Each child with special needs is unique. A crucial part of effective special needs teaching is to ensure that those working with the young person understand how to maximise learning and meet individual needs. Within Ascent Trust we identify young people according to need. We use the terms Moderate Learning Difficulty (MLD), Severe Learning Difficulty (SLD) and Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty (PMLD).
Labelling a young person and the consequences this brings (both negative and positive) has long been discussed. Within our Trust we identify young people by need in order to assist in developing provision. We believe these terms are useful in defining learning characteristics and we are clear they should not define the young person, any more than the wearing of glasses or using a wheelchair defines the young person. Good teachers will not be limited by the label; they will see it as a starting point for professional discussion and personalised planning.
Young people on Pathway 1 are likely to have profound and multiple learning difficulties. Young people with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) are on a spectrum that indicates that they have profoundly complex learning needs. In addition to profound learning difficulties, they are likely, but not axiomatically, to have other significant difficulties such as physical disabilities, sensory impairment and/or severe medical condition(s). Consequently, it is likely they will require multidisciplinary input and support and the curriculum delivery is often facilitated on a one-to-one basis or in pairs, therefore, young people with PMLD require high levels of adult support.
Young people on Pathway 2 are likely to have complex needs with severe learning difficulties and/or complex autism. Young people may use sign, symbols and/or language to communicate, though all will to a greater or lesser degree have severe communication difficulties, which will affect both expressive and receptive communication skills. There is a growing population of children with complex autism. Complex autism is characterised by difficulties in social interaction and communication skills, sensory integration and repetitive behaviour patterns. Often children with autism cannot filter input from different sources, so they experience everything at once and it’s overwhelming for them. With all of this in mind, what is important is that we find more and better ways of supporting autistic children throughout their learning, being aware of their needs, guiding them through some of the challenges that they face every day and helping them to develop their own independence.
The young people with pathway 3 are likely to have severe learning difficulties alongside other needs such as autism. Young people are identified through using assessment and information presented within the EHCP as well as diagnostic assessment tasks upon entry. Academic diagnostics within each area of learning and assessments are carried out through a series of observations and activities based on the relevant curriculum area. In Pathway 3 we use different communication tools such as widget symbols, Makaton or BSL signing and speech communication devices where necessary. In Pathway 3 young people will be able to communicate about themselves and their lives. It allows them opportunities to rehearse and embed the practical skills and understanding they need to lead independent, safe and healthy lives and enjoy safe and healthy relationships. Pathway 3 young people will be preparing for a more personalised formal curriculum through building knowledge of phonics and number skills.
The young people with pathway 4 are likely to have learning difficulties alongside other needs such as autism. Young people in Pathway 4 are likely to be ready to access some formal learning but may have aspects of surface learning and splinter skills. We want our young people to have concrete learning in the real world and therefore we ensure that they have access to a wide range of locations that allow them to enhance and apply their learning.
A personalised offer is provided within our areas of learning using a blend of subject based learning, pastoral support and activity personalised to reflect aspirations, strengths and needs identified within the EHCP.