This morning’s activity at VMCH specialist school, St Paul’s College, is yoga.
Students are lying on the floor in the school’s sensory-friendly and purpose-built Discovery Centre. The lights are low; it is quiet. A calming voice gives instructions and students are encouraged to start the day mindfully.
What is hard to illustrate is the huge amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that this yoga session is safe, fun and accessible to students with a wide variety of needs.
That is where the school’s Allied Health Team – the A-Team – come in. The A-Team includes a physiotherapist, psychologist, speech pathologists and occupation therapists.
A team approach
The school uses a trans disciplinary approach to ensure that whatever the activity – whether it is yoga, English, maths, sport, art – each student can participate comfortably, safely and as fully as possible. The Allied Health Team help teachers address behavioural issues, sensory processing disorders, and emerging social skills. They find the best ways to help students with speech delays, encourage kids playing in the playground, and anything else that supports students to make the most of school and, eventually, transition into adult life.
There are lots of challenges and some great breakthroughs, St Paul’s College Principal, Tim Hemphill says.
“My favourite saying here is that every child we have here is a puzzle and we don’t have all the pieces … We have to keep working hard to work out what pieces we can find that are going to fit.”
It’s all about the students
Whilst this is a great team, Tim highlights that everyone knows that the real stars here are the students.
“The individuals with the biggest job to do are the students … and we need to assist them to be able to play, make friends, have functional movement, optimal communication skills, and find success in their independent living skills.” Tim said.
“You’ve got the child at the centre and it’s always about the child.”
St Paul’s College strives to be a school that is accessible to all children. As well as coping with a disability, many children also have complex medical needs and life-limiting conditions. To support them, the Allied Health team work together closely with teachers and their educational teams to ensure that all students are safe, comfortable and importantly, have their medical needs met.
“The inclusive nature of the school in terms of highly complex medical, physical, intellectual and sensory needs – without an Allied Health team here we would simply not be able to maintain enrolments of a good number of our students.”
St Paul’s College made the exciting move to a modern and purpose-built school in Balwyn this year.