Jack Petchey Foundation
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New resources improve communication skills at special educational needs school

As a special education school, Mapledown School in Brent Cross works hard to facilitate their students in interacting with others using a variety of resources and methods. After getting the chance to test out a portable audio kit in the classroom, they found that students were very enthusiastic in using them as a means to communicate with their peers. Thanks to a £750 Jack Petchey Foundation Small Grant, the school was able to purchase eight new portable radios which have benefitted 75 pupils so far.

The portable audio kits include a wireless speaker and a microphone, which produces a clear, amplified sound. The effect of them in class has been extraordinary, particularly amongst autistic students who are can be reticent or lack motivation to vocalise. They have become an essential tool that are used in class daily for encouraging students to communicate with staff and each other. The teachers have observed students experimenting with a variety of sounds and singing into the microphone, enjoying the amplification of their own voice and becoming animated at the effect of producing vocalisation.

Mapledown teachers have found that a key influence on their students’ communication is motivation and they have now observed students communicating via speech and vocalisation in more dramatic ways thanks to the portable radios.

These improvements to the school’s communication resources have led to enhanced learning opportunities. For instance, one lesson involved examining how different people use their voices. One of the activities challenged autistic students to identify their classmates only through the sounds they made into a microphone. The teachers reported that the students were able to give accurate answers by the end of the activity and enjoyed both vocalising and listening to their peer’s speech and dramatic vocalisation.

A Grants Officer from the Jack Petchey Foundation was delighted to be invited to the school and watch a video clip of a student taking turns to sing 'Summer Holiday' with a teacher. Not only did the student respond positively to the idea of sharing the microphone and the song, he would even push the microphone gently back to the teacher after singing each of his sections - a clear indication of his choice to share appropriately.

The microphones were also used during Mapledown’s International Dance Festival. In the photo above, you can see a student being congratulated by his classmates following his solo spot with the microphone at the event. 

Mapledown School’s Jack Petchey Foundation Coordinator Sue Hart said, “Communication is the bedrock of effective learning at our school, and these resources have proved an invaluable aid in encouraging students to express themselves.”

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