Improving learner outcomes

Can SEN inclusion benefit everyone?

Catherine Hand

Author Catherine Hand

Date 9th Apr 2020


I am very fortunate in my role as an Outreach teacher to be able to visit a wide variety of schools and many sencos tell me they are finding it increasingly difficult to cater for a larger proportion of students with a diagnosis of ASD.  

An inclusive approach

Often, children with SEN are working with a TA away from the rest of the class, however, that becomes tricky when you have several students with ASD. For these students to have a more inclusive school experience, it’s important for all school staff to actively work together and share knowledge.

Here, I share four key interventions that I find can be used to benefit all of our children and at very little cost.


A total communication approach is fairly simple to implement right across a school and is very effective. However, many schools tell me that their children are verbal, so they don’t need to use Makaton. It’s important to remember that using Makaton alongside your speech both slows you down and gives pupils the all-important visual clues. Children love learning to sign and it is a useful skill.  Some other tips for communication include:

  • Gestures and facial expressions are all part of total communication. Children often watch us really closely; they are picking up a lot of additional information.
  • Introduce pictures and symbols where you can – like signing, they last longer than speech.  If you don’t have a symbol to hand, draw or write on a mini whiteboard.
  • produce a sign of the week so why not introduce it in assembly and have staff and students learning together. Challenge the whole school by asking each class to choose a song to sign to and then share. Start a lunchtime signing club.  Do a sponsored sign to raise money for charity - get paid per word you learn.


We all self-regulate, most of us aren’t even aware that we are doing it, and an environment that encourages sensory exploration and provides multiple opportunities for self-regulation is good for all of our children. This will be even better if students have a way of requesting some exploration time such as a timeout ticket. Other examples include:


  • Introduce exercise stations around the school, you don’t need equipment to do body weight exercises, just a photo or instruction. 
  • Create a sensory trail through the school or along a corridor with mats on the floor or walls. You can buy or make them, see the links below, or approach a local college/secondary school or special school to see if their students need a project. 
  • Sand and playdough are not just the preserve of pre-schoolers. Can you find space for a ‘sensory station’?  Call it Kinetic sand or stress putty/slime if it makes you feel better.
  • Have a safe / quiet space that everyone can access – a tent, a room, a cloth over a table in a push - use what you have. 
  • Share the correct language with children such as: ”I can see you are feeling excited, let’s do some slow breathing to help us get ready to work.” 
  • Allow children to stand to do their work and build in reasons for them to move more.

Promote independence

You can also try to encourage independent thinking by:

  • Reduce your language. Use visuals such as a check list or a sequence of written /pictorial instructions. Once you have taught your children the system, you don’t need to give instructions – children can just follow the visual. 
  • Offer praise once a task has been completed – don’t give constant reassurance to your pupils that they are doing great. When you do praise them, be specific. 


Break times are really difficult for ASD students, but they are not the only ones who find the lack of structure hard. Many children want company but struggle to cope in the playground. The good news is, there are many small interventions you can make here that can help:  

  • Promote lunchtime clubs that involve sensory play for all – this is great if you have a space like a courtyard in Summer so the mess doesn’t matter.
  • Try clubs for board games, Lego/construction and simple group games with straight forward unambiguous rules.
  • Introduce social skills across the school. Schemes such as Alex Kelly can help you to implement this.

By introducing some of the above interventions I am sure you will discover that what works well for children with ASD can also benefit all children. You can be surprised by how many of your students benefit from such little changes, particularly those who are struggling without a diagnosis.

Resources/ further reading

  • OnLineTraining offers courses in ASD and Understanding and Supporting Behaviour.


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  • Jill Bell said on: 11th May 2020 at 09:38

    At our school we run a 20/20 lunch time club for those that struggle in the playground , over have been working with us in our Nurture programs . I personally find that our board games session each week work so well to promote social skills : taking it in turns : listening to others :understanding basic rules to complete the game : and the tricky one !! Understanding that you don’t always win !! We also have art days , Lego days These 20/20 sessions are valuable for many children within our school

    • OLT
      OLT said on: 12th May 2020 at 10:30
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      Hello Jill, thank you for your response to our blog and also,for sharing your experience and interventions. It's wonderful to hear how such small interventions can make a real difference to all children within a school.

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