Fundamental to our approach at TreeHouse is our commitment to personalise the curriculum to the unique qualities and needs of each pupil. This personalisation is informed by knowledge of the strengths and difficulties associated with autism in general. Our curriculum has the flexibility to address the individual and very specific needs of each pupil and is characterised by being:
- Individually planned
- Guided by pupil performance
- English Curriculum
Pupils with autism exhibit significant social communication and language difficulties. Appropriate communication and social skills are necessary in order to express needs, desires and feelings. Language and communication are the foundations for the development of relationships, participating in society and accessing the curriculum. It is therefore crucial to develop skills in these areas in order to improve pupils’ quality of life. For this reason, TreeHouse places greater emphasis upon receptive and expressive communication (speaking and listening) within English.
Learning English encompasses all the aspects of communication – non-verbal, verbal and written. Work in English promotes learning across the curriculum and underpins pupils’ achievements and participation in all aspects of their lives.
Speech and language therapists work within the multi-disciplinary team to develop appropriate programmes to encourage and development communication.
Individual assessments of each pupil and conversations with their family inform decisions about which communication system to use with any individual pupils. For many, additional (augmentative) communication systems are used. These include PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), Makaton (a signing system) and the use of ‘Communication books’ which include words or pictures that a pupil can point to in order to comment on their environment or to make a request without (or alongside) speech.
Speech and language therapists work with all members of the support team, including qualified teachers to develop resources and programmes that promote communication throughout the day.
Information Communication Technology (ICT)
Developing capability in ICT helps all pupils become part of the rapidly changing world in which technology is an essential part. ICT can help pupils to develop their broader communication and literacy skills through technologies that support interaction with other pupils as well as staff.
For some pupils, communication and literacy skills will develop through using a range of visual and written materials, for example, photographs, symbols and large print, as well as ICT and other technological aids. Other pupils will develop these skills through using alternative and augmentative communication, for example, facial expressions and gestures, signing and use of a Voice Output Communication Aid (VOCA).
ICT, in particular use of computers and entertainment systems, also provides engaging, motivating and meaningful leisure activities that many pupils can learn to access independently to structure their leisure time enjoyably and appropriately. ICT can also encourage creativity. It can help pupils take greater responsibility for their own learning, plan and organise their ideas, and produce and present work of a high standard.
Mathematics can provide pupils with powerful ways of exploring, investigating and understanding the world; for example the skills of making comparisons, identifying differences, investigating relationships and establishing connections - important skills that extend across the entire curriculum. Mathematical skills encourage logical reasoning and, at later stages of mathematical development, the ability to think in abstract ways.
At the earliest stages of development, where thinking centres around concrete situations and events, pupils are supported to make sense of experiences and sensations through learning to recognise changes in patterns, quantity, space and time. Such experiences may help pupils to approach problems or novel situations flexibly, to move from random to trial and improvement responses, and later to anticipate and predict.
In this way, mathematical skills and understanding build on the earliest perceptual and cognitive learning. Pupils are encouraged to use and apply their mathematical skills throughout each day, in meaningful situations.
Music gives all pupils an opportunity to develop their musical skills in four key areas: performing, composing, listening and appraising. Music is a unique form of communication: it develops pupils’ creativity, allowing them to explore and try out new ideas. It also provides an opportunity to generalise skills such as imitation and coordination.
Music is taught through individual lesson plans tailored to meet pupils’ needs throughout the primary and secondary phases (Phases 1 and 2) and during small group sessions.
In addition to regular music lessons, pupils have the opportunity to learn piano, ukulele, recorder and drums. Each class has a music assembly where pupils demonstrate and consolidate what they have learnt in music sessions. Visiting performing musicians including Music for Autism and Singing Hands enrich the music curriculum.
Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship Education (PSHCE)
Learning PSHCE helps all pupils develop as individuals in a wider society. Pupils learn to understand themselves physically, emotionally, socially and sexually and to understand their relationships with others. Personal and social skills have strong links with PSHCE. Due to their difficulties in understanding social situations and with communication, pupils may use unusual ways to communicate or interact.
Such behaviour may include:
- self-injurious behaviour
- confrontational non-compliance
- extreme states of avoidance and withdrawal, often associated with obsessive and ritualistic behaviours
- avoiding tasks, behaviour which disrupts, being easily distracted or especially active or hyperactive
- inappropriate sexual behaviour
Such behaviour may be challenging to staff and to families. Where behaviour like this occurs, staff use structured and personalised behaviour plans and interventions to help pupils to recognise, manage and moderate their own behaviour. Support is offered to families so that similar behaviour change can also be achieved at home.
Physical Education (PE)
Physical education (PE) gives all pupils opportunities to develop their physical skills and to apply those skills in different situations. It also enables personal and group achievements to be acknowledged.
PE (Physical Development in EYFS) is taught to group sessions and also through individual lessons plans throughout the primary and secondary phases of the TreeHouse curriculum.
Work-Related Learning (14-19 years)
Work related learning is defined as ‘planned activity that uses work as a context for learning.’ It is concerned with the world of work, work experience and careers education. It is also about the development of skills for lifelong learning, including employability skills and can be delivered through a broad range of activities through work-related application of the National Curriculum, to careers education and, for a few pupils, better understanding the economy.
Pupils in the 6th Form continue to follow a highly personalised curriculum. Core curriculum subjects are the same as in key stages 1-4 and also include Work-Related Learning:
- Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship Education (PSHCE) including Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) and Behaviour (Removing barriers to learning)
- English Basic Skills (with an emphasis on expressive and receptive communication)
- Mathematics Basic Skills
- ICT Basic skills
- Work-related learning
Pupils may also choose from various vocational and leisure pathways including:
- Retail and Enterprise
- Catering and Hospitality
- Performing Arts
- Sports & Leisure
An increasing emphasis is placed on learning and applying skills in the community, including supported community placements (for example through work experience on a local allotment or membership at a sports club).
Learning is planned to support all learners to:
- See the relevance of the curriculum to their own experiences and aspirations
- Have sufficient opportunities to succeed in their learning at the highest standard
Pupils’ achievements are recognised through nationally accredited awards such as ‘Towards Independence’ module awards (ASDAN), AQA Special Units and Music Medals.