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Tel: 01305 830500
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Aspergers Base


Asperger’s Syndrome is a lifelong disability, which lies at the subtle end of the Autistic Spectrum. There is currently no cure. Its causes are not entirely certain; it is thought by some to be genetic, and by others to be the result of environmental triggers. It is characterised by impairments in the same areas as autism, i.e. social interaction, social communication and imagination/flexible thought, which are known as the Triad of Impairments.
 
Additionally, there is often a degree of motor difficulty (i.e. clumsiness or physical awkwardness). Because of the subtle nature of Asperger’s Syndrome, people with the condition are often first diagnosed with related conditions such as dyspraxia and ADHD.
 
The Function of the Asperger's Base
 
The function of the Base is to support the inclusion of ten 11-16 year-old Dorset students with Asperger's Syndrome in the normal curriculum of Budmouth College.
 
This is to be achieved by addressing the individual needs of each student in relation to their areas of difficulty through:
  • the use of in-class support
  • 1:1 sessions
  • Social Skills groups with Speech and Language Therapist input
  • the provision of a controlled environment during non-lesson times.
Admission
 
Admission is via the Admissions Panel, which meets three times every year, and is convened by a Principal Education Officer at County Hall. Potential candidates for admission are presented to the panel by the Educational Psychology service. Parents may request that their child be referred to the Panel, by contacting their Education Psychologist or SEN Caseworker. No staff at Budmouth has any power to grant admission to the Base as there is no admission via normal College admission procedures.
 
In order for a child to be a likely candidate for admission to the Base, these criteria* must be met:
  • S/he must have a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome
  • S/he must have a Statement of Educational Need, or be at School Action Plus
  • S/he must be a Dorset resident
  • S/he must have a pattern of behaviour which shows that s/he is unable to access the curriculum without substantial 1:1 in-class support, and her/his behaviour is likely to have a negative effect on the learning of classmates.
  • There is a vacant space in the Base
* These criteria are currently under review and may be changed
 
It is true to say that Asperger’s students who are admitted to the Base are not “straight-forward” Asperger’s people. They tend to have Asperger’s Syndrome plus other conditions; or they have patterns of behaviour which make them extremely difficult to include into mainstream education without the expertise we can bring to bear.
 
Budmouth has a long history of successfully including AS people, which is one of the reasons this Base is sited here. As well as the 10 Base students, there are several other AS students in the College being supported in various different ways. The Base offers an ‘Associate Membership’ to these students, which means that is their interests, they can make use of the supported environment at break and lunch, and may even join our Social Skills groups.
 
Ethos
 
We intend for each of the students in the Base to be:
  • properly supported in their college work
  • valued as an individual
  • happy.
The Base is a place of safety for vulnerable children, but we do not shield children from the real world of the classroom. Most of our students spend up to 90% of their lesson time in the classroom.
We aim to provide for each child the skills and strategies:
  • to face the realities of college life
  • needed for transition to the adult world when they leave the College.
We cannot cure Asperger’s Syndrome, but we will try to help each child to face the future positively through becoming more:
  • functional
  • confident
  • interactive
  • successful
  • independent.
All of the students who have been through the Base to the end of Year 11 have achieved a measure of academic success in line with their targeted grades and academic potential. If you visit the Base, we can show you the destinations (academic or otherwise) of all of our ex-students.
 
Staffing
 
Base teaching staff comprise of 2 specialist teachers and 7 Base Teaching Assistants, who provide the bulk of the in-class support. Each student is supported according to her/his specific curriculum needs, with the aim being to provide what we judge to be the necessary minimum support in the classroom.
 
Because we recognise the importance of increasing independence in our students, not one of them is supported for 100% of their time. There will always be places in the curriculum where they have to ‘do it for themselves’. The more successful they are, the less we support them. Our support is flexible, however; should a student need their support increased or reduced, then we will do that quickly. The staff meet and discuss our students daily, so we are very quick to pick up problems and successes.
 
We also recognise that our students are inevitably at some point going to find it hard to be members of a very large and busy institution. There will be times when they will become more agitated and be less likely to function successfully. Base Teaching Assistants are skilled at recognising signs of distress before they become too serious, and are trained to take appropriate action to support the student. This might include moving within a classroom, taking a short break from the lesson, or removing the child completely and bringing her/him to the Base to complete work there.
 
The staff have the following specialist support from outside College:
 
  • One day a week a Speech and Language Therapist works alongside Base teachers with groups of Base students on social interaction and social communication skills
  • Every term there is an advice and problem-solving session involving Base teachers and the County Educational Psychology Service
  • Each year we access training from a range of professionals within Dorset.
Specific Needs
 
The Special Educational Need of each Base student is managed through the standard process of Annual Review of the Statement, and a termly review of the Individual Education Plan. The provision for each child is flexible, and designed to cater for individual requirements.
 
As a basic entitlement, each student receives:
 
  • a weekly 1:1 session with one of the Base teaching staff, which focuses on pastoral and curricular issues, and may employ Brief Therapy techniques
  • a fortnightly 1:1 session for supporting their academic work with the TA who supports them for the most time in the curriculum
  • in-class support from Teaching Assistants
  • in-class support from a Base teacher  
  • a weekly Social Skills Group session, which focuses on social interaction and social communication, run by Base teachers and our Speech and Language Therapist
  • Mostly, students receive considerably more support than this, including:
  • additional 1:1 time to support their studies, especially for a student in KS4 (Years 9, 10 & 11)
  • individual sessions to engage with specific social interaction difficulties or physical difficulties
  • access to after-school Study Sessions if necessary, where homework can be done, as well as
  • revision for examinations, or work on a specific problem area such as handwriting.
 
Facilities
 
The Base consists of a suite of rooms within the Learning Support area of the College. In the main teaching room, each student has a screened desk with individual storage. This allows privacy for working as well as facilitating the display of student-specific materials such as schedules and social stories. We also have a Quiet Room and a toilet/shower room. The Quiet Room is designed to allow an agitated student to have a space where they can calm themselves before returning to lessons.
 
There are five computers connected to a printer and to the College network, which students may use for work purposes at any time, and for leisure purposes at breaktimes. We use simple laptops (AlphaSmart 3000s) in classrooms in cases where handwriting is a particular difficulty for students. Other useful equipment includes the video-camera which we use extensively in the Social Skill Group.
 
Students are free to use the Base before school, during breaks and lunch, when they are provided with drinks and biscuits. They are encouraged to play interactive board games, especially on a Friday when all computers are switched off, even the teacher's machine! We have “Friends’ Days” three times a week to encourage Base students to develop and maintain friendships by inviting a classmate into the Base. These are important controlled social experiences for the students, where their social exchanges can be monitored and discreetly guided by Base staff on duty.
 
We can run an after-school Study Session which any Base student can access voluntarily to obtain help with homework and coursework. This can reduce and prevent the stress associated with taking school work home, which is a difficulty that many students (and parents) encounter. Base staff will suggest this option if a student needs the additional time.
 
Contact
 
This is a vital part of the ethos of the Base. We recognise that parents are in many ways the experts on their own children, and we try to use that expertise by keeping in close contact with parents. Each child has a diary/planner, which is used by teachers and Teaching Assistants to inform parents about events in the day, and by parents to comment on relevant issues at home or at school. We see parents at least three times a year face-to-face for the Annual Review and for Individual Education Plan Reviews. We keep in regular telephone and e-mail contact with parents, particularly if a child is having an episode of difficulty and stress which requires rapid contact.
 
Visiting
 
Given that students with Asperger’s Syndrome find it harder than most to cope with change and lack of routine, we do not have an "open house" policy, but we are more than happy to accommodate visits of small groups of parents or professionals every term provided they are booked in advance. It actually helps our students to get used to change by coping with visitors.
 
We hold two annual Open Days in June, one for parents, the other for professionals, when anyone is welcome to visit.
 
Please contact the Base via 01305 830500
or e-mail us at:
 
mccarthyp@budmouth.dorset.sch.uk (Peter McCarthy, Head of Asperger’s Base)
 
haywardr@budmouth.dorset.sch.uk (Rose Hayward, Teacher, Asperger’s Base)
 
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