Responding to Lockdown at Dawn House School

31 March 2021

Dawn House School’s Therapy Team highlight how they have responded to lockdown

The government announcement in early January 2021 arrived at a time which impacted the start of a new term at Dawn House School. January, the start of a new year, is usually a time which consists of an excitable school community coming back together with an array of spring term ambitions but this year it looked quite different.

The lockdown period has been a time of uncertainty for all and with this came change to routine and consistency, two key areas which our students rely on to help them manage well during everyday life. Amongst the great planning of putting together lessons, wellbeing time and therapy a new idea was born: a daily morning therapy Zoom session.

After careful consideration and planning, an alliteration themed morning came to life. This allowed snippets of key occupational therapy and speech and language therapy elements to promote: regulation, self-help skills, independence, language and conversation skills, vocabulary, and understanding of new and existing interventions/words. Families were contacted via email, Parent Mail, telephone and in some cases doorstep visits to ensure that they were well and aware of this intervention amongst other school activities/interventions taking place. In addition, the pre-contact and the sessions were a great wellbeing opportunity for peers and staff to see familiar faces whether that be face -to-face in school or through the means of technology all in a consistent and predictable structure. The therapy team worked together to choose daily themes which were:

  • Mindfulness Monday            
  • Talking Tuesday
  • Word Web Wednesday
  • Therapeutic Thursday 
  • Feet up Friday 

Whilst the themes across school remained consistent, each allocated therapist adapted each activity to ensure it was age appropriate and suitable for the needs of the children in the class that they were delivering it to. For example, 'Feet up Friday' was in place to relax and regulate the body, to celebrate the week's events, and to prepare for a restful weekend. The younger children explored favourite icons; teaching an array of breathing techniques whilst the older children were able to engage in body scans and mindfulness exercises. 

A common running theme throughout all activities were the zones of regulation. This strategy was introduced to school and students prior to the lockdown period, however, it felt more important than ever to ensure this was at the forefront of all that we do in such an unpredictable time for not only our students but also our staff members. The zones of regulation are being embedded into all areas of our school, the residential setting and home life to support students (and staff) to develop skills to consciously regulate their actions. In time it is hoped that this will lead to increased control and problem-solving abilities. 

During the sustained period away from school, many students would have had difficulty with understanding their emotions and self-regulating. A zone check-in alongside exploring the meaning of each emotion through the technique of a word web supported a variety of children to communicate and understand how they are feeling and what they can do to return to feeling green/just right.

With more pupils imminently attending Dawn House School with the lifting of these latest restrictions, this piece of work will be continued. It will be embedded into the school ethos to promote each and every child to build their own tool kit to be independent, regulate, understand and flourish throughout each school day. 

Please contact Andrea Robinson, Head of Therapy and Assessment Service if you have any questions or would like to discuss this further.

Thanks to Sarah Throup, Senior SLT, Robyn Park, Senior SLT, Kathy Horton, Wellbeing Lead for Pupils, Philip Chandler, Wellbeing Lead for parents and Nicole Khosla, Senior OT who produced this article.



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