Happiness: A curriculum subject?
Many special schools have taken the brave (but often necessary) leap to develop their own curriculum offer for students with special needs. Schools taken a deep dive into what a relevant and meaningful curriculum should look like for those with complex needs. Class timetables are often filled to the brim with lessons and activities designed to support pupils development in communication, physical development and cognition.
What about happiness? How can we ensure our pupils experience joy, contentment or pleasure? Should our curriculums offer opportunities for happiness, in its purest form?
Authors and researchers in the field of PMLD and complex needs such as Flo Longhorn, Debbie Watson & Gill Brigg, have all undertaken projects which support the need for happiness, play and laughter to be part of excellent provision for those with profound disability.
Top tips for a happy curriculum
1. Carve out time everyday to play.
Play can be the catalyst to joy - and on days which are filled with care routines and medical procedures, finding time to play can be a challenge. Ensure moments are set aside to play together. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what can elicit joy in your pupils and have them to hand. Don't forget, care routines and meal times can be the perfect moment to be playful!
2. Find time to just be...
Being together, with no distractions or time limits, can offer golden moments of connection and joy that may not be accessible during other lessons. Sheridan Forster, the brilliant practitioner behind the Hanging Out Programme: Hanging Out Program: HOP - NAC Wellbeing) offers a framework (and evidence of effectivity) for being together.
3. Happiness is at hand
Happiness and joy are often the precursors to development. If a child is happy, they are likely to be motivated and receptive to new
learning. It is important that when we introduce new learning, or revisit what has previously been learnt, we do it with enthusiasm, and have to hand engaging and motivating activities or objects to draw the child in.
4. We are all in this together...
Often, classes with learners with PMLD are highly staffed. Our learners will often pick up on the interactions and emotions being displayed in the room, and may begin to embody some of these emotions. Whilst there are inevitably moments of stress and heavy workload in PMLD classrooms, we, as adults, can model excitement, joy and happiness to our pupils. An atmosphere of lightness and playfulness can be powerful for our pupils.