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Sensory Support Team


What does the Sensory Support Team do?

The West Sussex Sensory Support Team (SST) supports children and young people with a sensory need; hearing, visual or multi-sensory impairment from diagnosis. The vast majority of children are referred to us in the Early Years by health colleagues in audiology, eye clinics and Pediatrics. As soon as we receive the referral we work closely with families, preschools and schools to ensure that children's needs are met fully and that children can make good progress with their language, learning and social skills, whatever the level of need and setting.

Key to the success of children with sensory impairment is the provision of advice and strategies to settings which supports successful inclusion. Teachers in the Sensory Support Team hold an additional mandatory qualification which enables them to provide specialist knowledge and advice that will support the child in their setting. The Sensory Support Team visits Early Years children in the home, providing support and advice to parents so that they can monitor their child's development. We use the Early Support materials in partnership with parents to monitor key areas of development.

Our Springboards are Early Years baby and toddler groups run in collaboration with Social Care with some funding from the Local Deaf Children’s Society. The four groups are for parents of children with hearing impairment in the Early Years to get together at a local Children and Family Centre, to share experiences and importantly for their children to meet other children with hearing aids or cochlear implants. The four groups run at East Preston CFC, Northgate CFC, Bognor Regis CFC and a new one is just starting at the Sidney West CFC in Burgess Hill. Deaf parents with deaf or hearing children can also attend these groups.

Very often children with sensory impairments will need additional support in schools, including the use of specialist technologies and equipment. The Sensory Support Team assesses children’s curriculum access needs and funds and provides specific auxiliary aids to maintained Special Schools and mainstream schools in West Sussex. For example, a child with a visual impairment may need a CCTV or specialist software in school to access text from a book. A child, who is unable to access text, would be taught braille by an Advisory Teacher for Visual Impairment and other tactile methods to access learning. Many children with hearing aids or auditory implants need a radio aid system to support the clarity of the speaker’s voice in lessons where background noise and distance from a speaker would affect them. The Advisory Teachers for hearing impairment set up the radio aid to work with the child’s hearing aids or cochlear implant.

The Social Work Assistant for Deaf Children and the Family Aide for Deaf Children from the Child Disability Team also work closely with us and with families. They can provide auxiliary equipment for use in the home for deaf children such as alarm systems and visual doorbells.

Our Rehabilitation and Mobility Officers (RMOs) provide specialist input to children with visual impairments focussing on Mobility including orientation, long cane skills and route training, as well as independent living skills; anything from pouring drinks and  making cakes to dressing and appropriate social skills.

Multiagency working with colleagues from health and social care is extremely important in our work. We hold regular meetings with Audiologists, Speech and Language Therapists, Paediatricians, Orthoptists, Portage and Social Care to ensure that up-to-date information is shared between professionals.

The SST provides accurate and detailed reports and assessments as requested by the SEN Assessment Team when a child has been put forward for consideration of an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

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Where is the SST located, and what area is covered?

The Sensory Support Team provides a countywide service covering the whole of West Sussex. Our office base is at Northern Area Office in Broadbridge Heath.

Who does the Sensory Support Team provide for?

The Sensory Support Team provides for children and young people between 0-19 who have an identified sensory impairment. Our service covers children within the SEN Pre-School or School Support group as well as children with Statements of Special Educational Needs or Education and Health Care Plans (EHCP) in West Sussex maintained mainstream Primary, Secondary,  and  Special Schools, Academies and Free Schools. Occasionally we accept referrals from Independent Schools in which case, there would be a charge to the placement for our service. All FE colleges in West Sussex have their own support teams for young people with sensory needs. However, colleges can also refer a young person aged between 16-25 to the Sensory Support Team for support and there would be a charge to the college for this service. We do not provide support for children with Auditory Processing Disorders with no hearing loss.

Some children with sensory impairment attend mainstream schools or Academies which have a Special Support Centre for Hearing or Sensory Impairment. Although the SSCs are managed directly by the schools, the Sensory Support Team works closely with these settings to ensure there is a consistent approach. The SSCs are at Northgate Primary, Crawley, River Beach Junior School in Littlehampton, The Angmering School, Angmering and Hazelwick School, Crawley.

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How can I start using the service?

Any child with a diagnosis of sensory impairment can be referred to this team for support. This includes children whose hearing thresholds are at least in the mild, moderate, severe or profound levels of hearing loss as diagnosed by an audiologist. Most referrals come through Health, in which case we will contact the families, schools or preschools to offer our support. We take referrals from parents, schools and other services such as Portage that may be involved with the child or family already. For children with visual needs, their vision would be less than 6/12, diagnosed by an eye clinic and not correctable by glasses. If you would like to make a referral please call, email or (for placements) send a completed referral form. We do ask schools to gain written permission from parents before we become involved.

How are decisions made about who can use the Sensory Support Team?

In common with many other local authority sensory services for children, we use the NATSIP eligibility criteria  to determine support levels. These take account of the degree of impairment, it’s impact on the child, features of the setting and age of diagnosis to determine a score which puts the child and setting in one of four support categories:

  • Advice
  • Monitor
  • Support
  • Support Plus.

We actively support families and settings in the Monitor to Support Plus range. Children who fall into our Advice category can be re-referred at any time. A large number of children remain on our active caselists from diagnosis until they leave school at 16 or 19. Children leaving school and transferring to college would be supported through the transition by this team and we liaise with staff from FE colleges to ensure that the young person has the resources and support they need to be successful.

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How does the Sensory Support Team communicate with service users and how are they involved in decision-making/planning?

The Sensory Support Team is an accessible and friendly service. If you need our help, please pick up the phone and call us.

Early Years Families: We are usually in direct contact with families from the point of diagnosis. The Head of the SST will make contact by telephone usually within 24 hours of diagnosis or referral to the team. Together with the family, they will arrange a suitable time for an advisory teacher to visit in the home. After each visit the advisory teacher provides a written Record of Visit as a summary of the discussion and also containing action points and suggestions of activities.

Preschools and schools: After a referral has been received an Advisory Teacher or the Head of the SST will contact the setting to discuss their support needs. A visit will be arranged to the setting by an Advisory Teacher and with the permission of parents. At every stage we work in partnership with families and settings to ensure that their needs are met and that the child has full access to educational opportunities and can succeed. Written Records of Visit are provided after each visit and the setting passes copies of these on to parents. Parents may come to school at the time of visits to discuss their child with the Sensory Support Teacher and SENCo/class-teacher.

The Sensory Support Team works alongside the West Sussex Parent Carer Forum, a group of parents of children with disabilities or special educational needs. We work closely with individual parents and, more recently, with groups of parents in a consultative manner. Parental views and wishes are paramount in our successful partnership working. We have parental representation on the Children's Hearing Service Working Group (CHSWG), a multidisciplinary strategic group that meets twice yearly. 

Children's views are also important to us and every two years we carry out a pupil voice survey which gives us an indication of the children's understanding of their own needs, but also enables us to gather their views about their inclusion in settings.

We value the views of schools and settings and also engage with them through the use of questionnaires and evaluations of INSET. We like to hear from all service users and greatly value their input. We have a positive relationship with schools and families who usually just pick up the phone to discuss their children.

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What training have the Sensory Support Team staff had?

The SST comprises Qualified Teachers, Rehabilitation and Mobility Officers and two Specialist Learning Support Assistants who have highly specialist training. The Head of the Team is a Qualified Teacher of the Deaf, Educational Audiologist and holds a National Professional Qualifications for Headship. The Advisory Teachers were all practising classroom teachers prior to gaining a Graduate or Post Graduate Qualification as a Qualified Teacher of the Hearing (HI) or Visually Impaired (VI). One team member also holds a Certificate as a Teacher of the Multi-Sensory Impaired (MSI).

These qualifications are mandatory for those working directly with children with sensory needs. All of the Advisory Teachers for VI and the Specialist LSA for VI are braillists. Some of the VI team have recently had training in JAWS software which is a text reader and Windows navigation tool for use by the visually impaired. Advisory Teachers for HI and the Specialist LSA have qualifications in British Sign Language.

Technology is changing all of the time and staff, on both the HI and VI side of the team, are constantly up-dating their knowledge and skills. Our Rehabilitation and Mobility Officers both have Diploma qualifications for work with people with visual impairment and work directly with children and also train staff and parents in these key areas.

One of our key aims is to share our skills and knowledge with schools and settings so they can develop the skills needed to support children with sensory needs in their setting. For example, our Specialist LSA for VI teaches school staff the braille code so that they are able to prepare resources for children who cannot access written text. We provide targeted INSET to support staff in Early Years and School settings so that they have full knowledge of the child’s needs and how they can support access to learning.

Links with other services

The Sensory Support Team works with many other services within West Sussex County Council such as the Child Disability Team, Children’s Social Care, Portage, Occupational Therapy and the Educational Psychology Service. We liaise with Health colleagues from National as well as local services and also with the Voluntary Sector having links, amongst others, with the local and National Deaf Children’s Society, Look Sussex, 4Sight and Blatchington Court Trust. Advisory Teachers provide information to families about help and voluntary groups available nationally and locally.

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Who can I contact for further information?

Anyone who would like to make a referral can contact any member of the Sensory Support Team at the address below. The Head of Service, Liz Beatty manages all referrals and liaises with health colleagues, parents and schools in the first instance. If parents have a concern about their child's provision they should first discuss this with the school’s Headteacher, SENCo or class teacher. Parents can of course call us or email us directly if they would like further advice. Schools and settings likewise can call us directly or make referrals by email or post.

Please see links for referral forms and parental consent forms.

Contact us

Email Email: sensory.support@westsussex.gcsx.gov.uk
Phone Phone: 01903 270430 (direct line)
Address Address: Sensory Support Team
West Sussex County Council
Northern Area Office
Worthing Road
Broadbridge Heath
West Sussex
RH12 3LZ

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