Outdoor Learning

Introducing a new EASEYS for ASN which explores an inclusive approach to outdoor learning and play experiences.

This document contains a range of ideas and suggestions to consider when planning for and with the children in your setting. It could also support a discussion with parents, professionals and the community around the spaces, experiences and interactions you provide.

Supporting Families

We have created a new tab within our site menu called Supporting Families. Within this section you can find useful information for parents and carers on various topics related to Additional Support Needs.

There is also a Signposting directory which reflects the Highland and Scottish context of support available to families.

This new menu will be added to as other links are highlighted to us. If you would like to see something added in, please use the comments section below to contact us.

Staff wellbeing

from Aberdeenshire Educational Psychology Service

This is the work of our colleagues in Aberdeenshire. It has some great reminders of how to look after yourself and how to support your own wellbeing and that of your colleagues.

We thought it would be useful to share their link with you, especially at this time, as we approach the start of the winter.

Staff Wellbeing

What’s in a label? Grief, loss and anxiety

Adapted from an original article by Scott Berinato

During this pandemic, many of us have been feeling anxious and worried for ourselves, our children and the future. In schools, it has been difficult to plan, to support and to get into a routine or pattern that feels ‘normal’ – because it isn’t ‘normal’ (whatever that was). The multiplicity of feelings we have might be more easily managed if we label them as feelings of grief or loss. The world has changed. We know this is temporary, but it sometimes doesn’t feel like that. We have lost our usual benchmarks and the loss of connection with family and friends means that our usual supports are not always there. This is hitting us and we’re grieving.

You might have noticed that over the last few months you have gone through the classic five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, acceptance). You also might have been aware of anticipatory grief and anxiety – that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain. Our primitive brain senses that lack of safety.

Understanding the stages of grief might be helpful, but remember, the stages aren’t linear and may not happen in this order. There’s denial: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.

Acceptance, as you might imagine, is where the power lies. We find control in acceptance. I can wash my hands. I can keep a safe distance. I can learn how to work virtually.

Unhealthy anticipatory grief is really anxiety, and that’s what gives us the physical pain and the racing mind we might be experiencing – imagining the worst. Our goal is not to try to make this go away. Your mind won’t let you do that and it can be painful to try and force it. The goal is to find balance in the things you’re thinking. To calm yourself, you want to come into the present. This will be familiar advice to anyone who has meditated or practiced mindfulness, but it can be done very simply. You can name five things in the room. There’s a computer, a chair, a picture of the dog, an old rug, and a coffee mug. It’s that simple. Breathe. Realize that in the present moment, nothing you’ve anticipated has happened. In this moment, you’re okay. You have food. You are not sick. Use your senses and think about what they feel. The desk is hard. The blanket is soft. I can feel the breath coming into my nose. This really will work to dampen some of that pain.

You can also think about how to let go of what you can’t control.

Everyone will have different levels of fear and grief and it manifests in different ways. If you continue to feel overwhelmed with grief, keep trying. There is something powerful about naming this as grief. It helps us feel what’s inside of us. When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through. We tell ourselves things like, I feel sad, but I shouldn’t feel that; other people have it worse. Stop at the first feeling. I feel sad. Let me go for five minutes feeling sad. Our work is to feel our sadness and fear and anger whether or not someone else is feeling something. Fighting it doesn’t help because our bodies are producing the feeling. If we allow the feelings to happen, they’ll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us. Then we’re not victims.

Sometimes we try not to feel what we’re feeling because we have a fear of being overpowered by them. If I feel sad and let that in, it’ll never go away. The truth is a feeling will move through us. We feel it and it goes and then we go to the next feeling. It’s absurd to think we shouldn’t feel grief right now. Let yourself feel the grief and keep going.

Bernadette Cairns, Principal Educational Psychologist

An exploration around peer support for secondary pupils in Scotland with experience of self-harm

This paper (written by Victoria Shepherd, an Educational Psychologist working in Highland) shares research carried out within Scotland exploring peer support for secondary pupils with experience of self-harm. It is widely suggested that friends are a main source of support for young people who self-harm, yet limited research explores specific supports offered by friends, or any help required to provide successful support. Qualitative data were gathered from secondary pupils via semi-structured interviews. Findings indicated that friends provide support by being directly there for young people, providing distractions and taking responsibility. Friends could consider young people’s perspectives more, initiate conversations about self-harm and spend more time with young people. Supportive friends speak to others for reassurance and would like additional people to provide support. Implications for practice included highlighting support provided by friends, normalising the term ‘self-harm’ and providing peer support training for friends.

A guide for pupils with ASN returning to school

This useful document was put together by the support team based at the Pines in Inverness. They have pulled together some useful links for supporting pupils on their return to school in August.

‘Please find attached a simple guide to user friendly resources to support children with ASN returning to school in August

The Pines Neurodevelopmental Service in Highland.

Worries and anxieties ~ information for families and schools

At the end of 2019, as part of ongoing discussions about helping families to support pupils, Millburn Academy staff asked for information for the school website about supporting young people experiencing anxiety. Emma Campbell, Primary Mental Health Worker (PMHW) and Team Lead for the PMHW service, was doing some similar systemic work for Fortrose Academy. We decided to work together with Kirsty Jarvie, Children Services Worker (CSW), to make a resource that could be linked to school websites and easily shared as an early intervention. Having a mental health resource that is easy to share and access is especially important in a mostly rural area like Highland.

Use this link to access information on worries and anxieties.

We hope this information is useful. Please let us know by using the comments if you have any feedback or ideas for improvement or further development.

Are you gathering the views of the children and young people you work with?

Tools for gathering the views of children and young people

This universal pack of ideas includes a range of attractive, interactive tools devised and collated by Highland Council Psychological Service. They follow a developmental sequence to allow you to select the most suitable approaches for gathering child views at all ages and stages.