The Autism Centre of Excellence (ACE) is an initiative of The Special Child Trust to transform the autism education landscape in India by building a not-for-profit center for high quality research based education that trains teachers and educates children...
Autism - A Global Challenge
3 May' 2013
The Special Child Trust brings Vincent Strully to India fro the first time. Mr. Strully is the founder of NECC and a leader in autism intervention. Founded in 1975, NECC is a global leader in autism research & intervention.
'Closer'
A film dealing with autism
Special Child
The BLUE ROOM Project : Mission

To enhance the quality of early childhood programs by offering a practical, innovative and developmentally appropriate curriculum for special children, in a unique and highly specialized setting.

Why is a Blue Room setting helpful?

When a child is diagnosed with ASD, the need for ‘early intervention’, in all domains of child development has been proven beyond doubt. This is even truer in the field of Special Education.

While inclusive settings provide certain indubitable advantages, very young children with severe special needs often require far more structured and specialised settings than inclusive ones.

What is the Blue Room Project?

It is a “getting ready for school” program helps the child with special needs understand the world beyond home. It might be termed a pre-school program with a difference: the numbers are small, the setting is specialized and the staff trained in all areas of intervention.

Who benefits from the Blue Room Project?

In a nut shell, all children. If the tenets of Special Education were to be used in every educational setting, the results can only be spectacular.

Every educational institution should have a structured pre-school program. The aim is to facilitate the achievement of child development milestones.

In specific circumstances, The Blue Room (as we like to call it) is ideal for children with special needs, who have delayed milestones, in one or several domains of development.

The Special Child Trust has developed blue prints of the Blue Room with the help of an architectural firm - TEAM Architects. The trust has also created a detailed implementation manual that will be used by schools that chose to adopt the Blue Room in their curriculum.

Through this endeavour, we hope to fund the setting up of the Blue Room in schools that do not have the resources to do so themselves. We will be involved in overseeing the execution and functioning of this room wherever necessary. We will also be involved in getting relevant faculty for the room, helping them get trained to a level of international excellence, guiding them through the implementation process, thereby ensuring that our special children receive world class intervention and therapies.

The Blue Room Project - Concept Note
Methodology

The Blue Room fundamentals rest in a comprehensive system that includes curriculum, assessment, implementation and evaluation as well as professional development in a high quality learning environment.

The system is able to meet the needs of children with a broad range of abilities. Children with different learning styles and needs are able to function together in a well-organized environment, with room for differentiation based on skills and strengths.

Structure of the Curriculum

The organizational structure of the curriculum includes five components:

  • HOW CHILDREN DEVELOP AND LEARN

  • WHAT CHILDREN LEARN

  • THE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

  • THE TEACHER'S ROLE

  • THE FAMILY'S ROLE

 
A. HOW CHILDREN DEVELOP AND LEARN

The focus is balanced between teacher-directed and child-initiated learning with an emphasis on responding the learning styles of the children and building on their strengths and interests. Developmental milestones are the focal areas of curriculum planning.

 
B. WHAT CHILDREN LEARN

Under the learning curve, the target domains are: social/emotional, physical, cognitive, and language development. The curriculum establishes an early foundation for the development of basic skills including cognitive, fine motor, gross motor, speech, adaptive skills, and socialization skills.

The curriculum identifies the knowledge, skills, and concepts important for pre-school children to acquire, mainly in the following areas:

  • Literacy
    Understanding language, vocabulary building, phonological awareness, letters, words, print, comprehension, and books.

  • Mathematics
    Space and size, patterns and relationships, spatial awareness, measurement, and organization.

  • Environmental awareness
    The world we live in, things/people/animals, the weather; how things grow etc.

  • The Arts
    dance, music, drama and the visual arts.

  • Technology
    awareness of technology, basic mechanics behind certain phenomenon.

 
C. THE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

The learning environment meets children's developmental needs. It makes all children feel safe and comfortable, inculcating a sense of belonging. This feeling of safety and security facilitates their development as independent and confident learners. The learning environment is thus, the starting point for effective early intervention.

The learning environment must be a well-ordered classroom that promotes learning, helps to build a classroom community, and allows teachers to observe and interact with children in positive ways.

The classroom environment can convey powerful messages to children - "this is a good place to be," "you belong here," "you can do things on your own here," "this is a safe place to explore and try out your ideas."

The five components of The Blue Room curriculum can be delivered to the children through the following 11 interest areas:

 
  • Blocks
  • Dramatic play
  • Toys and games
  • Art
  • Library
  • Discovery
  • Sand and water
  • Music and movement
  • Cooking
  • Computers
  • Outdoors

The 10 indoor interest areas plus an outdoor space offer multiple opportunities for children to explore, discover, and learn. Interest areas provide a setting for children to learn academic content and apply skills.

 
Creating the Learning Environment

Setting up and maintaining the classroom

The physical space of the classroom is organized into 11 interest areas. The interest areas offer multiple opportunities for children to explore, discover, and grow. In each, the arrangement of furniture and the materials involves children not only in learning but also in caring for the classroom and what is in it.

The Physical Space

The physical environment in a classroom has a profound effect on individual children, the group as a whole and the teachers. The physical environment includes the size of the room, the colours of the walls, the type of flooring, the amount of light, type of furniture and the number of windows.

A physical setting that is safe, attractive, comfortable, and well designed helps children engage meaningfully.

A physical space divided into interest areas is an ideal setting for pre-school children who want to explore, make things, experiment, and pursue their own interests.

Separate interest areas with varied materials offer children a range of clear choices. Sometimes children want to work alone and sometimes they want to work with other children. Areas devoted to books, art activities, or toys and games provide several choices for quiet activities, while areas set aside for dramatic play, block building, woodworking, or large muscle activities provide choices for active engagement.

Interest areas, which sub-divide the classroom into spaces that accommodate a few children at a time, address pre-school children's preference to be in a small-group setting. With a manageable number of other children, they feel comfortable and play more positively than in larger groups. Likewise, in a smaller well-defined space, where they can concentrate on their work, children's play tends to become more complex and elaborate.

The classroom should be divided into areas for dramatic play, block building, toys and games, art, looking at books and writing, sand and water play, and a discovery table. There should also be a place for cooking activities, even if it's just a table that also serves as a "snack bar" where children can help prepare and serve themselves a snack.

Ideally, children should have access to musical instruments and equipment where they can make or listen to music. Computers could also be included in any suitable interest area.

The power of the environment is immense, and hence, the environment can and should be used creatively and effectively to convey the following messages:

  • Clean and aesthetically pleasing environment - "This is a good place to be!"

  • Each child has a permanent, designated place for his personal belongings - "You belong here."

  • Daily routines, equipment neatly arranged in the same places - "This is a place you can trust."

  • A quiet corner, with a comforting chair/ cushion, where children can retreat if they want to - "There are places where you can be by yourself, if you want to."

  • Equipment, toys that are easily accessible - "You can do many things on your own here."

  • Equipment, toys that are arranged attractively, inviting children to use them - "This is a place where you can explore."

Establishing a structure for each day

Daily routines and schedules create a sense of order. Children know what to expect, and they understand what is expected of them. With the assurance that their environment is predictable and familiar, they can settle into learning and function as part of a group. Predictability and order of their daily routines helps to create a sense of calm and order within them.

This is essential for a successful teaching-learning process. Children with developmental delays, often exhibit anxiety about "what after this?" A clear, easily visible pictorial schedule for each child is important.

Sample Daily Schedule

  • Planning/preparation time
    Review the plans for the day. Conduct health and safety check (e.g. refill bathroom supplies, remove any broken, sharp or torn materials. Prepare interest areas (e.g. mix paint, place puzzles on a table, display new books). Set out name cards in sign-in area.

  • Arrival
    Greet families and children individually. Help children store belongings, select a quiet activity.

  • Group meeting
    Give a signal to gather the group and lead children in singing songs and finger plays and sharing news. Read a poem, talk about the day's activities, and talk about the choices for the morning. Consider the needs of children who are not ready for large-group activities (e.g. hold two smaller groups, have one teacher sit close to children who need extra attention).

  • Choice time and small groups
    Guide children in selecting interest areas. Observe and interact with individual children to extend play and learning. Lead a short, small-group activity that builds on children's skills and interests. Work with children engaged in study activities.

  • Cleanup
    Help children put away materials in each interest area.

  • Snack time
    Sit with children and enjoy a snack together or supervise the "snack bar."

  • Group time
    Invite children to share what they did, lead music and movement activity, read aloud (e.g. story, poem), record ideas, or write experience story.

  • Outdoor choice time
    Supervise the playground toys and materials (swings, climbers, slides). Observe and interact with children as they jump rope, play ball games, blow bubbles, make nature discoveries, and so on. Extend study work outdoors, if appropriate.

  • Story time
    Read and discuss a storybook. Use props to help children retell stories.

  • Lunch
    Help children to prepare the tables for lunch. Encourage conversations about the day's events, the meal itself, and topics of interest to children. Guide children in cleaning up after lunch, brushing teeth, setting out cots/mats, and preparing for rest.

  • Closing and departures
    Lead group discussion about the day and plans for the next day. Involve children in quiet activities, hanging up their artwork, and preparing for the next day. Greet parents and share something about the child's day.

  • Planning and reflection
    Discuss how the day went, progress of individual children (skills, needs, interests), work on portfolios and observation notes. Review and make plans for the next day.

Creating a classroom community

"The social and emotional environment of the classroom is a very important factor in the development if special children. It is important for teachers to relate to children in positive ways and help them do the same with one another. A positive social climate helps children feel good about school, learning and interacting with others, thereby helping them perform to the best of their ability.

D. THE TEACHER'S ROLE

The teacher's role is an ongoing cycle of observing children, guiding their learning, and assessing their progress. Teachers have to motivate children, build on their prior knowledge and strengths, and support their learning by using a variety of strategies to increase their knowledge, skills, and understanding.Assessment information must be used to guide children's learning throughout the day: during large-group and small-group times, routine times, long-term studies, and in interest areas.

E. THE FAMILY'S ROLE

Home and school are a young child's two most important worlds. Children must bridge these two worlds every day. If home and school are connected in positive and respectful ways, children feel secure. However, children suffer when the two worlds are at odds because of apathy, lack of understanding, or an inability to work together. Teachers can build a true partnership when they truly value the family's role in a child's education and recognize how much they can accomplish by working with families.

Implementation of the Curriculam

The curriculum is individualized to suit each child's strengths and skills.

A baseline is established for each child, based on a formal psycho educational assessment, observations, informal assessment and parent feedback.

The main spring of the program is the Individual Education Plan (IEP), which is formulated by the school in conjunction with the parents.

 

The IEP is a dynamic document, which is constantly revised and reviewed.

Assessment

Collecting Facts

Observe and document each child's development and learning. The first step in assessing children to support learning is to collect facts. One effective way to do this is through ongoing observation and documentation.

  • Write observation notes related to what children do and say during their everyday experiences.

  • Collect samples of children's work, such as writing and art samples, photos, audio or video clips, etc

Analyzing and Evaluating Facts

Track children's progress

The collected facts need to be analyzed, in relation to the goals and objectives of the curriculum.

How does this child's progress compare to most 3- to 5-year-old children? Using observation notes and documentation, consider which developmental step best describes the child's level of development in relation to each objective.

Planning for Each Child and the Group

Use assessment information to plan for individual children and groups of children.

The primary goal of ongoing assessment is to build on children's strengths and to offer them challenging, yet achievable, experiences to guide their learning.

Reporting Children's Progress: to families, other teachers and heads of school
Include families in the assessment and planning process.

Teacher Training

A continuous process, through short programs, workshops, seminars, visiting lecturers etc.

The Blue Room has already been successfully implemented at the Vasant Valley School, New Delhi.

  The Blue Room Project
Design Dimensions