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Furthering Your Studies in Special Educational Needs

I feel like I learn something new everyday in school, the children we work with are such a valuable source of information to inform our planning and teaching. I always feel like I have more to learn about my role as an ASD class teacher and love doing CPD courses. After a year of working in an ASD class and attending as many of the SESS/NCSE run courses as I could (link to site below), I decided I wanted to further my own education in autism. I love learning new strategies and approaches to implement with the children, I was excited when I saw there was a course available specific to autism in more than one college in Ireland.

Link to NCSE Courses:

The course I decided to do was the ‘Graduate Certificate in the Education of Pupils on the Autism Spectrum’ in Dublin City University (DCU).

I had completed my undergraduate in DCU (St. Patrick’s College), loved the college and was happy to continue my studies there. I was torn between the course in DCU and a similar course in St. Angela’s College, Sligo which is affiliated with the SESS. As I had already completed a lot of the SESS run courses, I felt going to DCU would give me a different slant on any content that I may have experienced before. The course in DCU is funded by the Department of Education and Skills, so this is also a factor to consider.

I will leave links to the Graduate Certificates in Autism in Ireland that I am aware of. For anyone who is considering completing one and would like to compare the courses. From what I can see there are all pretty similar, it may just come down to location for a lot of people.

Dublin City University (DCU):

Mary Immaculate College, affiliated with Middletown Centre for Autism (accredited by University of Limerick):

University College Cork, Ireland (UCC):

St. Angela’s College, Sligo in collaboration with the SESS, (accredited by National University of Ireland, Galway):

Entry Requirements

As the programmes are aimed towards teaching children with ASD, a requirement that seems to be common across all of the courses is that you must be working with children with ASD for the duration of the course. In the Graduate Certificate in the Education of Pupils on the Autism Spectrum’ in DCU, there was a placement assignment which involves a lecturer from the college coming to observe you teaching 2 groups of children with ASD. As part of another assignment we had to complete pupil profiles for the children that would be observed.

Workload & Structure  

I felt the work load was very manageable during this course, I used two or three days each school break to complete assignment work and did work one day midweek and some weekends. I didn’t feel restricted in any way and with good planning you can ensure you have time for other aspects of your life as well as completing the course.

There were 6 weeks of onsite lectures when I completed the course, they were divided into 2 week blocks across the year. Full substitution cover was provided for these weeks. I work in an ASD class in a mainstream school, while I attended the onsite lectures, teachers from our school covered my class on a rotation basis and the substitute covered their class. It worked well in our school as the teachers knew my students and it meant they would have a smoother two weeks where possible. It also meant myself and the SNAs could prep the teachers before hand about what works well for the children. There were others completing the course who had difficulty organising substitute cover for their class, particularly teachers from Special Schools.

Apart from the on campus lectures there were some online lectures in the evening times, particularly during winter months. You were aware of the dates and times well in advance to be able to plan around them, they were generally from 6pm to about 7.30pm.

Further Studies

If you complete the Graduate Certificate in DCU, you can go on to do the Graduate Diploma course, which is what I did. You can also enter the Graduate Diploma course straight away without doing the Graduate Certificate course. Spreading it out over the 2 years meant the workload was much more manageable. I also wanted to complete a course that was solely on Autism rather than SEN. Those were my influences for choosing the Graduate Certificate to begin with.

Hope that info is helpful for anyone considering further studies in the area of Special Educational Needs.

As always, if you have any questions, ask away.


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Typing Programmes

Here are some typing programmes I have used in the past or that have been recommended by others. It can be hard to choose a programme, luckily most of them have free trails. Definitely check with the child’s Occupational Therapist if possible for the best suited programme for the child you’re working with.

Keyboarding without Tears

Is a part of the Handwriting without Tears programme. I love the Handwriting without Tears programme and recently began using Keyboarding without Tears. It is straightforward to use. The instructions are visual. There aren’t too many verbal instructions which suits the children in my class perfectly. If you have used the Handwriting part of the programme with children in your class, they continue with some of the same concepts and visuals in this. 

Cost: around 10e per license per child and around 150e for the online training for the teacher

Mavis Beacon

Is recommended a lot of OT reports, it is quite dated and boring but these aspects tend to suit some children with a diagnosis of ASD. Can be purchased on Amazon and other similar websites. There are also some free downloads available for older versions.

BBC Dance Mat Typing

This one is free for the first few levels and is a great hit with children who enjoy animations, music and noises. It is easy to follow. Cost: Free

Touch, Type, Read and Spell (TTRS)

This one comes highly recommended and you can get a free 14 day trial

I haven’t used it but have heard great things 
Cost: Free

Hope this has been helpful.

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Creating A Timetable in an ASD Class

Timetables can be confusing and in an ASD class, they can change a lot. This is the process I find works best when creating or changing a timetable. Hopefully you will get some useful tips or tricked from reading this.

Begin by dividing your day into appropriate time slots to suit the children. E.g. I divide mine into 20 minute slots, some children can attend for the full 20 minutes and some attend for 10 minutes with 10 minutes of down time after. Depending on the children, you may have 5 or 10 minute slots. Block off times that the children will be on yard and the staff will be on breaks so it is clear to see when you will have less staff in the room etc. As shown in the example below.

Write down each child’s name and under it write what you would like each child to achieve each day. (Or weekly). I prefer to have a similar timetable each day for ease of transitions etc. Example of what this document might look like below.

Things you may need to consider for each child before making a list:
What are their IEP targets? 

What are the most important things they need to work on? 

Include these first


Can any children be grouped together for tasks? 

Do any children have similar targets that you could pair or group them for? E.g. social skills, maths, fine motor activities 

Do any children need 1:1 teacher time to concentrate? 

Can children engage in activities at a group table or will they become distracted? 

What time of the day will you do a whole class activity or circle time etc?

What time would work best for the children?

Do they all arrive at the same time in the morning or are their arrival times usually staggered?

Would it be better to have a group time mid-morning? 


Read the children’s reports to see what is recommended. Which children need OT or movement breaks throughout their day? 

Do they need it before or after table top work? 

Could they be paired with someone or do they need 1:1 for this? 

After a few weeks you will get to know what each child needs and will have an idea of what time of the day they may need it. There will of course, be times of the day where children need OT that you haven’t planned for. For example: a child may need OT before they engage in 1:1 teacher work or group work. 

SNA Support

What activities do you need SNA Support for? Make sure you add them in first, at times when the staff are not on their breaks etc. When the timetable is being created, make sure to ask for the input of all staff in the class, this can be so invaluable. When the timetable is finished, to sit down and go through it together so everyone is on the same page. Something so simple will make sure the class runs a lot smoother. 

If there is a group activity, what is the role of each staff member? Make sure that is clearly set out and everyone knows so the children can get the most benefit from it. E.g. is it to support certain children? Is it to model the new learning? Is it to do hand over hand with a child? Is it to take a step back and wait for the children to ask for help? etc. 


Changing children’s schedules 

Setting up work for children’s independent stations or group work etc. 

Tidying up after an activitySetting a child’s timer for a choice activity etc. 

When will this be done? Who will be responsible for this? Considering these practicalities will help to make sure the day runs smoother and avoids the confusion of who did it or if it was done or prepared etc.


Which children need support from an adult in the toilet? How often does each child need to use the toilet? 

Can the child decide when they need to go themselves or do you need to put it on their schedule for them? 

If children need minimal support, could you timetable a few children to go to the toilet around the same time so the adult(s) will already be at the bathroom and you will be best utilising their time. For example: when the children come in from yard or before they eat their lunch, before home time etc. 

Filling in Timetable

After you have made the list, start to fill the blank timetable. Use a pencil and a rubber, be prepared to use the rubber. Start by filling in the items that the children need to have at particular times of the day first. For example, some children may need their most taxing work in the morning time or some may work best after yard time or lunch. Fill in the times of the day that the children will need SNA support. Once you have added something to the timetable, tick it off on the list to keep track of what is left to add.

Once you have this finished, I always make separate timetables for the teacher and SNAs in the room (sample shown below). This way, we all know exactly what we need to be doing and what we’re responsible for at each point of the day. It is also very handy to have if there is a sub in. They can pick up the relevant timetable and follow it. 

Then, I write up the order of each child’s individual schedules. We have our schedules divided into 3 sections for the day. So I type up 3 lists for each child to stick at the back of their schedules. As shown in the photo below. This way, everyone can easily pick up the child’s schedule and set it up for them. 

I don’t do this until the end of September usually or how ever long it takes to find what works best for the children and staff in the class. Depending on the needs in the class, it might make sense to go through this process each term. It also means the staff can rotate to different children and get a chance to work in different roles throughout the year. 

If you would like a copy of these sample timetables and editable versions, have a look at the resource here:

I hope this post has been helpful, if you have any questions after reading it, please send me a message any time. 


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Edmark Reading Program

This is a program that was recommended while I was completing my Grad Dip in SEN. I had a few children on my caseload who had struggled with any reading scheme or approach I had tried, and I had tried a lot! I have seen Edmark work for various different children, some children who had tried numerous other programs and had no success until Edmark. I have seen Edmark work for children who began with phonics and then ‘hit a wall’ with their reading. It is lovely watching a child begin to succeed with a program when they had been really struggling.

What is it?

Edmark is an American research based reading program. It is a carefully sequenced, highly repetitive sight word approach. It is recommended for children as an alternative to phonics. Before trying Edmark I had tried some other programs which were also recommended as an alternative to phonics but they just didn’t work for the children on my caseload. What I like about Edmark is it is easy to administer, everything is ready to go and of course that there is a lot of research to back up the methods!

Who Should Use Edmark?

If like me, you have any children on your caseload who are struggling with phonics-based reading approaches, then Edmark might work for them. Students who are able to discriminate letters and symbols/icons but are not yet able to decode words are best suited to this program in my experience.

Included in the pack is a ‘Discrimination Test’ and a ‘Pre-Reading Test’ (photos below) to check if your student is suited to the program and where in the program they should start. A ‘Mastery Test’ is also included for children who may already know some sight words. The Mastery Test contains 3 parts: discrimination of words, picture/phrase match and word recognition.

How does it work?

Everything is explained clearly when you purchase the pack but here is a quick overview for anyone interested.

Start with the assessments: ‘Discrimination Test’ and the ‘Pre Reading Test’, move onto the ‘Mastery Test’ where appropriate. The program is then broken up into lessons. Lesson 1 is pictured below. To compliment each lesson are picture cards and flashcards of the new word being taught.

The children I worked with enjoyed creating a word wall of the words as they were being taught. I also found it beneficial to randomly display new words along with their image around the classroom for the children (e.g. ‘horse’ with a picture of a horse).

For some children I moved onto a new lesson daily and for some it was closer to weekly. For the children that were moving at a slower rate, I spent about 10 minutes every day using the program on a 1:1 basis with the child to ensure they were getting the most out of the program and also that they weren’t overly exposed to it where they might become bored of it or grow to dislike it. This is what seemed to work best in my setting. Once the children get to lesson 10, the next few lessons are complimented by very short stories created from the words the children have learned (pictured below). I personally loved this point in the program as the words are put into context for the children and I could really see how proud the children were of themselves at this point. The program continues on in a similar fashion the whole way through after this.

What if the program doesn’t work for the child in my setting?

When first using this program, I used it with 4 children. After a few weeks, three of those four children started to excel and gain confidence in reading the new sight words and sentences. Depending on the individual child, some children pointed to the word, some circled the word, some placed a counter onto it and some placed a piece of blu tac on it. Different approaches worked with different children.

There was one child who the program just wasn’t working for. After a lot of consideration and throwing ideas around we adapted the program slightly and after another few weeks the child started reading some of the words and making their way through the lessons. I will explain what worked in our setting for this particular child: We laminated the discrimination test and the lessons. Instead of asking the child to circle or point to the correct word as described above, we got the child to match an identical laminated print out of the target word to the word and stick it on with Velcro. This worked well for this child as they needed to be exposed to the word more often. They also needed something to help ground them and help them to focus while completing the lesson. Pointing to the word or circling the word was too abstract and didn’t have meaning for this particular child. We made sure there were no other distractions in the class and the lesson took place in the morning time while the child was ready to learn.

You know the child in your care the best and what works best for them. This is just one example of how we adapted a program. I hope this doesn’t turn anyone off the program as this was just one example, I have seen this program work for so many other children without any adaptions what-so-ever! I wanted to share our true experience in the hope that it might help someone in similar circumstances.

What if the child in my setting is non verbal?

I haven’t experience of using this program with non-verbal children yet but there is a DVD included with signs for each lesson and I have seen some teachers getting children to use their ACC devices when using the program. Another example is showing the children an array of words and asking them to choose the word that was spoken by the teacher. e.g. an array of 3 words to begin and then increasing the amount as appropriate.

Here is a link to a pdf of the Program Overview on p52 are ‘Options for students who have difficulty with verbal expression’:

What is included in the Pack?

There are 2 packs, Level 1 and Level 2. I purchased Level 1 for the children I was working with over 2 years ago and haven’t needed Level 2 yet. I bought mine on the ‘Outside the Box’ website and it cost €850. Linked here:

Included in Level 1 is: a Mastery Test booklet, Lesson Plan/Record Book, Program Overview Book, Word Recognition books 1 – 3 with the Lessons, Picture Match Cards, Phrase Match Cards, Story Books 1 – 3 (there is a story on each page or 2 pages), Display mask (blue cover pictured below so the child only sees the part of the story or lesson they are currently on), Reading and Social Skills Games, Word Signs DVD, ‘The Rides’ story and Cerificates of Completion.

There are other elements that can be purchased separately: Homework activities, Comprehension worksheets, Take Away Readers, Spelling activities, Bingo, Social Skills/Reading Games, A Resources Flash-drive.

Here is a link to a pdf of the program overview, including a list of what is included and the research behind the program:

I hope you enjoyed reading and the quick snapshot of my experience of using the program was helpful to you.

If anyone has any questions please contact me and I will try my best to help you. I would love to hear any feedback.


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Teaching in Australia

I loved my time in Australia, I spent a year working as a Primary School Casual Relief Teacher in Melbourne, Victoria. I worked in Special Schools and Autism Specific Schools. The application process and experience will differ from state to state in Australia, I can write about my experience in Melbourne, Victoria and some tips and links for anyone planning on going there. Hopefully it is helpful to anyone considering going to Australia to teach.

I have divided the post into these titles to hopefully make it easier to navigate:

Before You Go, School Calendar, Registering in Melbourne, Documents, Securing a Job Before You Go, Working as a Casual Relief Teacher or Education Support Staff, Day to Day, Car vs Public Transport, Useful Links

Before You Go

No matter which state you are planning on going to, make sure you register or start the registration process before you leave. The process can be quite long and there can be a lot of back and forth no matter how thorough you are. Each state has a different teaching council and different registration system for teachers. It would be beneficial to know which state you plan on teaching in before hand as it costs about AU$300 to register. If you are unsure about which state you will end up in, you could always register in more than one to cover yourself as the process could take up to 6 months. If you are registered as a teacher in two states, some have an agreement where there would be a waiver of fees which would be worth looking into. New South Wales and Victoria have an agreement, link below:

For anyone who is unsure of which states the big cities are in:

Melbourne – state of Victoria

Sydney – state of New South Wales

Brisbane – state of Queensland

Perth – Western Australia

School Calendar

It is helpful to know the breakdown of the school year before you go. Their school year starts at the end of January/start of February and runs until around the 20th December, they have a little over a month off in December/January as their summer holidays. Throughout the year, there are 3 x fortnight breaks; one around Easter time, one in July and one around October time.

Registering in Melbourne, Victoria

My experience is in Melbourne so I will explain the registration system for Melbourne here, other states have similar systems but none are identical processes.

Here is a link to the teaching council website for Victoria:

To register as a teacher in Victoria you need to have a teaching degree which was 4 full years in duration and/or have a Masters degree. If you are registering, remember that January is the busiest time for registrations as it is the beginning of the school year and there will likely be long waits.

I had a 3 year Bachelor of Education from St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra and a Post Graduate Diploma from DCU, after discussion with the Victorian Teaching Council I was reassured that the Post Grad would be adequate to register. After waiting for 4 months for my registration, I was told the Post Grad didn’t have enough credits. If anyone is reading this who is in a similar situation, there is a loop-hole. If are a registered teacher in New Zealand, you can register as a teacher in Australia through ‘mutual recognition’ for a smaller fee than the general registration. Luckily the registration system in New Zealand is much quicker and can all be done online. I had to register in New Zealand, when I received all of my documents in the post, I could then submit a new application in Australia to register as a teacher through ‘mutual recognition’. It sounds more complex than it is and hopefully this explanation shows why it is so beneficial to start the process before you set off on your travels.

Luckily I was able to work in Education Support (ES) (equivalent of a Special Needs Assistant) while I tried to sort out my registration. Unfortunately, the pay is roughly half of what it is for a teacher. I did try an office job for a while but it just wasn’t for me, I was much happier working as in Education Support.  


There are a lot of documents you need to gather for your application and it will differ from person to person and state to state. You will need to get your documents certified, I would definitely recommended getting 2 copies certified and bringing a spare set with you to Australia, just incase. I did end up needing a second set.

I will give a rough outline of certified documents I needed when applying below:

  • Degree Certificates
  • Degree Transcripts
  • Teaching Practice Dates and Grades (I didn’t have a list with the dates, I emailed the college with my details and they kindly sent me out a headed letter)
  • English Language Competence document
  • Proof of Identity (visa, passport, driver’s license)
  • Overseas Criminal Record Check/Police Clearance
  • Change of name evidence
  • Professional references
  • Statement from employer confirming experience/length of service (if you have 5 or more years teaching experience you will be put on a higher rate of pay if you provide proof)

Securing a Job Before You Go

This isn’t something that I did as my registration wasn’t complete and I wanted to have the freedom to work as a Casual Relief Teacher. When I was in Australia, there were a lot of jobs, particularly in Special schools who were willing to do ‘Skype’ interviews with people who weren’t in Australia yet. It was definitely possible to secure a job in a special school around December time via ‘Skype’ and some were even offering sponsorship. Have a look at the following websites where jobs are posted for Victoria:

Working as a Casual Relief Teacher or Education Support Staff

Agencies are the way relief teachers and relief education support staff get their work in Australia, schools are registered with a particular agency and arrange all of their casual relief teachers through them.

When you get to Australia, I was advised to register with a few different agencies at the beginning, see which one you like the best/gives you the most work/has schools you like and then choose one and stay with them. If you are only with one agency and available every day, the agency will know that and begin to call on you more regularly and you will move to the top of their list. If you get on well in a school, some schools request the same people time and time again from the agency.

When registering with an agency you have to meet for a face to face interview, which is short and more of a get to know you chat with a few teaching questions thrown in. They take your photo and make you an ID card for their agency.

I mainly worked for ANZUK (link at end of blog post) as they worked with a lot of special education schools in the area I was living.

Day to Day

Each agency may differ slightly in their day to day systems but in general, you may need to log onto their App to say that you are available for work at 6.30am each morning. Then you may get a call anytime between 6.30am and 8.30am in general. When you log on and register that you are available for work in the morning time you are added to their list of people to call for work. Even if you have marked that you are available but you have not logged on that morning, you will be at the bottom of their list. Essentially the system is to make sure that you are awake! The App is like a calendar and you can mark off the days you will not be available for work too. Some agencies use a texting system.

A lot of schools have a casual dress code, in spite of what the agencies tell you, which you will become familiar with when you have been in a school once or twice. One thing a lot of schools that I was in are strict on is closed toe shoes.

As a teacher, when being asked to work for the day you could be asked to cover a class teacher or a teacher of a ‘specialist subject’. The types of specialist teachers could vary from school to school but in general there may be: Physical Education, Music, Drama, Art, Dance, Language. When the class is with the ‘specialist teacher’ the class teacher is given some planning time. As a casual relief teacher, during this time if you are covering a class teacher, depending on the subject, the school could ask you to help the specialist teacher or allocate you to another class/group at that time. I particularly enjoyed covering ‘specialist teachers’ as you got to meet so many more staff members and students and get a real feel for the school.

Car vs Public Transport

A lot of people recommend getting a car when working as a casual relief teacher in Australia, I had one for a while and it was very handy to have short commute times. The downfall of having a car was that you may get a call later in the morning as it won’t take you as long to get to the schools or that you may be given schools that are further away or awkward to get to on public transport. When I had a car, I actually missed using public transport. For bigger schools there would be a lot of people working as Casual Relief Teachers or in Education Support who you would meet on your way to and from the school on public transport. It was a nice way to meet and get to know people in a similar situation.

Useful Links

Salary rates in Victoria:

Teaching Council website for New Zealand:

Teaching Council website for Victoria:

Links to Teaching Agencies in Victoria:



Free Agency Education Recruitment:

I loved my time working and living in Australia and feel I have become a better teacher because of it. It was invaluable to get to see how different schools and different classrooms were run. I loved the laid back lifestyle and the freedom of working as a casual relief teacher.

I hope my experience of registering as a teacher and teaching in Australia will be helpful to some people who are considering the move. If you have any further questions after reading this, drop me a message, I’d love to hear from you.


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July /’Summer’ Provision 2020

Home and School Based

Home Based July Provision usually involves working 1:1 with a child, going to their house to engage in some activities with them and/or going on social trips or outings on some days. In other years, some tutors doing July Provision link up with each other and arrange to go on social outings on the same day to have moral support and to expose the children to more social interactions. I’m not sure if that’s something that will be possible this year.

School Based July Provision usually involves the children attending their ASD class like they would any other day. The same amount of staff that would be in their class during the normal school year will be there for July Provision too. No matter which type of July Provision you are doing, here are some tips that will hopefully be useful. I have done both school and home based July Provision.

I have divided this blog into the following headings to hopefully make it easier to find the information you need: Find out as much info as you can about the child, Well-being and mental health, Covid-19 activities, Social activities, July Provision Resource Pack, Documents and FAQ links.

Find out as much info as you can about the child

If possible, meet the child once or twice before beginning July Provision to ensure the child begins to get familiar with you. For example: if you meet the child’s parent/guardian in their home and chat to them, there is no pressure on the child to engage but they are getting used to you being around. If suitable, you could try a zoom call with the child, you could do an activity where there isn’t pressure for the child to engage, they can just watch you if they want or if they feel comfortable they could join in. e.g. read a book from their favourite series or about a topic they love.

Ask as many questions as you can, to the child’s parent/guardian, if possible, their teacher, SNA, therapists. Once you have found out as much as you can about the child you will feel so much more comfortable planning activities for the child. It is so helpful to know what works well for the child and what to avoid. If you can see their Individual Educational Plan this would be very helpful and contain a lot of information about the child, what works in school, targets the child was working on this year.

Sample Questions you could ask: What targets was the child working on in school? What way does the child communicate what they need/want? What are the child’s likes/dislikes?

Once you have found out this information, you will have a much clearer idea of the types of activities you could plan to suit the child you will be working with.

Well-being and Mental Health

This year, I think, depending on the child, we will be focusing a lot on the child’s well-being and mental health before engaging in any academic activities. Especially if you are new to the child, I would spend time at the beginning engaging in activities you know the child is comfortable with and activities you know they enjoy. Once they have become comfortable with you, you could move onto other activities, targets. The children will be so out of routine having spent so long in their own homes around the same people for so long, it will be important to be gentle with introducing anything new or challenging to the child. Close collaboration with the child’s parents/guardians to see how best to introduce things like this or if to introduce at all.

Examples of well being activities: ‘All About Me’ activities, Discussing, Recording, Naming Feelings, Working on coping/relaxing skills the child could use if stressed/upset e.g. counting, breathing etc., Yoga or Meditation activities, exercise activities; walking, playing sports.

Here is a link to a UK website with some examples of well being activities:

If you are interested in purchasing books to work on with the child, here are some I have found useful in the past below. Have a look in your local library if it is open.

‘No Worries!’ by Sharie Coombes

‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ by Poppy O’Neill

The ‘Weaving Well-Being’ Programme by Fiona Forman and Mick Rock.

‘Ruby’s Worry’ by Tom Percival

Covid-19 activities

If possible or appropriate to the child, it would be helpful to begin to teach the child about social distancing, hand hygiene and new systems in shops and their community. Usually July Provision may be a time where children engage in social outings and activities, this year the child may need a lot more preparation before going on these outings. I find social stories so useful in these situations.

In the July Provision pack I have created, I have included a hand washing work system and some visuals relating to Covid-19 e.g. social distancing.

Hand-washing lessons will be something I plan on doing every day during school based july provision and adding ‘hand washing’ to their schedules more regularly. I hope to get a basin per child to teach the hand washing lessons and hope to do it as a group in the morning time for the first while.

Social Activities

Some examples of social activities are: explicitly teaching social skills e.g. turn taking, conversation skills, waiting, asking questions. Or social activities/trips: crossing the road, walking to the park, walking to the shop, buying something in the shop, meeting another child engaging in July Provision to work on social skills, going to a child’s favourite restaurant to order food (may be take away this year), visiting local landmarks, going to the zoo, going to a pet farm, going to a sensory garden, the list goes on!

Have a look on the Heritage Ireland website to see which sites are open again:

School Based July Provision

If anyone is working as a teacher or SNA on school based July/Summer Provision, it might look a little different this year. Personally, I will be keeping the children’s schedules the same or very similar to what they were in March for the first week or so. We don’t know how the children will feel about coming back to school so it could be best to allow them to settle back into their familiar routine with activities they enjoy before introducing any new activities. We will ensure to include some of the children’s usual work stations as well as lots of activities they enjoy e.g. bike riding, walks, sensory play. For sensory play we envisage each child having their own smaller tray or box instead of a larger tuff tray between 2 or more children.

If the children are settled and happy being back at school we may introduce some activities like the social activities I have listed above. Some others that have worked in previous years which may or may not be possible this year are: swimming, horse riding, indoor play area, going to Mc Donald’s, Pet Shop coming into the class with animals.

July Provision Resource Pack

I have created a ‘July Provision Pack’. It would serve as a great starting point for anyone doing July or Summer provision, especially for the first time. It can be bought directly from this website. Link below:

Documents and FAQ links:

If you would like some more information or need access to any of the documents required, here are the links to useful websites:

Summer Provision 2020 Guidelines and Documents:

July Provision Website to Link Parents and Teachers for Home Based July Provision:

Thank you for reading, I hope this has been in some way helpful to you. If you found it useful I would appreciate if you could leave a review or subscribe to my blog with your email address to receive notifications of new posts.

If anyone has any further questions about July Provision please feel free to contact me here, via email or on Instagram.

Take care,


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Morning Reading Session

What do the children in your setting do in the morning time? In my experience, children often arrive to school at different times and they all have different needs first thing in the morning. Once the children have completed their own morning routine and settled, a Morning Reading Session is a lovely activity to do.

What do I need?

A clipboard for each child, some kind of an assessment/record sheet and one a4 page per week for signing in.

One or two coloured boxes (if desired) that contain the books for the fortnight. If you are using the boxes to organize the books, I like to make sure the child’s clipboard matches the colour of the box they should take their books from. Or you could change the colour that the child is assigned to each week/fortnight.

How does it work?

We all sit together at our group table. I put a selection of books on the table (same selection for 2 week period). For differentiation, I put 2 groups of books in 2 different coloured boxes. E.g. red box for starter readers/picture books and a blue tray for fluent readers.

Each child ‘signs in’ by making marks with a pencil/marker etc., tracing their name, or writing their name.

Self-Selected Reading: the children choose a book from their assigned box to read. The child can choose whether to read it independently, co-actively (with the adult) or listen to the adult reading it. Some children may need some guidance with choosing a book at the beginning.

Extension Activities

Some activities to extend this activity are: Creating and adding to a ‘Word Wall’ for any new or unfamiliar words the children come across. The child could look the word up in the dictionary and create a list of dictionary words in their clipboard. The child could also write a ‘book review’ when they have finished reading their book.

What are the benefits?

This activity is to begin to expose children to reading and get used to handling books. It helps when it is in a group setting, children can see each-other and the adults looking at and reading books. I find when children see others engaging in a task, they can be more likely to begin to engage themselves. Doing it as part of a group exposes children to others enjoying and using books. It can be a great activity to begin doing some reverse integration with especially if it is an activity the children are used to. It is a simple calm activity to do first thing in the morning or at any time during the day.

I hope this Morning Reading Session structure is helpful to some!

If you’d like to see the template I use, have a look at the product on my Mash store:

Any questions or comments about this, I would love to hear from you.


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Writing an Individual Education Plan (I.E.P.)

Writing an I.E.P. can be so daunting. I have put together this blog post to hopefully make the IEP process clearer and less daunting for some. I have divided this blog up using the headings: Steps to Writing an I.E.P., Gather Information About The Child, Assessments, Writing the I.E.P. Targets, The I.E.P. Meeting, Who Attends?, When Are The Meetings?, What’s Involved?

Steps to Writing an I.E.P.

This is the layout of the I.E.P. I use. If you would like a copy of it here is the link to my store:

Page 1: Pupil Information

All Pupil Information at a quick glance, handy for contact details, handing over to new teachers or to outside agencies.

Page 2: Outside Agencies

Keep a list of up to date outside agencies the children are working with or have worked with in the past.

During IEP meeting parents can double check the contact details you have and update you on any sessions the children have for the upcoming term.

Pages 3 & 4: Pupil Profile: Learning Characteristics

I have broken this down into sections to make the information clearer and more organised. It is easier to scan through and find something you need during a meeting etc. These are the headings I find work best for me in the ASD class setting

Page 5:

Pupil Interview: if applicable questions could be asked to the pupil about their learning and how they feel about school etc.

Parent Input and Record of Meetings: In this section I like to include the dates and times of IEP meetings and who has attended from the school (e.g. teacher, SNAs, mainstream teacher) and the family members that have attended. I also include any big decisions made at a meeting or any new targets for the child. It is handy to have as a quick reference.

Page 6: Specific Long Term Learning Targets

On this page I have space for 4 learning targets. I fill in the child’s long term targets for the year here as an easy reference and guide for their short term targets.

Pages 7 – 10: Short Term Targets

I like to have this section landscape and have one page per target to include as much information as necessary.

I include any strategies/resources I plan on using and add to these during the IEP meetings. It is handy to look back on when planning lessons as you may not remember all of the ideas you had.

At the end of each term, I write a short reflection at the bottom. This helps to inform the target for the new term or the next target a child might work on. It is also helpful information for the teacher who will have the class the following year or the mainstream class teacher to see the pace the child progresses at.

Gather Information About The Child

I like to start by gathering as much information about the child as I can. I like to get information from anyone who has worked with the child most recently. Every year, I send home a parent/guardian questionnaire to find out what targets the parent would like their child to work on and to find out how the child is at home. An input from a parent is invaluable as they know their children the best. This helps you to form an idea of the child’s strengths and needs in your mind if you haven’t met them before. If you have an opportunity to meet with the parents/guardians before the school year starts, then even better, it is a great way to begin to build a relationship, get to know them and find out as much about their child as you can. I like to send home the questionnaire before the meeting and gather info about the child beforehand. That way, I am going into the meeting prepared, knowing some things about their child and we can have a much more productive meeting than if I didn’t know anything about their child at all.

Link to the parent questionnaire on my store is here:

Chat to the child’s previous teacher or SNAs that have worked with the child. Ask them lots of questions about what strategies worked, what didn’t work, what the child liked and disliked. Ask what targets they think the child should move onto next. If the child attends any public or private outside agencies e.g. Speech and Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists, CAHMS, Behavioural Therapists etc. I would contact them and ask for their most recent report or recommendations for the child. This information might already be available to you but it is nice to start a relationship with the outside agencies that work with the children in your care. Personally, I find their advice invaluable and use their knowledge and advice to plan targets for the children in my class. Once you have chatted to some of these people you should have some ideas for some targets for the child you are working with.


At the start of the school year, I tell parents/guardians that we will spend the first month getting to know the children, helping them settle into their new class and routine and carry out assessments. I let them know that we will have our IEP meeting in early October. This has worked well for me for the past few years. If I have worked with some children the year previously we might have the meeting a little earlier or have decided on some of their new targets for the school year previously. We still need to carry out up to date assessments incase anything has changed over the summer months.

There are specific assessments you could carry out for children with Special Educational Needs. The SESS (Special Education Support Service) run courses on these assessments, they haven’t announced their calendar for 20/21 yet but here is a link to their website if you want to have a look:

Examples of some assessments (shown in the photos) the SESS run courses on are: VB Mapp (Verbal Behaviour Milestones Assessment and Placement Program), The ABLLS-R (The Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills – Revised), The ALFS (The Assessment of Functional Living Skills Guide), Pep-3 (The Psychoeducational Profile-Third Edition)

If you can’t get your hands on these assessments or do the trainings before the school year starts, an assessment book I have found useful in the past is ‘The Basic Skills Checklist’. It covers a lot of skills that children should be taught, it is short and it is user friendly. Some examples shown below.

Writing the I.E.P. Targets

Once you have gathered as much information as you can and have carried out an assessment on the child, you should have enough information to fill in the ‘Pupil Profile’ section.

For writing the I.E.P. Targets, when doing the Post Grad in Autism it was suggested that a child with autism’s I.E.P. should nearly always include a ‘Communication and Language’ target and a ‘SPHE’ target as these are the areas a person with autism may typically have difficulty with. Since this, I always ensure to have a target on both of these topics, where appropriate. I also like to include a target on a strength or interest a student has e.g. if a child has an interest in cooking, I would include a target around this that might relate to maths, fine motor or to furthering their cooking skills. I think it is so important to remember to include a target based on an interest or strength as sometimes we can be too focused on the child’s weaknesses. Using a strength or interest to teach other topics or subjects to the child can be so effective.

I like to use the S.M.A.R.T. acronym to help write my targets and success criteria, shown below. This ensures that anyone reading the target could begin to work on it and knows exactly what the target and the success criteria are. Example of vague target: John will stop pulling hair. Example of SMART target: John will reduce the amount of times he pulls hair by 20%

The I.E.P. Meeting

Before the I.E.P. Meeting: If it is my first time working with the child or it is the first I.E.P. meeting of the year, I would go through the ‘Pupil Profile’ section during the meeting to make sure everything that is included is up to date and we have a true picture of the child at home and in school.

If it is my second year working with the child or the 2nd or 3rd I.E.P. Meeting of the year, I will make changes to the ‘Pupil Profile’ sections and send a copy home for the parent to have a look at to see if there are any changes that need to be made. I ask the parent/guardian to return it with any notes so I can update the I.E.P ahead of the meeting and to include any topics they would like to discuss in the meeting. I find this makes the meeting much more productive. It gives us time to prepare for anything the parent would like to chat about e.g. If a parent would like to talk about a particular behaviour a child is engaging in e.g. biting, I can gather all of my observations and reports about that behaviour to have ready to hand if needed in the meeting. I can also prepare resources or strategies for that behaviour to discuss with the parent.

Who Attends?

In our setting, the Teacher and the Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) working with the child attend the meeting. It helps to ensure everything is covered, For example: there are some points of the day where the Teacher may not be with the child and the SNA is. It also helps to ensure everyone working with the child is on the same page and having an input into their targets, the strategies/resources that are going to be used etc. Having this many people at the meeting also means that someone is able to take some informal notes. If the child integrates for part of their day to mainstream, the mainstream teacher may attend the meeting too. I always make sure the parent is aware there will be this many people at the meeting as it can be intimidating. Sometimes depending on the situation, the mainstream teacher may have a separate meeting with the parent.

When Are The Meetings?

We have 3 I.E.P. Meetings per school year in our setting. This isn’t compulsory but it is what works best for us. We have the first meeting at the end of September/start of October. In this meeting we decide on the targets for the year and break them down to decide on what part of the target will be worked on for the first term. We have our 2nd I.E.P. Meeting in February to review the target we had been working on and to decide on the target to focus on for the rest of the year. In general, this meeting is much shorter and really just a check in as if there are any issues throughout the year, I would phone the parents or arrange a meeting if appropriate. Our 3rd and final I.E.P. Meeting usually takes place in June, we review how the child got on with their targets for the year and discuss any possible targets that they could work on in the next year. If appropriate, the child’s teacher and SNAs for the next year might attend this meeting too. We don’t always know who it will be at this stage but it is a nice way to transition to the next school year if we do.

What’s Involved?

I would always ensure to have extra pens, paper, water and some treats left out. Incase a parent or staff member forgets a pen or needs anything while we are there. We have general chat at the beginning and then we go through the I.E.P. I print a copy for the parent, a copy for myself and depending how many others are attending, some might share a copy of it. I will ask the parents to double check the child’s information on the first page and the details of the outside agencies the child uses, at this point I would always ask about any upcoming appointments the child has or any previous appointments the child has attended. As I mentioned above, if appropriate, we will go through the ‘Pupil Profile’ section.

We go through the long term targets, I like to have suggested targets ready for the meeting, depending on how well I know the child I might have 3 or 4 suggested targets. We discuss if they are appropriate or adjust the success criteria if necessary, we then move on and decide which aspect of the target will be focused on for the first term in the ‘Short Term Targets’ section. Again, I will have suggested targets ready here. This is a personal preference, I think it makes the meeting more meaningful and productive, other people prefer to start with a blank slate and come up with the targets at the meeting. I would of course let the parents/guardians know that I will have some suggested targets ready and ask if they have any in mind beforehand. This question is also included in the Parent Questionnaire I send home.

If you’re still reading well done for making it this far, that was a long post. I hope it is helpful to anyone writing an I.E.P.

If you would like some more information here are some useful links:

Special Education Support Service (SESS): Powerpoint on the I.E.P. Process:

NCSE: Guidelines on the I.E.P. Process:

If you have any questions or comments please contact me I would love to hear from you.


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Morning Work-Packs

What do the children in your class do first thing in the morning? Sometimes the morning can be a little be unstructured with children arriving at different times, some children needing a movement break or OT straight away, some needing to eat etc. Morning work-packs are something that have worked well for me to bring everyone together in the morning time with some groups I have had.

How to structure?

Each child has their own morning routine unique to them to help them settle e.g. unpacking their bag, using the toilet, eating, having a movement break or some quiet time. Once the children are settled, next on their schedule is morning work-packs. We all sit together at a group table doing our morning work-packs. If it suits your child or setting better, they could sit in pairs or individually.

What’s the function?

When the children are sitting at a group table to complete their work-packs, we can work on some targets from children’s Individual Education Plans (IEPs). For example the children may be learning to tolerate others sitting near them, they may be learning to sit and work as part of a group for X amount of minutes or to complete X number of tasks in a group setting. The children could be learning to work parallel to another child, to tolerate others in their workspace or to concentrate on their own work while being part of a group.

Because we use this time to work on some of those targets for the children, we ensure to include tasks the children have mastered before with some variety or change in the tasks. I find getting the children to start with these kinds of activities helps them to focus and settle into the school environment and their day. 

What to include?

Depending on the needs of the children I am working with, I include a variety of different tasks. Some children may have one or two tasks to complete, some children may have a full work-pack of tasks and others may have a choice of tasks to complete. I have included some photos of each activity I mention.

Some general things I like to include are: Calendar related activities, day, week, month, weather. This gives the children a chance to process and figure out what to put onto the calendar before doing it as part of our morning circle.

Questions about the child: ‘How am I feeling today?’, ‘What colour ___ am I wearing today?’

Identifying, matching or sorting tasks, e.g. shapes, emotions, upper and lower case letter matching.

Practice writing their name, making marks or drawing lines, shapes. I laminate these pages and keep a small whiteboard marker with the child’s work-pack so this task can be repeated or swapped with other children’s work-packs.

The ideas for these work-packs are endless, these are just some of the activities I have found have worked well.

Here is a link to the morning work-packs I use, made using Smarty Symbols:

If you have any questions or comments I would love to hear from you.


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Diversify Your Bookshelf

I’m unsure what to say so I’m just going to get straight into this blogpost. I spent today educating myself on how I could do something that might make even a small difference. I decided to start by putting my energy into how I could make a difference in my own classroom. I researched books about diversity, kindness and togetherness to use with children in the classroom. I would like to share the books below. I have some already, have ordered some of the books today and hope to order more and add to my collection as the year goes on. I hope this is helpful to anyone looking for something similar for their own children or children in their care.

“Kids who see their own experiences reflected in books gain self-confidence. And when they read about experiences that differ from their own, they develop curiosity and empathy.”

‘All Are Welcome’ by Alexandra Penfold

This is a ‘New York Times’ bestselling picture book about a school where all children are welcome. I think it underpins the ethos of an Educate Together school and would be an amazing story to teach children that ‘no matter what, they have a place and are welcome in their school.’

‘A Rainbow of Friends’ by PK Hallinan

This book has been recommended for children of younger classes. This book focuses on reminding children to celebrate their differences in looks and personality. It shows us that when we celebrate the uniqueness of others, the world is a better place.

‘I Am Enough’ by Grace Byers

This is another ‘New York Times’ bestselling picture book. It focuses on loving who you are, respecting others and being kind to one another.

‘What Does It Mean To Be Global?’ by Chris Hill

This story shows children from around the world engaging in everyday activities like playing, singing, eating and experiencing traditions. It celebrates diversity and helps children to begin to understand that being global means being a citizen of the world.

‘My Name Is Not Refugee” by Kate Miler
This book follows the story of a boy and his mother as they go on a journey. It explains their journey simply, how it will be sad but exciting. It explains how they may have to walk and walk, it may be interesting but also difficult. This story has questions on some pages, inviting the children reading it to think about or imagine the decisions they would make.

‘Where Are You From?’ by Yamile Saied Méndez 
This picture book tells a story of a girl who constantly gets asked a simple question that doesn’t have a simple answer. Where she’s from. This book is a great conversation starter in the home or classroom.

‘Welcome To Our World: A Celebration Of Children Everywhere!’ by Moira Butterfield

In this beautifully illustrated book, young children can learn all about what people in other countries eat, wear and play, and how they speak and celebrate.

‘Not Quite Snow White’ by Ashley Franklin

This is an inspiring picture book that highlights the importance of self-confidence. This book takes a look look at what happens when that confidence is shaken or lost. Tameika encourages us all to let our magic shine.

‘It’s Okay To Be Different’ by Todd Parr

This book helps to inspire children to embrace their differences through acceptance of others and self-confidence. It uses quirky and imaginative illustrations.

‘The Skin You Live In’ by Michael Tyler

This book is written like a nursery rhyme and delivers the important message of social acceptance to young children. Themes including: friendship, acceptance, self-esteem, and diversity are promoted in this wonderful picture book.

‘We’re Different, We’re The Same: Sesame Street’ by Bobbi Kates

A book from Sesame Street to teach children that we may all look different on the outside–but it’s important to remember that deep down, we are all very much alike.

Here are some links to more resources if you are interested: