Many of our pupils take part in daily ‘Little Group’ sessions, usually led by the class teacher and supported by SSA’s. The Little Group intervention is based on ‘Attention Autism’ which is a highly motivating and creative approach to building attention and early communication skills developed by a specialist speech and language therapist, Gina Davies.
At Fordwater school we call it ‘Little Group’ as it not just our pupils with ASC who join in the sessions, many other pupils need support to develop their attention skills and ability to cope with the adult led agenda.
The Attention Autism approach is based on the following:
- An understanding of the ‘typical’ attention levels and development of infants. This helps us to identify where the child is in terms of their communication and attention development in order to set targets in these areas.
- The common strengths of people with autism, including the fact that often they are visual learners and have good visual skills. Therefore, we should use visual prompts and pictures to share a message, reduce anxiety and add structure. We must also ensure we demonstrate an activity first, as well as modelling how to take part in it. This helps children to understand what they need to do.
Attention Autism is divided into 4 parts, in most cases at Fordwater, ‘Little Group’ sessions consist of Stages 1-3 at present:
- Stage 1: Attention bucket (to focus attention)
- Stage 2: Attention builder (to sustain attention)
- Stage 3: Interactive game (to shift attention)
- Stage 4: Individual activities (to focus and sustain attention in a group, then transition shifting attention to individual activity and then refocus on the group)
During each session (usually lasting for approximately fifteen minutes) the teacher undertakes activities that are visually interesting and exciting for pupils to watch, using lots of colour and sound to encourage engagement, eye contact as well as spontaneous vocalisations. As Gina says, we must “offer an irresistible invitation to learn” and this is what we aim to do during ‘Little Group’ sessions.