Many children with disabilities and SEN can benefit from a broad-ranging physical curriculum which covers every aspect of their development. With each unique child comes a varied learner profile, incorporating strengths, needs and short and long-term goals.
Designing accessible areas for children with physical disabilities requires careful consideration and ought to be undertaken in conjunction with an occupational therapist and other healthcare professionals. Whether it’s an adaptation to an existing building or forms part of a new installation, manual handling systems enable children with complex needs to move freely around a room or hall with ease, facilitating their independence.
Factors to examine when installing such systems within a special or mainstream school setting include the following:
A wide variety of hoisting systems are available – the most effective one for your setting will depend on the physical environment and the specific functions needing to be carried out.
Free-standing portable tracks to support hoists These can be easily carried and transferred from room to room via a fixed track. A free-standing system will make no structural requirement on ceilings or walls, making them easy to remove when the lifting system is no longer needed.
In situ ceiling hoist track Ceiling hoists and associated tracking are designed for multipurpose environments such as halls, swimming pools, showers and sensory therapy areas to provide lifting and patient transfer assistance. These systems can run through doorways into adjoining areas.
Gateway systems Also used in multipurpose environments, these connect neighbouring rooms via flexible turntables to help navigate tight curves, enabling transfers from bedrooms to bathrooms or bathrooms to living rooms.
Training and maintenance
A safe-patient handling policy, compulsory manual handling training and regular assessments are all essential for staff involved in moving and lifting individuals. Poor moving and handling practice can lead to back pain, musculoskeletal disorders and even accidents for those doing the lifting (not to mention discomfort and loss of dignity for the person being moved). Lifting equipment should be properly maintained and cleaned in accordance with the setting’s existing disinfection policies.
A send curriculum
Chailey Heritage Foundation provides education and care for children and young people with complex neuro-disabilities. Most have cerebral palsy with associated complex health needs and many others have visual impairment and dual sensory impairments; all are wheelchair users.
The school has developed its own curriculum based on individual learners’ needs, with physical development a key area of focus. The school’s use of a mobility, track and hoisting system to create possibilities for learning is therefore vital – children are encouraged to take part in physical activities to improve their ability to sit, encourage postural and head control, improve their limb control and dexterity, and develop their coordination and spatial awareness.
A series of hoists within classrooms further promotes socialisation for the children, freeing them from inhibitive equipment and allowing for better communication and more natural interactions with their peers. That could be as simple as having the ability to touch each other, or something more involved such as participation in various verbal and physical games.
“It’s easy to forget the importance of physical contact as part of a child’s natural interaction with another child”, says Helen Springall, a SEN teacher at the school.
“Free from cumbersome equipment, mobilised children with severe physical disabilities are able to build closer relationships and interact in a way that was previously denied to them. This mobilisation gives them a freedom and independence to select the games and activities they want to take part in – and pushes boundaries not just in their physical development, but opens their minds to new opportunities and aspirations.”
James Rhodes is marketing manager at Hillrom (Liko), in charge of early mobilisation and falls prevention.