The first session took place on Friday, 9 July, during which the children explored different materials and completed a Mad Libs-style story that will determine the design of their toys’ homes, which they’ll build at the second workshop this week. The final session will be dedicated to feedback from the pupils, teacher, and classroom assistants, discussing what worked well and what could be improved.
The twelve children taking part are aged 7 to 11, each with varying degrees of autism. They present a range of abilities and needs, with some for instance requiring Makaton signing and visual cards, while others have greater verbal facility. The story was presented using Communicate in Print, a desktop publishing programme that creates visual symbols to accompany text.
Kate Westbrook, RIBA Schools Programme Coordinator, attended the first session and said: “It was the first time I had seen a text displayed via Communicate in Print used by a non-education professional, which shows a real dedication to incorporate the teacher’s feedback and the tools that support students with additional needs. In mainstream settings, we often have verbal outputs in sessions when students present their work, but it’s really important that this was also included here, so that these students with a range of levels of speech, from completely non-verbal to emerging language skills, were encouraged to share their ideas.
“I thought Make worked really hard and in a flexible enough way to understand and respond to the needs of the group throughout the planning process. This was evident within the session, which ran exactly to plan, with all students achieving the learning outcomes. Working with a specialist autism unit has some challenges, but the Make team took on board teacher feedback and really considered how to design a programme that would ensure barriers were taken away so that pupils could enjoy making choices, exploring materials and getting really excited about their creative next steps. Students were engaged, full of ideas and already thinking forward to next week, when they will build their houses!”
The Woodlands partnership is part of Make’s effort to expand and formalise our participation in outreach initiatives including the RIBA Architecture Ambassadors, Blueprint for All, Inspiring the Future and Built By Us FLUID mentoring programmes. Learn more about Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at Make here.