Adele Devine is a specialist teacher who works in an Autism specific school. As well as being co-founder with her husband Quentin of the Award Winning SEN Assist which offer products and resources for children with special educational needs.
They are ‘a couple on a mission to help ALL students access an individual education and the specialist teaching they deserve.’
The couple met in 1999 while working with adults with learning difficulties in America and they married 5 years later. Adele further explains
“Quentin and I met on a camp in America, where Quentin was teaching clay to adults with learning difficulties. I knew that when I returned from camp I wanted to work with children with autism. Caring for adults with autism made me believe that there must be a way, to change outcomes. I returned from camp and spent the following few years training and working as an ABA home tutor. I qualified to teach in 2004. Quentin shared my passion for realising the potential of children with autism and when I got an interactive whiteboard in my classroom he started making activities linked to their personal motivators. These activities were a massive hit! The children would ask to do tasks and make huge progress because when presented on the computer ‘learning’ was more like ‘playing’. When other teachers started asking for activities we realised we needed to come up with a way to allow all children to access this.”
Adele explains that,
“SEN Assist is based on practical classroom experience. Children were so motivated by ICT. I wanted to find a way to use this interest to motivate and include all children no matter what their ability, language or learning style.”
Adele shared with Autism Daily Newscast that SEN Assist ‘was born out of our belief that children with autism can become independent, skilled members of the workforce if given the right structure from the start.’ She firmly believes that the 15 % employment statistic of autistic individuals could change if these children were given the correct skills in IT with a clear structure from the very beginning.
SEN Assist is ‘for children with learning difficulties and Autism, it is ideal for use on home PCs and touch screens. The software is also switch accessible. If you do not have a switch the child can use the space bar as an alternative. This is ideal for children who do not yet have the control to use the mouse.’
They offer FREE resources for children, parents and professionals over on their website. They also have a set of 6 CD Roms for sale which contain ‘an animated story with symbols, 24 activities & all associated printable resources.’ There is also a switch friendly story available for those children who have difficulty with using a mouse.There are free resources on the website, such as printable visual symbols for behaviour, asking for help and a hand washing visual schedule. You can also try the software online before you buy.
Phil Leach (Head of ICT & Primary, Freemantles School) gives the following testimonial on the website
“The effectiveness of SEN Assist as an educational tool for children with ASD or learning disabilities is that it can motivate and draw out interest in children who have withdrawn into their own interests and obsessions. One of our prime aims is to teach the young people in our care to be independent and lead as full a life as is possible. The young people at our school using SEN Assist have been exposed to tasks that motivate them to work independently and give them multiple choices to keep them interested.”
SEM Assist has also struck a publishing deal with Jessica Kingsley Publishers and their book, ‘Colour Coding for Learners with Autism: A Practical Resource Book‘ will be published next April. Adele explained that she ‘sent the idea for the book to Jessica Kingsley Publishers and had an email back within a week saying they loved the concept and wanted to publish the book’
Adele told Autism Daily Newscast that the book started out as a teaching idea.
“Colour is used in our everyday lives to sort visual clutter and decode complex information. Take the London underground map as an example. Colours are also used to communicate fast, when there is not time for language – think traffic lights or the red and yellow cards of the football referee.”
Adele further explains,
“I had noticed, over the years teaching children with autism that they are often very tuned into colour. Making a series of connections (as with SEN Assist) I wondered if we could further exploit colour to decode the visual jumble. The original idea was to categorise the symbols into groups to help the child find the right one fast. However when I looked closely at the symbols, I realised our task was going to be immense, because the symbols we were using in class were sometimes confusing, when looked at through literal eyes. Our science symbol showed a test tube, but we had never used test tubes in science. So whilst I researched and wrote Quentin designed hundreds of symbols and resources to create a practical tool for teachers and parents to use. These resources are all on a CD ROM at the back of the book.”
Adele has these final words
“This project has been another labour of love, but we are convinced that, like SEN Assist it will be another step in the right direction towards changing outcomes and allowing children with autism to reach their potential.”
‘Colour Coding for Learners with Autism: A Practical Resource Book‘ can be found here