

Speech, Language and Communication development is pivotal to all that we do.  Visual supports, including pictures, photos and symbols, are highly valued in the SSC and are used wherever possible to promote children’s learning and understanding.  The staff use Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), symbols, Makaton signing, Cued Articulation and alternative and augmentative approaches where possible.  The fundamentals of TEACCH are used to provide a structured approach which enables our learners to successfully engage while also developing independence in their learning.

We are very fortunate that we have ample space in the SSC. Our two classrooms offer bright and spacious learning environments. In addition, we have other learning spaces which offer calm, orderly, low arousal working spaces for our children. This includes our Speech and Language Therapy room, a sensory space and early years play room, a small group room and our SSC office. Furthermore, we have a well-resourced outdoor playground with climbing frame, sensory garden and a wide range of tricycles, scooters and outdoor play equipment. We also have a large, sheltered area where children can access outdoor learning opportunities across the day whatever the weather.

Sensory overload and difficulties with sensory processing is very common in children that have a condition of an autism spectrum condition. In the SSC we follow advice from Occupational Therapy to support our pupils to use sensory strategies to help them self-regulate. We follow the pedagogy of Zones of Regulation to support our children to develop their own understanding and skills in emotional control and self-regulation.  Our class timetables offer regular opportunities for mindfulness, sensory breaks, active learning and opportunities to be outdoors.  To further support our children’s needs for Occupational Therapy we follow The Jump Ahead Programme which guides us to support children’s physical development with a strong focus on gross and fine motor skills.

Our Speech and Language Therapy team, led by our highly qualified Speech Therapist, assesses, plans and delivers individualised support programmes to help our pupils to develop their communication skills in speaking, listening and social interaction. ‘Bucket Club’ Sessions follow the Attention Autism programme and provide a ‘highly motivating and irresistible invitation to learn’ (Gina Davis). Social Skills club, Narrative Therapy and Lego Club offer engaging and motivating social opportunities for children to develop social skills. Our Speech and Language Therapy team also works extensively to support the development of vocabulary and speech articulation.  Our children love to attend their Speech and Language Therapy sessions and relish the opportunities to play, interact and have fun while developing their communication skills.

Please do not hesitate to contact the SSC for further information or to discuss your child and their individual needs. We understand that choosing the right educational setting for your special child is not an easy journey and we are here to help by answering any questions about what we do in the SSC at Desmond Anderson Primary Academy.