Craig-y-Parc School, Cardiff: helping children with learning disabilities achieve more independence

    Craig-y-Parc School in Pentrych, Cardiff, looks like a top hotel. It has manicured grounds, an ornate main building dating back to 1915, and amazing views across a valley.

    Other than its beautiful appearance, the school for children with cerebral palsy is special for another reason: last month Craig-y-Parc became the first school in Wales to gain Move Centre of Excellence status for its work developing pupils’ mobility and motivation skills.

    Community Care’s readers and website users have told us that the factors important to them for children with disabilities are choice, support and independence. These are exactly what the Move initiative strives to achieve.

    An activity-based programme, Move teaches children with severe disabilities the skills of sitting, standing and walking by combining knowledge about education, therapy and the family. Created in the US in 1986, it began in the UK 10 years later. Put simply, Move encourages children and young people to work on achieving their goals – such as sitting without support – during classes and everyday activities.

    In 2005 Craig-y-Parc adopted the initiative, a decision that headteacher Neil Harvey is extremely proud of: “Move allows children to make choices about what is important to them. It complements the school by bringing in a postural-management programme,” Harvey says.

    Disabilities charity Scope opened Craig-y-Parc in 1955. The school provides a broad education to 56 disabled children aged between three and 16. It has 23 residential beds, 16 of which are filled five nights a week and seven of which are filled every night.

    One of the school’s eight pupils who have benefited from the Move programme is Tamara Prosser, who is 17, uses a wheelchair and has limited speech. Her mother, Julie Prosser, says Tamara is a different child as a result: “Tamara is transformed, as she was very passive before. I always felt she was capable of more. She has worked very hard on Move.”

    During an initial meeting with Craig-y-Parc’s physiotherapy technician and Move trainer Danny Carter, Tamara’s teacher and her support worker, Julie discussed the three targets Tamara could achieve. These were to eat and drink independently, to be able to sit in a conventional chair for meals, and to be able to do a standing transfer with Julie in order to use the toilet.

    Tamara is now more than half-way towards completing her goals.

    Julie says: “I went to the meeting feeling a bit strange, as other meetings I’d been to in different places were about what Tamara couldn’t do. Instead, we talked about what she could do and they mentioned her riding a trike – Tamara, a child who just sits there! A few weeks later she came home with a photo of her sitting on a trike, and the expression on her face said it all. She knew she’d really achieved something.”

    It is this desire to encourage disabled children to achieve greater physical independence that motivates Carter: “Move says there is no such thing as unrealistic, and we try and get the children to where they want to go.” He believes the success of the programme has been down to a schoolwide commitment to making it work, and not just within school hours.

    Adam Stenson is one of Craig-y-Parc’s residential support workers and works with one young person on the Move scheme. He says this approach to practice has enhanced the work he does as a professional, and he prefers having a more interactive working relationship.

    According to Tamara’s mother, social workers and other professionals who work with disabled children should adopt the ethos championed by Move. “Always look at the positive things a disabled child can do,” says Julie. “If you say to the child ‘you can do it’, then maybe they can. It isn’t just a nice statement. I’ve seen the proof that it works.”

    Harvey agrees. In addition, he encourages all practitioners to resist the temptation to work in silos and to ensure they liaise with each other. “Move is a great way of putting this way of working together, and it includes the parents and carers.”

    Top tips…

    … for professionals working with disabled children in education to improve their mobility:

    ● Adopt a multi-professional approach to working with a disabled child or young person and include them, their parents and their carers in any discussions.

    ● Discuss what targets the child or young person wants to achieve with them and with their parents or carers.

    ● Ensure targets are realistic and achievable, while also challenging.

    ● Set small goals that can be integrated throughout the child’s day, so that they do not intrude on teaching time or require large pieces of equipment to be brought into the classroom.

    Further information
    Craig-y-Parc School can be contacted on 02920 890397

    Contact the author
    Anabel Unity Sale

    This article appeared in the 14 June issue under the headline “Accent on activity”

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