Towards independence and independent living

Falkland House School’s shortlisting for a TES Independent School Award is thanks to the success of its innovative independence programme, which focuses on teaching pupils the skills they’ll need for independent living.

Having autism or learning and attention issues like ADHD can make it difficult to acquire certain basic skills that we commonly believe are simple enough to be learned without direct teaching and guided practice. Mastering these skills bolsters our pupils’ confidence and their willingness to try new experiences, increasing their chances for future success in all aspects of life.

Over the last year, the school has taken a number of steps to develop its independence programme, including appointing two independence development workers whose task it is to work with class groups and individuals, planning and delivering learning experiences linked to the FHS independence programme.

Pupils, parents, keyworkers, teachers and associated professionals are all involved in determining where individual pupils require support, and in setting short- and long-term targets for them. Thus the programme is personalised and focuses on specific areas that are relevant to each boy’s needs and requirements.

The independence skills are split into 12 areas:

  • Domestic
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Job Skills
  • Life Management
  • Managing Money
  • Nutrition
  • Safety
  • Self-care
  • Social Media & Internet Skills
  • Time
  • Travel
  • Miscellaneous

Skills are learned in real life situations where more than one skill may be needed to achieve a positive outcome. Problems and difficulties are introduced in a supported setting to eliminate meltdowns and develop self-regulation.

Over recent months, the pupils have looked at the following topics in class:

  • Internet safety
  • Learning about the facts and harmful effects of alcohol and smoking.
  • Raising awareness of anti-bullying week.
  • Treating others equally regardless of their gender, race, culture, religion or sexuality, whilst learning about how discrimination can affect people.
  • Encouraging pupils to have the confidence to voice their thoughts and opinions on topics whilst listening to their peers and being respectful of others’ views.
  • Learning about the background of the Poppy Appeal.
  • Personal Hygiene
  • Learning how to take turns and be good team players.

Meanwhile, beyond the classroom and on a more practical level, the boys have been busy with the following projects:

  • Independent travel.
  • Budgeting skills and shopping trips, developing their ability to manage money and increasing confidence in their interpersonal skills.
  • Planning a trip to the pantomime, which has involved researching suitable dates and times, restaurants and menus, travel and purchasing tickets, then making telephone calls to make bookings and reservations.
  • One of the pupils has applied for his provisional driving licence; he has been studying for the theory test and achieving good percentages.
  • Planning the next school ski trip to Glenshee in March 2018. This has required them to research and price transport, accommodation, ski equipment hire etc.
  • Learning about food hygiene and nutrition whilst working on developing their cookery skills. This has involved researching recipes for healthy balanced meals whilst sourcing the ingredients within a set budget, then cooking the meal and cleaning up afterwards.
  • Learning how to do their own laundry, including using a washing machine, reading labels, stain treatment, hanging clothes to dry, using a tumble dryer, ironing, folding and putting clothes away.

The independence development workers commented on their role:

“The Independence Programme focuses on building confidence and resilience in the pupils and it is rewarding to see them progress in a variety of settings both in and outwith the school. Our role is to encourage and support the pupils to complete tasks and deal with situations they will encounter when living independently. It is very satisfying to see them managing situations outside their comfort zone, whilst also developing practical skills they will use throughout their life.“

Here are some of the comments they have received from the pupils:

“We are learning life skills in fun and practical ways”

“I have become more socially confident”

“I’m looking forward to learning to travel independently”

“I can’t wait to go on the ski trip that we have been planning in class”