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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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:
- 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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
||Phone: 01903 270430 (direct line)
||Address: Sensory Support Team
West Sussex County Council
Northern Area Office
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