Meeting the mental health needs of pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities
Understanding the complex needs of our pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) is integral to being able to effectively support pupils and provide them with a holistic, personalised plan of support.
SEND comes in many different forms, but almost every known condition or disorder has a high possibility of affecting a child’s social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) which in turn adds to the complexities of a child’s needs. The area of SEMH is so important in the SEND code of practice. It has its own category of need and often forms part of Educational Health Care Plans.
Understanding development and mental health disorders in pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities
Known conditions and disorders including Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC), Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) and Attachment Disorder can all involve impairments to a child’s mental health and wellbeing. As an Associate Principal and Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Coordinator (SENDCo) it was vitally important that I had a thorough understanding of how the developing brain works but also how brain development and function is impacted by a variety of conditions. In addition, it was imperative that staff understood how social, environmental and community influences can affect a child’s ability to cope, learn and deal with ‘crisis’ moments.
By training as a Mental Health Officer (MHO) through attending Team Mental Health’s Advanced Level 3 training, I have been able to support staff, parents and pupils at Discovery Academy develop their own awareness and implement positive changes to ensure children with SEMH needs are supported to achieve personalised, positive outcomes.
How practical support can be provided for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities
We strive to ensure all our pupils enjoy school and have opportunities to talk about, explore and learn strategies to deal with a wide range of emotions and changes in these. Through weekly assemblies, weekly themes, the PSHE curriculum, class feelings charts and personalised feelings fans, pupils are encouraged to identify that all feelings are ok but it is how we deal with these and seek support to understand our feelings that makes us resilient and well-adjusted human beings.
Pupils with SEND find our school to be a safe place, take positive risks and as a result make good progress. They receive ‘additional and different’ support through a number of well-planned and thought out interventions using research and skills gained from attending Team Mental Health’s training or from the discussions and planned responses to need through Person Centred Planning in conjunction with the SENDCo and MHO.
As a result of having a trained Mental Health Officer and trained SENDCo, as well as staff trained in mental health awareness, we are able to identify SEND needs early, ensuring that provision is also in place to support pupils mental health and wellbeing.
As Team Mental Health say ‘prevention, detection and early intervention are key’ and this is vital for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities to ensure that they are supported to achieve their absolute personal best.
Mrs Beverley Oldham Associate Principal, Mental Health Officer and SENDCo Discovery Academy