Drawing and Talking

Drawing and Talking is a safe, easy to learn method of working with students to help with underlying emotional difficulties that may be affecting their learning and behaviour. The core of the method is encouraging the student to draw with a person with whom they feel comfortable, regularly, at the same time each week, and this person asking some non-intrusive questions about the pupil’s drawings. Over time, a symbolic resolution is found to old conflicts, old trauma is healed, and the student is more able to control their behaviour and better able to access the curriculum.

Working with the student’s inner world needs to be carried out safely and non-intrusively, with respect for the student’s own pace and state of being. Anyone using Drawing and Talking learns to stay in the world of the student’s drawing. The child sets the pace and decides what to bring to the session. Often, in a first session, a student will produce a very neutral drawing, something in the room or the view from a window. Once they feel safe, their imagination begins to unfold.

Comic Strip Conversations

Comic Strip Conversations are a communication tool to illustrate and simplify conversations with simple drawings. The idea was developed by Speech and Language Therapist, Carol Gray.

It is an effective tool for parents and professionals working with students with ASD, social communication difficulties and other developmental disabilities with emphasis placed on what people may be thinking and can help the student to “read between the lines” in order to :

  • infer
  • take the perspective of others
  • follow the quick exchange of information in a conversation
  • tune in to what they missed

To do this, Comic Strip Conversations use simple drawings and symbols with colour used for emotions of statements, thoughts and questions. It can be used alongside Social Stories or independently.

Evidence shows that visualisation and visual supports help students with ASD and social communication difficulties.

Social Stories

Social stories are a short story written in a specific style and format that describes what happens in a specific social situation. It details what might be expected from the situation and what might be expected of the student, as well as how their actions/ behaviour may be perceived. They focus on one specific area of concern and address this in a positive manner.

It helps the student understand what to do and when and describes what may not be ‘obvious’ to those with impaired social understanding.

Social Stories are evidence-based and developed alongside the child and family where possible to ensure generalisation. For optimum results they are repeated regularly and used when the child is calm and receptive. Social Stories are Individual, relevant and unique to the person taking into account their language needs.

SEMH Therapy Dog Intervention

We have recently introduced our Therapy Dog, Hugo to the Aspire Community. Two members of staff have been fully trained by The Dog Mentor to work with Hugo to deliver interventions throughout the school. During this intervention, the student will meet, in a pair, two times weekly for 20 minutes. This will last initially for a six week period.  During this time the trained member of staff will be working through a booklet with the students and using Hugo to assist with the interventions.

Hugo can be used to support students throughout the school in a wide range of ways including:

  • Attentional and behavioural difficulties
  • Grief and loss
  • Building confidence
  • Relationship building
  • Communication and social anxieties
  • Speech and language difficulties

Studies have shown that working with a Therapy Dog provides the following: an outlet for excess energy, a non-judgemental companion, Social interaction opportunities, encourages routines, decreases stress and offers a healthy distraction.

Jump Ahead

Jump Ahead is a motor programme that all Bexley Schools have been given to use as an intervention with their students.  It has been written by occupational and Physiotherapy services.

It is a structured, graded intervention to develop all the underlying movement skills a student needs for confidence and progress in the classroom.

There are four stages in total and each stage takes a term to complete.  Your child will be part of a small group of 3 students, and will receive the intervention at least twice a week for 20 minutes, for at least 1-2 terms, depending on progress made.  The intervention will be led by a trained HLTA (Higher Level Teaching Assistant), monitored by SENCO.

Two terms of Jump Ahead required to be taught before a referral to Occupational Therapy can be made, if required.  Progress on this intervention will be shared with parents by the class teacher at parent’s day and annual reviews.

Good motor co-ordination skills underpin the ability to listen, pay attention, do table top activities such as writing, maths etc., and they help students with their social interaction skills with others.

Sensory Motor Circuits

Sensory Circuits is a short and snappy sensory motor skills programme that helps to set students up for a school day. It enables students to reach the level of alertness needed to concentrate during lessons.

Students participate in a 10-15 minute session of activities designed to improve brain processing efficiency, and they generally find that the circuit is a fun way to start the day. Doing the activities in the recommended order is vital. The right order results in a well regulated, happy child.

Order of activities:

  • Alerting: The first activities should be those that make the head change direction rapidly. For example: Bouncing Skipping Jumping or Step-ups.
  • Organising: The second set of activities should be those that provide a motor challenge to the child. For example: Funny walks: Animal walks, Egg and spoon walk or throw and catch while on a balance board.
  • Calming: The third set of activities should be those that calm the child: deep pressure, proprioceptive input, and heavy work. For example: Press-ups on a wall: Count to 10. Repeat 3 times, half press-ups from the floor: Push up from knees not from the feet.

Forest Schools

Forest Schools aim to get students out of the classroom and bring learning into forests and other areas of nature across the county. Their education has a different focus, it is about creativity, encouraging independence, building self-confidence and learning about the world around us. Forest Schools are now becoming more commonplace and are really enhancing students’ education experience.

Typical Forest School activities may include building an outside shelter or a simple log cabin. Pupils have to work together as a team to construct the cabin, relying on the teacher’s knowledge to put it together. Students would also need to pay attention to detail in the construction and help each other to get the task done, teaching each other valuable life skills that they will have learnt in a classroom but may have lacked the opportunity to practice outside in a different environment.

Forest school students also learn about the natural life cycle of plants and animals and have the opportunity to grow their own flowers, fruits and vegetables, and learn exactly what it takes to nurture a living plant so that it thrives.

The curriculum is enriched through woodland adventures, all supervised in a safe environment.

Counselling Therapy

The federation offers students weekly therapy sessions with an experienced and qualified counsellor. The sessions are specific to the needs of the students who are experiencing emotional difficulties that is affecting or impacting on their personal lives at home or academically in school. We recognise that our students need to develop coping skills to manage a variety of stressful experiences. Our counselling provides an opportunity for students to clarify and understand the things that may be concerning them in a safe space that aids student’s emotional wellbeing and learning. Counselling is accessed during the school day on Thursday and Friday at Aspire Academy via a referral form emailed to the Mental Health & Wellbeing Coordinator or an initial conversation with the onsite counsellor.

Mental Health and Wellbeing

Mental health problems affect around one in four people nationally our school is developing a whole school approach to mental health and wellbeing. Our focus will highlight the need to be aware of, the signs and symptoms of poor mental health and how it affects thinking and behaviour. Mental health issues include issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, eating disorders and self-harming feelings. Our counselling service offers the space to explore these feelings to get a greater understanding of what can often feel unmanageable. If students or staff are concerned about mental health issues they can approach the Wellbeing Coordinator for a learning conversation

Critical Thinking Skills and Positive Conversations

The ‘CTS’ Programme aims to provide students a creative opportunity to work one to one with staff and reflect on their experiences in a structured way. It is intended to help develop a higher level of self-awareness and awareness of others. Students can self-refer to the critical thinking skills programme by speaking to any member of staff. Staff can also refer students onto the programme via a referral form and a member of the support team will engage with the student.

Positive and Learning Conversations

Our counsellor has a physical presence around the school and engages with students throughout their day to guide them in conversations that could help them make the right decisions around the school, especially when they are out of the classroom and not engaged in the learning experience. The conversations help students to follow the ethos and boundaries of the school and build relationships with their peers and staff. This draws upon psychological theories and coaching practices. Learning conversations happen throughout the day as a way of checking-in and checking-out with students.


There are also a variety of workshops throughout the academic year. These are normally about 45 minutes to 90 minutes. These sessions are supportive, interesting, and playful, they focus on personal development issues such as self-esteem, motivation, confidence building, anger management and exam anxieties. All students can be referred to the CTS, Counselling or Workshop Interventions. Staff can also email and request a workshop or training on wellbeing or mental health issues that will be facilitated by the Mental Health & Wellbeing Coordinator.