For some nursing students, there is a gap in knowledge around supporting children with SEN. Here, Rose and Avanelle, Lecturers at London South Bank University, discuss some of the common issues they find with their students and how a collaboration with BeyondAutism looked to address those.
Providing care for all
Within Child Nursing there is the requirement to provide care for all children. This is promoted by the professional standards of the Nursing and Midwifery (NMC) Code which stipulates that nurses must prioritise people. Within this mandate there is the need to treat patients with care, preserve their dignity and safety, and treat them with respect. However, children with additional learning needs who access health services, are more at risk of not receiving the needed reasonable adjustments, not being involved in their care, and not being heard.
Child Nursing students at London South Bank University (LSBU) gain practical experience in a variety of different ward-based and community settings to ensure they are able to care for a range of different patient needs upon qualification. This includes placement experiences in Special Education Needs (SEN) schools, such as BeyondAutism schools.
Before, during and after placements, LSBU nursing students are supported and supervised to ensure that the children are appropriately cared for and the needs of the nursing students themselves are accommodated. Students at LSBU are prepared for attending special school placements through an introductory session prior to placement and then attending reflection sessions during placements. During these sessions the placement experience in SEN schools is discussed in detail, in small groups, to allow students the opportunity to learn, ask questions as well as recognise the value in attending such placements.
SEN knowledge gap
Nursing students who are armed with up-to-date knowledge and understanding are better placed to provide care for children with SEN. Preparing students to provide optimal care for these children begins with the training received while they are in their first year of university. Whilst a gap in knowledge is known, it was further emphasised by feedback from our students; some students indicated that they had never engaged with children who have additional learning needs and sometimes find this new experience to be overwhelming. Even for students who had some experience of this, they highlighted that having a session where the unique needs of these children are explored is helpful in increasing effectiveness in caring for these children in healthcare settings.
The opportunity arose to strengthen the preparation of our students when a contact from BeyondAutism schools offered to provide training on Behaviour Analysis, an approach employed within the school. A training session was developed based on communication with Children and Young People (C&YP) with SEN, utilising the specialist and real-life experiences of Behaviour Analysts and Speech and Language Therapists from BeyondAutism. The overarching aims were to improve the preparation of nursing students for SEN school placements, enrich the children’s experiences, and better equip the future nursing workforce to care for C&YP with SEN. This, in turn, would enhance the future experiences of C&YP when accessing health services.
Increased knowledge and confidence
The feedback from nursing students following this training by BeyondAutism has been phenomenal, with students stating they feel better equipped in caring for C&YP with SEN. Students have stated they feel less worried in attending placements in SEN schools, and do not appear to be as overwhelmed. Following training, the nursing students stated they have increased knowledge on the individual needs of C&YP with SEN, as well as augmented communication systems. Students have reported they have been able to understand, learn and practice communication and behavioural techniques to enhance children’s experiences during their placements in SEN schools, as well as being able to transfer and employ these techniques in their clinical ward placements. This training has not only provided the nursing students with insight into the principles of behaviour, assessments used in the school, and methods of augmented communication, but it has also aided the development of the interprofessional collaboration skills of students, as required by NMC standards.
Overall, it is widely accepted that children’s nurses need to have the relevant knowledge, training and skills when caring for children with additional learning needs. This is of great importance to allow these children to feel listened to and involved in their care, where this is appropriate. Training and exposing children’s nursing students early on in their careers allows for the awareness and understanding of SEN to be an integral component of the foundations of their nursing practice. The collaboration between BeyondAutism and LSBU in embedding this augmented communication training within the nursing programme is one step towards confirming the future nursing workforce are able to ensure children with learning needs have equal access to healthcare. We give thanks to BeyondAutism and recognise that the learning from this training will not only be relevant to BeyondAutism schools, but it can also prepare students to support patients, particularly those with autism, when they access the healthcare environment.
If you’re an Allied Health Professional and looking for information on how to support autistic people, take a look at our online training course.
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