All Flying Start sessions were done in the Flying Start Centre at the school. Together with the Headteacher, a member of the Senior Leadership Team and the staff who will be involved in the project, we planned our new project ‘Sensory Regulation’
Most of the sessions took place outdoors. Adenydd practitioners were able to model sensory regulating activities and engaging play techniques. We were at times able to observe dysregulation and stress responses in children and were able to help staff to understand what they were observing and what things may help.
At this stage, we have learnt that careful planning, wise choices and which staff will work with the children are critical to the success of the project.
We provided initial training for the school staff around the impact of attachment difficulties. We gave an overview of Sensory regulation (SAI model) alongside some aspects of the Eco sensory Model.
Staff completed the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) for each child pre-intervention to act as a baseline. Some schools have also used the Boxall Profile or Thrive assessments.
This pilot was delivered as two sessions per week, over six weeks (except for 2 weeks when there was only 1 session).
We had a further session to discuss the needs of the children and the format of the Sunshine Circles sessions. We provided a session plan for the first week that we had produced using what we learned from the staff. We showed video clips of the activities, as done in therapy sesions, and discussed how these might look in a small group session in a school. After the planning session staff were emailed the session plan, a prompt sheet for the schedule/plan to put up on the wall during the session, and a memory jogger sheet with key information about each activity. Throughout that week the staff can then deliver the programme to the children.
We introduced all the children to the space we were going to be using. We introduced the therapy balls and peanut balls while demonstrating how to use them safely.
The sessions all ended with a nurturing activity of ‘snack and story’. We discussed using food to help us feel ‘just right’ and offered the children different snacks which promoted a feeling of comfort.
We met with staff at lunch time to discuss their feedback and to help us adapt the forthcoming sessions.
The afternoon was spent with the staff and children in Flying Start; observing the children, discussing the behaviours staff were struggling with and what concerns they had regarding specific children.
We discussed the feedback forms they had provided to us following their Sunshine Circles session/s the previous week.Staff then shared what they had planned themselves for the session/s for this week using the now very familiar format.They discussed how they had decided which activities to use and why, relating their choices both to the children’s needs and the four dimensions of Theraplay.
We planned the session for the week ahead with the school staff, discussed what worked well and suggested activities that would best suit the needs of the children. As the weeks went on, and staff became more aware of which activities and equipment were helping their children, they played a greater role in planning the sessions.
As we were using a designated space other than the classrooms, we explained to staff it would be beneficial to spend some time with the children in their own classrooms to look at how they might use their classroom environment to support their regulation.
We used these two sessions to encourage the staff and children to incorporate the activities and strategies they had learnt into their own personal environment. We were also able to model some nurturing and engagement type play activities which helped to support regulation.
One of the school staff members “found that the children have really come out of their shell from doing the project. It has also built their confidence massively”.
After half term we provided follow-up and support sessions. These were to check in with staff and to see how they were getting on with implementing the sensory regulating activities into the classrooms and outdoor settings.
We were told by Nic from lying Start that “professionally the project has made me look at children in a different way and be more empathetic to their behaviours. Personally, as a parent to a 3-year-old, it has helped me manage her tantrums in a more calming manner and help regulate her emotions”.
This supported staff in consolidating their knowledge and provided additional support for any new challenges.