Four-year-old Emmanuelle has multiple needs including speech and learning delay. PACEY childminder Jennifer Fishpool from Cumbria explains just how much Emmanuelle has progressed in the time that she has been attending her setting – and how much the other children have benefited too.
My approach with Emmanuelle has been exactly the same as it would be with any other child – I plan activities and a programme of learning that reflects her interests, and takes into account her learning goals and next steps.
Because of her multiple needs, I have to bear these in mind when planning activities in the setting. She is partially deaf and wears two hearing aids. We use Makaton in the setting to help her communicate. All the children in the setting have learned Makaton and we all really enjoy using it at song and music time.
Emmanuelle also has learning delay, so although she is 4, developmentally she is more like 2 years old. When she first came to me she had very limited mobility and no speech – she was not even vocalising sounds. It is astonishing to see the progress she has made and now she is at that explosive stage of language acquisition – she is very enthusiastic about speaking and has lots of words, which is totally normal of course for a 2-year-old.
When Emmanuelle first arrived at my setting, my priority was to encourage her to express herself and I spent some time exploring the things she was really interested in to help me do that. I found that she was really keen on baby dolls, so in one memorable exercise, we painted the dolls and the squeaks of delight she made were a joy to behold.
Because of her multiple physical and sensory needs, she is getting a lot of support from different healthcare professionals and therapists who often work with Emmanuelle in my setting. The therapists have always welcomed my input and we have worked together to develop a shared programme of activity that I can support in the setting.
Through caring for Emmanuelle I have made good relationships with many of the early years team in the Cumbrian local authority. We worked together on the EHCP plan for Emmanuelle. Recently I have been attending the ‘team around the child’ meetings to decide what would be best for Emmanuelle as she comes up to the time she should be starting school.
Initially it was felt that the best place would be for her to attend the local school nursery which has a special provision for hearing and other special needs. However, after the last meeting we came to the decision that actually the best place would be for her to stay with me. I have already been talking to the specialist teacher at the school about how we can work together to support Emmanuelle and how I can adapt the work in my setting to follow the similar curriculum that they would use in school.
At the moment she does two days a week with me and in September she will use her 15 funded hours with me spread over four days with a view to increasing the amount of time from January. Mum was really relieved that we could do this as it gives Emmanuelle much greater consistency of care before we start to think about what a comfortable transition point would be.
I have seen the value of professionals working together – we all bring our own strengths and expertise, but for me as the childminder, I have that consistent relationship with her so that I can see and monitor her development on an ongoing basis and feed those observations back to the team. I have found that my perspective as a childminder has been really valued and they have treated me as a core member of the team.
What I have particularly noticed is how much the other children have benefited from having Emmanuelle in the setting. I think learning Makaton has helped their own language development and they have also had to be empathetic and to be more tolerant. For instance, Emmanuelle can’t walk as fast as the others, so we’ve all had to learn to slow down – and that can be great for children anyway!
If I look back to when Emmanuelle first started with me, when she couldn’t walk or talk, it’s been astonishing to see the fantastic progress she has made. I still remember with delight the day that she made her first sound – I grabbed the telephone to tell her Mum about it straight away. It’s moments such as those that make me realise that childminding can be the best job in the world.