Looking after our Students with Special Learning Needs
We believe that it is the right of every child to participate in learning programmes that match their developmental needs and accommodate their individual learning journey.
Working out of our special character, Waldorf pedagogy, we aim to help every child to achieve to his or her full potential. Students with special learning needs may be:
- Individuals experiencing frequent absences of a legitimate nature (e.g. prolonged illness);
- Individuals identified as being highly emotionally vulnerable;
- Individuals identified as being significantly below the average academic expectation within the Te Ra Waldorf School Learning Steps and progressions;
- Individuals experiencing sensory difficulties, poor fine or gross motor skills, or other challenges of a physical or medical nature which are interfering with their ability to participate in classroom programmes;
- Individuals identified as comprehensively gifted within the considerations of child development in the context of a Waldorf School;
- Individuals identified with Specific Learning Difficulties (SLD);
- Individuals with limited English language skills who have English as a second language (according to ESOL register definition);
- Individuals exhibiting significant behavioural or social difficulties;
ORRS-funded students (according to the ORRS definition).
Methods for Identifying Students’ Special Needs
Class Teachers conduct on-going monitoring and assessment of all the students in their class throughout the educational year, using class/age appropriate methods, and acknowledging special character developmental considerations. (Please refer to our school’s Assessment Policy for a full description.) Assessments include:
- Formative/summative curriculum-based assessments
- Class Teachers’ observations, complemented by Specialist Teachers’ observations
- Individual and class-wide norm-referenced assessments (from Class 4)
- Class-wide developmental assessment in Class 2: spatial orientation, body geography, eye behaviour (tracking and converging, which is relevant to reading and writing)
- Assessment by the Learning Support Teacher, where required, from Class 3
- Information received from parents
Following any of these, teachers will discuss any concerns with parents and, in collaboration, decide on further steps.
Responses to Identified Special Needs
Acute needs, as identified by the teachers and/or parents, will be addressed promptly as they arise, and in a manner that is deemed appropriate in the light of the developmental stage of the student.
Initial steps may include:
- Faculty child study, and/or a therapeutic group study (with parental consent)
- Assessment by the Extra Lesson Practitioner
- Assessment by the Learning Support Teacher
- Classroom observations by an experienced teacher or the Learning Support Teacher
- External assessments, e.g. behavioural optometrist or osteopath (parental responsibility)
A variety of supplementary resources and strategies to support the classroom programme can be explored. These include the following options:
- An individualised education programme (IEP) provided by the Class Teacher (at times in liaison with the Learning Support teacher) which can be supported by the parents at home. Such a programme is designed in collaboration by teachers, parents and specialists (where appropriate) in an IEP planning meeting.
- In-class support by a Teacher Aide (where a student is eligible for funding)
- Learning Support lessons, either one-on-one or in a small group
- Therapeutic support programmes (e.g. Curative Eurythmy, Extra Lesson, Nursing Therapies, Art Therapy), fully or partially financed by the school or financed by the parents
- Support through an external provider, e.g. RTLB (Resources Teacher: Learning and Behaviour), SE (Special Education).
An integral component of the success of these processes and any subsequent programmes is the effective three-way dialogue between the Class Teacher, the parent/caregiver, the Learning Support Teacher, and any therapists throughout all stages.
Individual Education Programmes
An IEP is an Individual Educational Programme or course of action for a particular student. Specific learning needs and actions will be discussed, agreed to and recorded at IEP planning meetings. These meetings involve the Class Teacher, the parents/caregivers, the Learning Support Teacher and any therapist or Specialist Teacher who has an interest in the child.
The implementation of the IEP becomes a partnership between school and home, with each supporting and informing the other.
Individual students are identified for learning support by their Class Teachers through the ongoing observations in the classroom. These students can be referred to the Learning Support Teacher for a full diagnostic assessment. Students needing extra support will also be identified through the literacy assessments in the first term of Class 3. Learning Support follows the Te Ra curriculum and the developmental insights provided through an understanding of Waldorf pedagogy. It is provided for students when they are developmentally ready for small-group and individual academic instruction, generally from Class 3 onward according to individual needs.
Lessons with the Learning Support Teacher cover and address:
- Difficulties encountered in reading, writing and spelling.
- Difficulties with attention and working memory
- Difficulties with auditory processing
- Difficulties with visual processing
- Lack of confidence and interest in the learning situation
All lessons are scaffolded, individualised and presented in a multisensory way to fully engage the students and to maximise the learning opportunities. Usually a phonetic approach to literacy is used with students; however, approaches and strategies may vary according to the student’s need. Most students will at some stage have Learning Support homework and for some this will replace the general classroom homework.
Many prerequisites for academic learning and success, such as eye teaming and other important visual capacities, might not be established for some students before a developmental stage often described as the “nine-year-old crisis”. For this reason the school tends not to identify children as having a specific learning disability (SLD), or as being dyslexic before this important threshold. It is important to note that reversals of letters and numbers are a normal part of the path into literacy and numeracy; they are not stand-alone indicators of dyslexia, especially in younger students.
Despite their learning difficulties, the students who access learning support arewithin the full band of intellectual capabilities; the difficulties that they might be experiencing in literacy and or numeracy learning have no reflection on their general intelligence.
To illustrate this, one of the key indicators of dyslexia, for example, is a mismatch between general intelligence, effort and academic achievement.
The Learning Support Teacher and the Class Teachers work closely together to support the student in the classroom environment. As core skills are attained, opportunities are identified where these skills can transfer into the classroom context. Within two years prior to leaving Te Ra for their secondary schooling either at Raphael House or any other college, it is advisable that identified students are formally assessed (e.g. SPELD assessment) in order to be eligible for support at secondary school level, such as a reader-writer for exams.
The subject Eurythmy is, ideally, part of the curriculum of every Waldorf school. Rudolf Steiner, who inaugurated this art of movement in 1912, often emphasized its importance for the healthy development of the child, and its healing, harmonizing qualities.
Eurythmy Therapy is widely used throughout the world: in clinics, schools, homes for the disabled, and in private practices. It is used as a remedy or supportive treatment for many illnesses and conditions, like asthma, nervous disorders, bed-wetting, stuttering, cancer, heart and circulatory disease, allergies, digestive disorders as well as learning-difficulties, developmental problems and mental health conditions. Being based on movement, Eurythmy Therapy engages the will of the patient. By practising the exercises one can contribute actively to the healing process and also improve one’s overall health on a long-term basis.
The School’s Eurythmy teacher, Elien Hoffmans, is also a trained Eurythmy therapist. Children attending Eurythmy Therapy usually have 3 weekly sessions of 20 to 30 minutes for a period of 6 to 7 weeks. Practice at home is not required.
“One should try to see health and disease in the light of the theory of colour.” — Rudolf Steiner
All of the watercolour painting that children do at school nurtures the soul. In Art Therapy a series of painting experiences can be tailored to a child’s specific needs. This is done based on the indications of Liane Collot d’Herbois (1907-1999), an artist, teacher, and “colour researcher” who was inspired by the spiritual insights and theories of colour of Goethe and Rudolf Steiner. Collot d’Herbois developed a therapeutic approach to painting based on the understanding that each colour has an archetypal movement that calls up a corresponding inner soul movement within the human being.
During the first few sessions the child is invited to paint a free picture. From these pictures a diagnosis can be formed, and from this point on the process is guided. The Collot d’Herbois method can be effective for a wide range of conditions, supporting both physical and emotional well-being and thus helping to reduce obstacles to learning. Art Therapy can help bring about balance and health and is suitable for both children and adults.
One of the school’s class teachers, Nicki Young, is trained in this method and can offer sessions to our students.
The Extra Lesson is an individual diagnostic and intervention program based on the paradigm that learning difficulties may be related to developmental difficultiesin the first seven years of a child’s overall development.
The Extra Lesson programme can improve a child’s or adolescent’s body geography, spatial orientation, dominance, midline barrier integration, primitive reflex integration, postural reflex development, and sensory integration (including auditory processing and eye tracking). Extra Lesson works actively with the link between the stages of early development and the student’s ability to learn.
The program involves:
- An initial assessment (may include referrals to other professionals such as a Cranial Osteopath, Anthroposophical Doctor, Developmental Optometrist, etc.)
- Weekly sessions with a trained practitioner for a minimum of 30 weeks. These lessons involve movement, coordination, rhythm, speech, drawing, and painting exercises. The underlying developmental difficulties that are at the root of the presenting problems or concerns are hereby addressed.
- A very important short daily home program, usually involving movement exercises. This homework regime is imperative to progress being made by the student.
The whole child/adolescent is considered in this intervention program, which is based on the perspective of Waldorf pedagogy; however, it does in no way exclude children who do not attend a Waldorf School.
For more information, visit the Extra Lesson website at www.extralesson.com
Anthroposophical Nursing Therapy
Anthroposophical Nursing Therapy is a synergy of traditional nursing, modern science and Rudolf Steiner’s insights into health and illness from an anthroposophical perspective. Nursing is looked at as an art form and the encounter itself as healing.
Anthroposophical nurses use clinical treatments that include substance compresses, inhalations, footbaths, rhythmical body oiling and hydrotherapy. Substances include medicinal plants, homeopathic metals and minerals as well as oils made with special formative processes. Most preparations are biodynamically grown, where possible. Nurses look at the person holistically and can work with nursing support over the whole lifespan: from the art of fever-care in childhood and the support of normal childhood illnesses to menopausal issues and therapeutic support for those experiencing cancer. Looking at the individual biography of the patient, anthroposophical nurses are working with, and try to assist in finding, coherence for the patient for their particular circumstance.
Susie Jones is a private therapist who follows anthroposophical nursing principles and practices. Parents who wish to initiate appointment with Susie can phone her directly on 027 3704942 or 04 2993232.