Sensory Engagement for Mental Well-being
This event looks at simple sensory strategies that can be employed to improve the mental well-being of Sensory Beings (people whose primary experience of the world, and meaning within it, is sensory, for example individuals with profound and multiple learning disabilities). We also look at how these strategies can be extended to support our own well-being.
At a time when we are considering mental health first aid for all it is important that we also turn our attention to those who are unable to access support through traditional means. Research shows that the more disabled a person is the more likely they are to experience mental ill health, which means it is especially important that we look to be proactive in caring for the mental well-being of those likely to be at greatest risk.
The day will be collaborative, enlightening and empowering and should enable you to make simple instant changes to your practice that will have a positive impact on the mental well-being of the Sensory Beings in your care.
The day will be of particular interest to:
Parents and carers of individuals with profound disabilities.
Staff from special school settings who support students with profound disabilities.
Staff from adult care settings that support individuals with profound disabilities or later stage dementia.
Speech and language therapists.
Snapshots of feedback from Sensory Engagement for Mental Well-being days:
A book to go with the course? Try:
Thinking about Ofsted?
In devising the new inspection framework Ofsted consulted with the mental health charity Young Minds and adjusted the document to be less focused on outcomes and more on the quality of provision. The introduction of the ‘personal development’ category is a huge endorsement of the importance of wellbeing alongside education for a fulfilled life. Ofsted ask that schools “support learners to develop their character – including their resilience, confidence and independence – and help them know how to keep physically and mentally healthy (EIF 2019 p 11). They explain that this is so that pupils develop the skills to keep themselves mentally healthy (SIH 2019 p 59).
Mental health has begun, in recent years, to be recognized in education alongside physical health. Where schools have been actively promoting health snacks and exercise since the foundation of the Healthy Schools Programme in 1999 they are now also beginning to consider how they promote the mental health of students. We have witnessed a sprouting of new provision for typically developing students, many new initiatives give children, who can access language and traditional forms of education, insight into how to support their own mental health. But what is there for students with complex needs?
Ofsted ask that leaders ensure all pupils thrive and that all pupils have their needs met (SIH 2019 p 58) and that we are ambitious for all pupils (SIH 2019 p 92. Being ambitious for students with complex needs means ensuring their mental health needs are met so that they can be mentally well and thrive. Sadly people with profound and multiple learning difficulties have long been recognized as being “amongst the most marginalized and ignored members of our society (Ockenden 2006) and despite significant efforts by campaigners to raise their profile they “continue to experience significant inequalities in the services they receive and remain amongst the most isolated and marginalized in modern society” (Doukas et al 2017). With regards to mental health this is especially true, they are among the most vulnerable members of our society to mental ill health, yet do not currently qualify for support from Child and Adult Mental Healthcare Services CAMHS meaning their family and the professionals supporting them are their only source of support for mental health.
Ofsted look to see “how well leaders identify, assess and meet the needs of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities” (SIH 2019 p 91). They review whether schools are successfully “involving parents, carers and, as necessary, other professionals/specialists in deciding how best to support pupils” (SIH 2019 p 92). Ofsted ask that we prepare students to be as healthy as possible in adult like (SIH 2019 p 107) they recognize that pupils with special educational needs and disabilities often have “significant and complex vulnerabilities” (SIH 2019 p 92) The vulnerability to mental ill health for learners with complex needs should be recognized by all practitioners supporting this population. All settings should be ensuring they are considering how they support mental health for all of their learners. Provision that works wonderfully for most learners, but exclude the most vulnerable should not be considered outstanding.
This day will teach you sensory strategies that you can use immediately to support mental wellbeing for your learners. Mentally healthy students are more likely to actively engage with learning activities and to participate in the life of the classroom and the school.
CQC’s descriptions of outstanding service describe settings that are creative and innovative, staffed with exceptionally well trained people who empower those they work on behalf of. They speak of settings seeking out current best practice and ensuring all their staff have access to the learning. Outstanding settings recognise the preferences of their residents and are constantly on the lookout for new ideas.
People with profound disabilities are at increased risk of mental ill health, all too often their mental health needs are interpreted as physical health needs and result in an increase in pre-existing and ineffective medications (S4.5). It is essentially that staff supporting people with profound disabilities receive mental health training relevant to their needs (E1.1 E5.1 C1.5 C2.3 R1.2) in order to ensure that they are kept safe, from a mental health point of view (FKQ) and that the care they provide is both effective and truly caring (FKQ S2.7 E7.6 S4.5).
Settings wishing to be outstanding need to be on the lookout for new approaches to mental health for people with complex needs. The Sensory Engagement for Mental Wellbeing is CPD accredited (C2.3), feedback from past delegates has been that it has changed the lives of the people they work with. It is informed by current research and is contributing to the development of new strategies to support the mental health of people with complex needs, staff attending the day will be supported to be creative and innovative and develop approaches bespoke to those they support.
Physical health is what keeps us alive, mental health is what makes that life worth living. Outstanding settings will be ensuring both mental and physical health are the best that they can be for the people they support. Sensory Engagement for Mental Wellbeing gives staff practical strategies they can use immediately to enhance wellbeing for the people they support.
FKQ: Care Quality Commission’s Five Key Questions
References: Care Quality Commission: - Key lines of enquiry, prompts and ratings characteristics for adult social care services