The CandLE Curriculum Access System
CandLE employs teachers and therapists who have extensive experience of the mainstream curriculum as well as awareness of alternative provision. All of our staff are trained in AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) and AT (Assistive Technology).
Our contribution to the systems that are required to support students who rely on AAC, has led to a number of students gaining qualifications who may not have been able to do so under a different system. This is particularly so where students have difficulty with physical access and/or working memory difficulties.
Many of the students we work with experience difficulties with literacy acquisition. To remedy this our teacher’s and therapists work with the student in a way that ensures that every subject in the curriculum has a literacy element. We also ensure that underlying elements, including thinking skills and physical access, are addressed to ensure that the student has maximum automaticity whilst working.
Our approach to curriculum access takes account of the needs of those who support the students day-to-day. Often this will include teaching assistants (TA’s) as well as teachers, SENCO’s and other therapists. TA’s need to be enabled so that they feel confident to support students within the class and produce adaptations so that students can access the work. We have devised ways in which this can be achieved with the minimum new learning of software programming possible. To illustrate this, we normally use the software that the student uses for their communication for them to access the curriculum. The reasons for this include the following:
· Support staff only need to learn about one kind of software.
· The student is not expected to deal with multiple ways of working which may not be as effective as their communication software.
· The student’s communication software will have been adjusted to meet the student’s unique access requirements. This is unlikely to be possible with non-communication software.
Having worked closely with speech and language therapists our system has been developed with communication access as well as curriculum access in mind. Topic word lists are complemented by the student having the ability to seamlessly move between their communication pages and their curriculum pages. The student will have access to text books, worksheets, reading books, teacher’s presentations and all the resources that their non-disabled peers can use. As far as possible the student who relies on AAC will have independent access to these resources through their communication software putting them on an equal playing field with their non-disabled peers. When designing curriculum access our staff carefully adjust tasks so that the student benefits from the breadth and depth of the whole lesson rather than only having the time to engage with a limited amount of the learning materials.
When resource preparation is managed in the way described here TA time may be redirected towards adapting further resources whilst the student works independently. They will still need to be present to offer support but will not need to be holding books and reading things out to the student. We also encourage the taking of notes directly into the student’s curriculum system. There is no need, nor any useful purpose, in TA’s taking notes for the student into exercise books that only the TA will be able to access. Our staff try, where possible, to get notes for lessons in advance so that they can be loaded to the student’s curriculum system for pre-teaching and re-enforcement. Where this is not possible we encourage TA’s to type notes directly into the student’s curriculum system.
As part of the development of our curriculum system we have also supported the growth of a role in schools whereby a teacher is also a qualified or very experienced AAC practitioner. This teacher will have a number of hours weekly within school to ensure that the student who relies on AAC has their curriculum access needs met and oversees the work of TA’s. The role description can be found at: https://www.candleaac.org/staff/aac-teacher-coordinator-role/
We also aim to support TA’s so that they become specialists in AAC. The AAC TA role description can be found here: https://www.candleaac.org/aac-teaching-assistant-role/