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91’s Calman Colaiste College – an innovative approach to education for young people with learning disabilities and autism

Last year, 91 Group introduced Michael Hayden as the new Head of College at Calman Colaiste, its independent specialist college for young adults with autism, learning disabilities and complex needs. A year on and under his stewardship the setting has undergone a complete transformation, establishing an overhauled curriculum for learners, and enjoying a rather fabulous facelift to boot…

A meaningful approach for young adults with autism and learning difficulties

Michael and his team have overseen the implementation of an innovative new curriculum for learners aged 19 to 25 at Calman Colaiste, which fully embraces 91’s meaningful life model. This ground-breaking concept focuses on helping people with learning disabilities and autism to uncover their unique gifts, develop their abilities within a therapeutic community, and move toward a more meaningful future – whatever that might look like for them.

At Calman Colaiste, this is reflected in the way timetables are shaped to allow students who learn differently to follow their interests and make their own decisions about what subjects they’d like to pursue. It is reflected in the way that targets are tailored to each learner, concentrating on equipping them with the skills and qualifications they need to achieve personal success. It is reflected in the College’s shift of focus from classroom-based, tabletop learning to enterprise and vocational pursuits, with a heavy emphasis on getting outdoors and into nature at the on-site small holding. It’s also reflected in the way the therapeutic team has moved further towards taking a relational approach to regulation, ensuring staff are in tune with learners’ needs.

Person-centred progress

A key feature of the new curriculum at Calman Colaiste is its commitment to achieving personal progress for every learner. This person-centred approach concentrates on developing the skills young adults with autism or other learning disabilities need to master adulthood – living independently after education, integrating with the local community, and building employability skills. There has also been a strengthening of the bonds between 91’s 91 and schools, and the College. Delivering wraparound support which encompasses every setting in which young people live, learn, and volunteer is vital to creating happier, more confident adults who feel ready to take on the world when it’s time to move on.

Using nature to nurture those with learning disabilities and autism

Another fundamental element of the revamped programme is enhancing access to the outdoors. The new sensory garden, playground, and sensory equipment all serve to enrich the lives of the College community, but the jewel in the crown is the farmyard. Within the College’s 29 acres sits its very own animal husbandry provision, boasting ducks, chickens, guinea pigs, rabbits, and lambs. It already offers every learner the chance to experience lessons outside of the classroom if they choose to do so, delivering enormous physical and mental benefits, and improving wellbeing across the board. It also provides a wealth of opportunities to develop vocational skills and gain hands on ‘work experience’.

And this is only the beginning. Michael and his team have big plans for the farm, hoping to expand into some of the 30 or so fields which make up the College grounds and open their own community shop – selling home grown produce and broadening learner’s horizons further still.

A word from the Head

Head of Calman Colaiste specialist college Michael Hayden says of its evolution, “This past year has been a period of huge change but everyone at the College has completely embraced what we’re trying to do. We’ve planted the seed and we now find ourselves in a really exciting place, ready to go into the new term and help it grow into something extraordinary. I can’t wait to help more young adults with autism and learning disabilities to do incredible things.”

If you would like more information about Calman Colaiste, please email enquiries@kisimul.co.uk or download our brochure.

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