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11th May 2022 | Education

Three Special Needs Interventions That Can Help All Children

Strategies used to support children with special educational needs (SEND) can help mainstream learners succeed too, says Victoria Annan, lead of additionally resourced provision (ARP) for Autism at Chalgrove Primary School. 

While life looks a lot more normal for schools in 2022, the legacy of Covid-19 remains in terms of children’s attainment. An astounding 76% of pupils entering school in 2020 required more support with communication and language than in previous years according to the National Literacy Trust, a gap that will take time and targeted interventions to address.

While groups such as pupils with special needs and disabilities have been hit hard by disruptions to learning, the need for successful catch-up programmes is universal. Thankfully, effective solutions to help all children progress may already exist within the school walls.

One approach the SEND team at Chalgrove Primary School in North London has taken is to identify and adapt interventions typically used to support pupils with additional needs and introduce them into the mainstream classroom.

Below are three ways we are successfully using SEND interventions to help all pupils.  

1. Build children’s literacy skills 

 One approach used by speech and language therapists, and more widely across lessons at Chalgrove Primary School, is to introduce focused activities designed to teach sentence building and structure.

Schools could use a method such as Colourful Semantics, which breaks down sentences into parts which are each colour-coded. We’ve found this a great way to prompt children to remember to include each element in their writing and speaking.

Using this strategy, you could colour-code the different components that make up sentences on a whiteboard to help children with and without special needs to see how the sentences are structured. This is hugely beneficial for those pupils who regularly miss out on key sentence components, confuse the order of words, or struggle to put their ideas into written or spoken language.

It can be useful to encourage children to mark their own work, highlighting each part of their sentences to make sure everything is included. We play simple games where children have to match the sentence component to the right colour too. And if a child struggles with verbally constructing sentences, we use colourful semantics strips on the table in front of them to prompt their speech.

2. Support children through transitions and change

Change and unexpected situations can result in anxiety for any child and some of the strategies put in place to support a pupil with special needs can be just as effective for helping their peers develop effective coping techniques.

Social Stories is a concept developed in the 1990s by autism expert, Carol Gray. They come in the form of short stories, typically written and in the form of a comic strip, book or poster with accompanying images. Social stories can be shared with children to help explain and embed social events, situations, or activities. They use simple language that is repeatable and understandable to the child or group being taught and incorporate pictures for visual stimulation and clarity. We use them in our school to prepare all children for transitions, like the change of a staff member, or to explain that certain behaviours aren’t safe. Although social stories are designed to support children, young people and adults with autism, they can be a useful way to help all children cope with situations they find difficult, such as a fall out with a friend in the playground or a sick relative, so they are ready to learn. 

Visual timetables are also used to support transition and to help prepare for changes to a child’s timetable. If a child struggles to settle at the start of the school day, a visual timetable can be created as an aide memoir of what to expect that they could keep with them and take home to be shared with parents. A visual timetable will help to familiarise the pupil with the process of preparing for school, from getting out of bed to sitting on the carpet for registration. Equally, visuals in the form of a poster could be displayed in the classroom or during morning assembly to teach young children to raise their hand if they want to go to the toilet or come and see the teacher if they are feeling sad.


3. Make learning visual

Visual prompts in the form of symbols are used extensively to support SEND pupils at Chalgrove and they also help other learners to process written or spoken instructions in the busy, sometimes noisy, classroom environment too.

We use symbols created by Widgit in a number of ways in school. Symbols are incorporated into visual timetables, for example, which the teacher can use throughout the day to indicate what’s happening and what’s coming next. So, a symbol of a book might be used for library time or a skipping rope to show when to expect a learning break.

Visual timetables help children understand the routine and the language associated with the school day. For some children, we break this down further into actions within each lesson. For example, ‘PE’ is made visual with a series of symbols for ‘get changed, walk to the hall, select your equipment, take part in the activity and return to the classroom’.

We label the school environment with symbols to match common vocabulary too. In our kitchen, there are symbols for all ingredients and equipment, which also appear in our recipe instructions. Key resources like stationery, reading books, or board games are also labelled with symbols and this helps all the children to be more independent.

A spoken request like ‘please get out your pencils and pens’ becomes much easier for pupils to digest when the teacher also holds up a symbol representing these resources or displays them on the whiteboard for everyone to see.

The strategies schools put in place to support pupils with SEND can be designed to benefit all children, helping schools to create happy, inclusive classrooms where every child gets the help they need to thrive and progress.  

Useful links:

Written by Victoria Annan, Chalgrove Primary School.

Article written by
Jessica Smith

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