Burwood Park Consultant: Joyce Sewell-Rutter

I was appointed as a Consultant in this much needed role in 2008. The numbers of deaf children with additional learning needs was on the increase at that time and the recognition of a complex SEND population was only just emerging. Many special schools for deaf children were closing.

The early requests focused around deaf children with Down syndrome and CHARGE syndrome.  There were also requests from teachers in schools whose pupils were not making expected progress. I also made visits to special schools where young people with complex needs were placed. Support offered took the form of visits and observation followed by a report; added to this were suggested strategies and signposting to other resources. The duration and frequency of visits varied depending on availability of teacher, family, other professionals and the context. Some visits were spread across a term and progress was noted and analysed. Children and young people with additional needs often make small steps of progress.

In many cases observations showed that pupils were being exposed to a curriculum that was not sufficiently differentiated, some found the pace too fast and one or two had specific language or behaviour challenges.

In addition to encouraging greater use of hearing amplification and assistive devices it soon became apparent that use of rapidly developing computer technology was beneficial. Multimedia software provided visual support as well as focused opportunities for listening, reading and writing, and without the fear of failure.  Crick’s programme ‘Clicker’ (complex software until mastered) was successful in a range of contexts, as well as being adopted by the mainstream school in some cases.

The arrival of the iPAD extended opportunities for both learning and communication.  Following real impact with one device it was decided to establish a Burwood Park Foundation loan system to give teachers a chance to see what could be helpful, and also to provide evidence to schools and Local Authority specialist support services of the potential for learning that tablet technology offered. Training was given to individuals and teams.

I facilitate a special interest group in Deafness and Autism in collaboration with the British Association Of Teachers of the Deaf. This group has been meeting  for 5 years with annual training events. Training in this topic has also been offered to teams in both education and health.

As there is limited support for families specifically for Deafness and Autism, I have extended the training events to include them. Following contact with parents, guidelines were produced for the NDCS, and a MESH Guide on Autism and Deafness was developed through the BATOD Foundation.

Raising awareness of the free consultancy service offered by the Burwood Park Foundation remains a challenge. Initially the work was focused in London and the South East but considering each request on demand, travel has been from one end of the country to the other. Teachers report that one of the real benefits is the time spent in discussion and the ability to focus in detail on the learning style and needs of the individual young person.

Staff and families always appreciate the visits and have said it gives them confidence to know that no one is an expert in every child’s needs and often approaches have to be tailored for a child or young person.

The Burwood Park Foundation logo has shades of grey representing all levels of deafness, interspersed with coloured crosses encompassing a range of learning needs.  The photo on the reverse helps with credibility and security with charity number and contact details.

If you would like to know more, or request a visit please contact me, Joyce: