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Category: Industry News, Opportunity, experience, college, specialist, learning difficulties, facility
Young people with profound and multiple learning difficulties who attend City College Norwich are reaping the benefits of a new sensory area thanks to a £54,000 grant from the Wolfson Foundation.
The new space is located within the college’s specialist centre for students with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) which opened in September following a successful joint bid between the college and Norfolk County Council to the Education Funding Agency.
The highly interactive sensory area features colourful bubble tubes, fibre optics and other visual stimuli including mirrors, a kaleidoscope and a star gazer. An interactive floor panel, linked to an omni-projector, is soon to be added to complete the facility.
The sensory area also includes a waterbed, vibrating mats, beanbags and colourful wedges that provide a safe environment for wheelchair users to spend time out of their wheelchair, as well as providing different physical sensations for students to experience.
The Wolfson Foundation grant has also been used to provide a trampoline and a ball pool, separate from the sensory area, which are used to help students improve their motor skills as well as providing additional opportunities for developing students’ mobility and communication. The students will be working towards their Winstrada Rebound Therapy and Trampoling Awards.
These resources are being used to provide learning opportunities for two specific groups of students with high support needs: one who have a range of profound physical disabilities, learning difficulties, sensory impairments and medical needs; and a second group of students who are on the autistic spectrum and may present with behaviours that can be challenging.
City College Norwich lecturer and PMLD Course Leader, Denise Beal explains that the new equipment is supporting the use of an approach called sensology:
“We have now implemented sensology into the curriculum whilst using the new equipment, in which we make use of all of the senses in order to engage and interact with students. Through visual stimuli, as well as sound, the feel of different textures or movements, taste and smell, we are able to elicit reactions from students, find out what they do and don’t like. We use these responses to develop and adapt a student’s communication system to enhance their ability to communicate with others, and to support decision making.
“We also have a number of students who do not tolerate touch, or people being within their personal space, and who are now willing to work with staff in close proximity, and who are becoming less tactile defensive.”
Denise adds that the new equipment is already making a significant difference in terms of students’ communication and willingness to engage:
“The students love the space and it is definitely helping to improve communication, as well as bringing physical benefits through greater independent movement. It is also eliciting autonomous interaction and engagement from the students”
One of the students who has been using the sensory area in the PMLD centre is Kaylie Ellis, 19, from Kirstead, who said: “I like the waterbed, it’s nice and comfortable, and I like the bubble tubes. It makes me feel happy.”
“We feel very strongly that young people with learning disabilities deserve as much support as possible in the transition from children’s education and services. This is an outstanding example of an excellent and thoughtful provision for these young people,” explains Wolfson Foundation Chief Executive, Paul Ramsbottom. “Over the last ten years our charity has committed over £35 million to health and disability projects throughout the UK, and we are delighted to be supporting City College Norwich’s brilliant specialist sensory centre.”
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City College Norwich