Communication Specialist College Doncaster (CSCD) has been using Strategies and Measurable Interaction in Live English (smILE) Therapy*, a recognised communication programme for three years, and have seen students thrive.
Delivered by an expert multi-disciplinary team, it teaches students the skills of communicating independently in a variety of settings out in the community.
Modules include everyday tasks such as ordering in a cafe, asking for train times at an information desk, asking a stranger for directions, attending an interview, booking an appointment, or even something as simple as asking to borrow something.
Stacey Betts, assistant principal at CSCD, said: “We are so glad that we introduced this therapy for our students as it has had such a positive impact on their confidence and their experience with us.
“The therapy is used to encourage students to think about how they can get their message across which is especially important if they are deaf and/or non-verbal. We also teach them what they can do if the other person doesn't understand them, or vice versa. We break each interaction down into small elements such as where to stand, where to look and what to do if the other person is busy.
“The modules are created by the speech and language team at CSCD and are bespoke to each students’ communication needs be that for those using BSL / SSE or speech.
“The therapy team worked closely to support our teaching staff so they could also deliver this programme which resulted in the sharing of skills and expertise as well as increasing the team’s confidence levels.”
Students complete a ‘before’ and ‘after’ video which they watch back and score themselves so they can clearly see how much progress they have made which boosts their confidence for completing these tasks in real life situations. It also helps those leading the groups to see exactly where each student has difficulty in order to support them with these specific elements.
Student Jade said: “I speak more confidently now and when I go shopping I always write down 'Can I have...' to help me communicate with shop staff because I am deaf and can't speak clearly to them. I will also write down 'Can I have a receipt please?”
Jade’s Mum said: “We’ve definitely seen a difference in Jades confidence in shops. When you ask her to go and find an item, she is definitely more confident and will happily go off on her own.”
“smILE Therapy was a completely new way of working with groups of students in our college, and it has enabled them to learn skills that they may have found too intimidating before. Breaking it down into small manageable chunks makes it much easier to process and has given students the confidence to take part in real life communication situations which they may have otherwise avoided.
“We now have three speech therapists and eight members of teaching staff trained to deliver smILE therapy throughout the college, and it is becoming part of the weekly timetable for many of our students, with the communication task module they are working on specifically chosen to suit that group's needs.
“smILE Therapy is engrained in everything we do now and an integral part of our offering. This is only set to continue in the future as we are all so proud of the difference it has made both for our students and entire staff team,” added Stacey.