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Therapy, Technology and Sanctuary Spaces – a New Approach to Education for Children with SEMH and ASC

Mill School features the very latest in educational technological support – from Rebound Rooms to Immersive reality technologies – but these gadgets aren’t the only specialist elements of the school which will provide an all-round holistic experience for the children and young people. Headteacher Shazia Sarwar-Azim explains more:

It would be easy to think that adding technology to schools such as Mill School is a bit of a gimmick but this new ground-breaking tech offers so many additional tools to help children reduce anxiety, feel safe and be learning-ready, it’s vitally important we embrace it.

We have the blessing of being able to design our school from the ground up and from the start, I wanted to include a blend of cutting-edge technology and therapeutic approaches which have been proven to improve the education experience for children with SEMH, ASC and ADHD, among other complex needs.

Headteacher Shazia Sarwar-Azim.
Headteacher Shazia Sarwar-Azim.

All of our children will be offered a rich therapy and sensory diet, dependent on their needs and part of that will be accessing our range of therapeutic rooms and equipment, as well as aspects of the curriculum specially designed to focus on mental well-being. 

One of the biggest barriers to learning our young people face, whether they are affected by SEMH or have an ASC, is anxiety. Worry and fear about school and learning – and often they have been out of school for a long time – really inhibits their ability, and desire, to learn and engage with learning. 

Reducing anxiety and giving young people all of the opportunities we can to be calm, feel safe and ready to learn is the focus of creating the environment that makes up Mill School.

It starts with the building itself – using adjustable lighting, small class sizes, muted colour schemes and the like, we create a calm environment and provides the foundation for us to build on. 

On top of that, we have dedicated spaces within the school and in the grounds which focus on different therapeutic benefits. 

These include the Rebound Therapy Room. This is a great tool for all children – with a specialist trampoline, it’s a place where children can experience a wide variety of movement and work on individual therapeutic objectives including managing stress, anxiety, social and communication development. Rebound Therapy is shown to have a strongly calming effect and it has a long list of benefits including increasing attentiveness and concentration.

Rebound therapy is the therapeutic use of the trampoline which we use to facilitate movement, body awareness and improve balance. It promotes relaxation, sensory integration, improves fitness, exercise tolerance, and communication skills. It really encourages well-being through enhanced perception of body-image, spatial awareness, movement, co-ordination and balance. 

We will also use immersive reality technology to support pupils. Using this technology we can again help pupils who may struggle with anxiety, but this time in helping them explore what they may fear in a safe environment – again, freeing them up to be ready for learning.  

Our Immersive Reality room will let them explore, virtually, everything from the museum we might be planning a visit to through to a dentist’s. It will give them the chance to explore in a safe space. This can help reduce phobias. In our Immersive Reality Room we have created a space to ignite the imagination and encourage creativity through interactive technology. This space also includes sensor smells, giving an all-round experience. 

Virtual reality is also a valuable learning tool, helping students to interact with study material too.

Our Immersive Reality room will let them explore, virtually, everything from the museum we might be planning a visit to through to a dentist’s.
Our Immersive Reality room will let them explore, virtually, everything from the museum we might be planning a visit to through to a dentist’s.

Our multi-sensory room has a multitude of therapeutic benefits also. It has been created to meet the needs of the vulnerable learners in a specially designed environment which gives users an opportunity to completely relax or access a wide range of sensory experiences for therapy, learning or fun. 

Ours is used for relaxation, meditation, focused work, stimulation, physiotherapy, communication and stress release. They are also used for specific work, such as a teaching tool for children with additional needs. It supports children in the development of their sensory integration, building a crucial foundation for more complex learning and behaviour.

The room is a calming space which includes a therapy swing. Sensory swings work by providing children with autism with vestibular and proprioceptive input.

The cocoon-like nature of the swing puts gentle pressure all over the child’s body, while blocking out external stimuli. This deep pressure therapy allows your child to actually feel their body’s movements. 

The multi-sensory room is designed to create a relaxing and calming effect, but also activates different perception areas aimed at basal stimulation for those who are neurologically impaired.

Using a variety of sensory inputs, we prepare the pupil for learning by teaching concentration, listening and following instructions whilst having fun. This will encourage every young person to fulfil their potential at each stage in their development.

These indoor tools and spaces will be complemented by outdoor therapeutic environments too including a sensory garden, all part of the rich sensory and therapy diet offered to each child.

Complementing all of this is the quiet place curriculum which we will be offering – this focuses on communication learning styles, self-management, self-esteem, well-being, exercise, nutrition, massage and spiritual creativity values – everything that needs to be combined with the physical approaches to help ensure the child is in the best place, mentally and physically – to start, or continue learning.

That combination of personal engagement, use of technology and all under-pinned by a bespoke environment as a foundation on which to build is what Mill School Bury will use to help pupils engage, and remain engaged, in their learning journey.

This article is available and can be accessed in Spanish here.

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Kedleston Group
Our innovative, independent, specialist residential schools, day schools and children’s homes across England help young people to thrive, flourish and reach their full academic and personal potential. We support young people living with social, emotional and mental health challenges, autism and specific learning difficulties which may affect their behaviour. Our mission is to develop confident and capable young people by meeting their educational, health and social care needs in structured, nurturing school and home provisions. We work in partnership with young people, their families and carers and other stakeholders to achieve outcomes which make a difference.

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