Mental Health – SEND Support

An #SENexchange Discussion

This is a synopsis of the #SENexchange discussion from May 2020. The topic was Mental Health Support and strategies for children and adults with SEND. This was part of Mental Health Awareness Week. Due to the coronavirus pandemic many schools and settings are increasingly focused on the impact of this on their pupils.

As a Youth Mental Health First Aider and pastoral lead in an all through special school I am aware of the different stresses and challenges faced by young people with SEND. Whilst the YMHFA course is good I feel there are gaps in research and provision for those children unable to fully articulate their feelings. This may be due to their sensory needs or through communication impairments. Emotions and emotional regulation are a really important element of the education for any child. They are of particular importance for those at risk of being labelled as having “challenging behaviour“.

Mental health and SEND a professional discussion

You can download the PDF of the discussion on mental health and SEND below or view here.

What mental health challenges are our children facing at the moment?

  • Anxiety
  • Uncertainty
  • Missing family
  • Missing friends
  • Potential Trauma
  • distress caused by change,
  • stress caused by anticipation of going back to school
  • Bereavement
  • Loss of routines which were predictable and comforting
  • Restricted social connection and physical touch
  • Stress due to family tension and conflict

Not knowing what’s coming next. It’s very unsettling for all of us, let alone children who may struggle to make sense of the world anyway.

Gary Aubin (SENDmattersUK)

How can we support the transition back into educational placements?

  • Social stories
  • Embed Hygiene Routines
  • Sharing plans/changes with parents
  • Visuals
  • Reduced pressure
  • Focus on wellbeing
  • Connection
  • Phased transition
  • Ideally some easing of social distancing before the return,
  • Visual supports will be needed for teaching new rules and routines.
  • An initial emphasis on play and practical learning
  • Outdoor learning for mental health
  • Vital that we don’t forget the support our parents might need. Despite good intentions, it would be easy to forget parents’ needs in the context of how busy we’ll be supporting our young people
Coronavirus new school rules visual example
Visuals Rules (in German) From David

Young kids especially in nursery/reception may cry as they want mum/dad and because you cant hug them due to social distancing , you have to leave them

Harry Empsall
Covid 19 social distancing school visual
Click image for more Inclusiveteach COVID-19 visuals

What can we do to support sensory beings (PMLD pupils) with their mental health?

  • Sensory diets
  • Relaxation
  • Observing responses carefully, no assumptions
  • Maintain routines as far as possible.
  • Continue to use visual communication supports which are familiar, even when routines or environments are changed.
  • Access to preferred sensory items will help to provide predictable regulation and comfort

Resources to Support Children’s Mental Health (SEND focus)

@DECPOfficial – A PDF on talking to children of different ages about COVID. Returning to school can’t just be about adapting to a new normal – we have to help them make sense of their thoughts & feelings

NLC Communication Friendly Environments – Communication friendly classroom visuals communication baords.

SENDMatters – Parents: supporting children with SEND during home-based learning. 5 tips to support reading, writing, routines.

Lynn McCann – A brilliant free online course (with certificate) Preparing Autistic & SEND Children for going back to school (when we don’t know when that will be)

Dr Chris Moore – Applying the 4 Rs of Trauma-Informed Approaches in the return to school

EPInsight Trauma Informed Approaches to the return to school Visual

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