Collaborative Working in the Classroom (Adults)
There can be a tendency to interpret multi-professional collaboration as formal meetings involving external agencies and professionals who are allied to the school. This can involve the teacher engaging with professionals such as speech and language therapists, occupational therapists or educational psychologists and there are likely to be existing, formal procedures to facilitate this. Whilst everyone has an important contribution to make there can be issues in terms of the management and co-ordination of a range of professionals and the information they generate. This is especially true where pupils with complex needs are concerned. It is vital that all staff are aware of the recommendations of professionals to support their implementation.
The most vital aspect of collaborative working is that which occurs on a daily basis in the classroom and wider school community, particularly with support assistants The relationship between the teacher and support assistant is especially important.
The support assistant
- can have the most prolonged, individual contact with pupils on the spectrum
- often has knowledge of what stresses or supports pupils in specific classes or around school e.g. dinner hall, playground, school transport and lunch/out of school activities.
- should contribute to the planning and reviewing of pupil support and progress.
- will need guidance to ensure that they are able to fulfil their role in a way that promotes independence, autonomy, self determination and a transfer of learning for pupils
- should avoid being overprotective or creating a relationship of dependency.
- will need to provide subtle rather than overt support for some pupils, supporting all pupils
It is important to acknowledge that some teachers may feel insecure or unsure about managing and directing another adult within the classroom especially if they are also in the early stages of developing their knowledge of the autism spectrum. Similarly the support assistant may lack confidence to contribute to discussions or may feel unsure of their role. Good communication between teachers and support assistants is vital to maximising benefits to pupils. This was emphasised in the Doran Report (2012).
"Classroom assistants were highlighted as making significant input to the direct care and learning of a child or young person on a daily basis. The children and young people and the parents and carers frequently cited appreciation of the skills, knowledge, and personal commitment of these assitants. The personal relationships, mutual respect and trust that underpin the work undertaken were highly valued"
All those working in the classroom should be aware of plans, or changes for the day, class.
Outline of beginning, middle, end of lesson and what to do if finished to provide structure for staff and pupils
Teachers and support assistants should use visual strategies to encourage independence, verbal instructions may not be enough for pupil with autism
What opportunities are there for support assistants to share knowledge and understanding of pupils
Management should be considerate of the pressure of being the main, sometimes only social partner for a young person
Discuss consistency in classroom communication - limiting language, allowing ’thinking time’ and use of visual supports
Sometimes another adult becoming involved can cause a situation to escalate
Support assistants must feel confident and have teacher support to suggest options to pupils if they see anxiety – eg time in ‘safe’ area before moving to next class and be supported when they are involved in difficult or ‘challenging’ situations
School policies and procedures should recognise the needs of support staff for CPD in autism