Speech and Language Therapist Nicola Gallagher, who is a member of the college’s specialist Foundation Learning Team, is providing one to one support using Google Hangouts and Google Meet software so students continue to develop their social skills and emotional resilience while they are at home.
"I was with the NHS prior to joining Sunderland College,” Nicola said. “I would visit houses, care homes, day services and hospitals working closely with patients, families and staff.
“I used my skills and knowledge to develop solutions of how to help our students remotely, and interacting with them in a holistic and therapeutic manner.”
Students are helped in developing coping strategies, being helped to find their voice through fun activities such as Makaton signing sessions during such a difficult time.
Nicola adds: “At this time, more than ever, students need their voices to be heard, especially those who are non-verbal.
“One of our students asked for a sausage sandwich which is a huge achievement as before he would have struggled with any request. Parents can see this progress and it empowers them in the communication of their child.”
Although the sessions are delivered directly to each student, parents are encouraged to join in so they can learn new tips and strategies to further support their children and provide feedback.
“I normally meet and chat with parents on a regular basis and this is the perfect time to continue building their skills and getting them involved,” said Nicola. “I always like to make things fun and have a laugh as this time is so uncertain so hopefully my sessions can provide some regularity and consistency at this difficult time.“
Anticipating the government’s decision to suspend face to face learning and recognising that staying at home can be more disruptive to the lives and routines of students with SEND, the college’s Foundation Learning team moved quickly to provide families with educational resources, tasks, sensory stories and websites to access at home.
Danielle, whose daughter Megan is benefiting from the weekly sessions, added: “Nicola has been a great support during the lockdown period. She has been there for any issues Megan has had and also offered lots of different ideas to help keep her busy.
“A timetable has been put together based around conversations Nicola has had with Megan, which is extremely helpful and I am extremely grateful for this support during a difficult time.”