Since writing my dissertation on Additional Learning Needs many years ago, I've always been interested in how much input ALN pupils have in their learning. It's something that I feel very strongly about. We cannot squeeze a child or any person in particular into a one size fits all box - Especially if that person has Additional Learning Needs. Instead we should look at how we can adapt our schemes of work, planning, lessons or sessions so that they work for that particular individual. And if a person has surpassed what has been planned, don't let them coast. How can you further their journey? How can you extend their learning or experience?
This goes in all fields, teaching, extra-curricular clubs and activities. Gone are the days when a worksheet to colour, leaving pupils to their own devices, or simply turning someone with ALN away from an extra-curricular setting was deemed acceptable (For the record, for some of us it really never was!!).
Pupil voice is something that is hot in schools right now so why shouldn't it apply to ALN pupils and furthermore, why shouldn't teenagers and adults have a say throughout their lives. I don't mean in their annual review - I mean every day activities, how they learn, what they learn or what tasks they carry out. Those with ALN have just as much right as anyone else, there are enough barriers in their world so why not break some down instead of building more up.
Recent research has shown that person centred planning and learning has led to significant changes and improvements in the areas of social development, learning, social relationships with family and friends, communication skills, community-based activities and levels of choice.
Depending on the age, ability and needs of the person, there are a variety of tools to help you plan your person-centred approach. As professionals, we can read, research and train in a variety of different methods, but unless we work together with parents and carers then the output is not going to be as effective. We need to understand what drives that person, what makes them ‘tick’, and we also need to communicate often with them about their goals, and what’s important to them. It's their learning, so why don't they have a say in it?!
Here are 5 Fundamental points to remember when planning your person- centred approach.
1. The person is at the centre. They are your main focus.
2. Family members /carers and friends are partners in planning, enabling you to get a full picture of the person outside of your setting.
3. The plan reflects what is important to the person now (and for the future) their capacities and what support they require. This is a major point, it’s really important to listen and take it into consideration. Not pigeon hole them into a pre-existing course or service as that is deemed ‘easiest’ find ways to incorporate their plans, hopes and ideas making sure that they are realistically achievable for that person.
4. The plan helps build the person’s place in the community and helps the community to welcome them. It is not just about services, and reflects what is possible, not just what is available.
5. The plan results in on-going listening, learning, and further action, adapting and changing if needed. Putting the plan into action helps the person to achieve goals and what they want out of life.