Enhancing Joy and Wellbeing for Pupils with Special Educational Needs: Evidence-Informed Approaches

Enhancing Joy and Wellbeing: The School of Joy!

Education is the foundation of personal and societal growth. As teachers, it is crucial to ensure that every child, irrespective of their abilities or disabilities, feels included and happy in the school environment. Pupils with special educational needs, often face challenges that can affect their overall wellbeing. This article will explore evidence-informed ways to increase joy and improve wellbeing for these pupils, providing teachers with practical strategies to create a positive atmosphere in the classroom.

joy and wellbeing in class using creativity with pupils with SEN

Understanding Autism and Other Disabilities

Before delving into the methods for increasing joy and wellbeing, we need to understand that there are unique challenges faced by students with special educational needs. Many of these are affected by the system itself. Schools can be aversive environments that lead to school based anxiety. The book preview below goes into this in more detail. These two previous posts look at how we can improve the environment and our approach – positive relationships with the pupils.

Evidence-Informed Approaches to Enhance Joy and Wellbeing

The following evidence-informed approaches can help teachers create a joyful and inclusive classroom environment for students with special educational needs:

1. Create a Structured and Predictable Classroom Environment

Many pupils with SEN often thrive in structured environments where they know what to expect. Develop a daily schedule and stick to it as much as possible, with visual cues to help students anticipate upcoming activities. It is okay to give the pupil choice and autonomy over aspects of this. Consistency minimises anxiety and fosters a sense of security, which can lead to increased joy and wellbeing.

2. Foster Social Skills and Peer Support

Children with special educational needs often struggle with social skills and relationships. Encourage the development of social skills by providing opportunities for structured and unstructured interactions with peers. Pair students with peer mentors or “buddies” who can provide support and role models especially those who can identify with the pupil’s specific needs. This can help pupils form meaningful friendships, which is vital for emotional wellbeing. Remember friendships look different for everyone. Do not underestimate the importance of companionship and sharing space.

3. Joy and Wellbeing: Emphasise Strengths and Interests

Focusing on a student’s strengths and interests can help them feel more engaged and motivated in the classroom. By integrating their interests into lessons, you can increase joy and satisfaction. For example, if an autistic pupil loves singing, incorporate favourite bands into maths problems or reading activities. Celebrate their achievements and progress, building their self-esteem and confidence.

4. Use Multi-Sensory Teaching Approaches

Students with special educational needs may have different learning preferences (not styles!!) and can benefit from multi-sensory teaching methods. Incorporate different elements into lessons to reach all pupils. Maybe group work, 1:1 computer time, text-to-type or other adaptations that can make learning more enjoyable and accessible, increasing joy and wellbeing.

5. Provide Choices and Encourage Autonomy

Providing choices can empower pupils and increase their sense of control, leading to greater joy and satisfaction. Offer options for activities, seating arrangements, or ways to demonstrate learning. Encourage autonomy by allowing students to make decisions about their learning, fostering a sense of ownership and pride in their work.

6. Implement Mindfulness and Stress-Reduction Techniques

Mindfulness techniques can help pupils with SEN regulate themselves and learn to better manage stress and anxiety. Incorporate brief mindfulness exercises, such as deep breathing or guided imagery, into the daily routine to promote relaxation and emotional regulation.

8. Encourage Physical Activity and Movement

Physical activity can have a positive impact on the mental health and wellbeing of students with special educational needs. Incorporate movement into the classroom by offering regular movement breaks, incorporating physical activity into lessons, or providing access to adaptive physical education classes.

9. Cultivate a Positive and Inclusive Classroom Culture

Fostering a positive and inclusive classroom culture is crucial for the wellbeing of all pupils, including those with special educational needs. Implement practices that promote respect, empathy, and understanding. Encourage students to celebrate differences and learn from one another. Create an environment where everyone feels valued and included.

10. Provide Ongoing Support and Resources for Teachers

Continuing professional development opportunities can help teachers stay informed about best practices for supporting students with special educational needs. Access resources, attend workshops, and collaborate with colleagues to continually refine your skills and knowledge. Stay well informed – but don’t feel pressure to make your classroom pinterest perfect.


Teaching staff play a vital role in fostering joy and wellbeing for students with special educational needs. By implementing evidence-informed strategies, such as creating a structured environment, promoting social skills, emphasising strengths, and incorporating multi-sensory teaching methods, teachers can make a significant impact on these students’ lives. If you liked this post have a visit to The School Of Joy website

1 thought on “Enhancing Joy and Wellbeing for Pupils with Special Educational Needs: Evidence-Informed Approaches”

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