can bring noisy music and intense or overly dim lighting. Consideration: Consider the lighting/sound at events and try to ensure it’s not overwhelming. If it’s a sensory-heavy event such as a disco, create a quiet area for children to escape to. If you have two spaces that can be used for discos, have a quieter, lighter area and let the children fl ow freely. For many people, noise is the top

space and volunteers. Create a special ‘quiet area’ where

children can go to be away from the people and noise if they need to. Make this cosy and fun, with activities such as games or colouring for children to focus on. This could be set up in the familiar space of a classroom, or how about a tent at outdoor events? This is particularly

useful if the school/classrooms aren’t accessible at events that are being held outside of school hours.

SENSORY OVERLOAD Situation: As well as the issue of crowds of excited people, each event in itself can have extra elements that build up alongside this. Events such as discos and music festivals

thing that causes sensory overload. Bear this in mind when setting up PA systems, DJs and performers. Always make sure there’s a clearly signposted place to escape the noise if needed. Some schools provide ear defenders for children sensitive to noise, so make these available if you have them.

Sports day social story

‘Many children fi nd sports day overwhelming, so last year one of our parents suggested putting together a ‘social story’ to cover the event at our school. Our sports day follows

roughly the same format every year, so it seemed a good investment to have the social story made up into a proper hardback book, so it could be used year after year. We used Snapfi sh, and the PTA funded the printing costs. We felt it was really

important to have lots of

pictures of real sports day situations in the social story, so parents from our SEN forum were asked to contribute photos from previous sports days.

One of our parents

then wove the pictures together with a narrative about sports day, written to be informative and reassuring. She even

included some questions at the end, to help children reading the

story think about sports day, and to check they had understood

everything they had read. Our sports day social

story has now been used for a second year. Copies of the book were shared with children who expressed concerns in the weeks prior to the event. It has really helped

to manage their expectations and allay any concerns they may have had about what happens on the day.’ Sarah Everson, Secretary, Friends of Halsford Park Primary, East Grinstead, West Sussex (415 pupils)

EVERYTHING LOOKS DIFFERENT Situation: Many events mean a change of scenery, with stalls set up in classrooms or disco lights in the school hall. These changes can be uncomfortable or upsetting for some children. Consideration: It’s important to reduce this stress by providing appropriate information so that parents can prepare their children in advance. For events that have a programme, produce these early where possible, and offer them to SEN parents in advance so they can talk their child through what’s going to happen. Uncertainty can be unsettling, so this will ensure that children know where they’re going, what they’re going to be doing there and what to expect. If the event doesn’t have a programme, try to produce a document with bullet points explaining how the event works. For bigger events, a map will be a fantastic visual aid. Where events are run regularly, can you provide photos or even a video of the last event so the children involved can see what the event is likely to look like? You could even put together a short ‘social story’ – see testimonial, left. At the event, ensure areas and

facilities are signposted. It would be great if these matched the labels on the map. Ensure key areas such as

18 AUTUMN 2018


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