Psychology and Therapeutic Services

The psychology and therapies department comprises:

This department provides a range of specialist expertise in the field of autism and severe learning disabilities. Together this multi-disciplinary team strives to meet the varied and complex needs of our pupils. On site provision of these services ensures an effective communicative link between all disciplines.


Kisimul School employs a number of Assistant Educational Psychologists who are supervised by Educational Psychologists. The psychology team adopts an evidence-based practice to promote the learning, attainment and emotional development of each individual pupil. The team carries out psychological assessments and formal observations to gauge each pupil's developmental level. This information informs care and teaching practice and is encapsulated in psychology reports which are submitted at annual education reviews. The Psychology team plan and organise individual and group educational/therapeutic sessions with pupils. These sessions can focus on play development, emotional understanding and/or help pupils to manage their anxieties. The psychology team is also responsible for the management of the pupils' Individual Pupil Care Plans (IPCPs).

The team regularly consults with staff regarding the pupils' behaviour and embraces a multi-disciplinary team approach to produce behaviour management programmes. Through consultation and assessment, appropriate resources and interventions are devised, delivered and reviewed. This problem-solving process enables the psychology team to take an objective approach and successfully apply relevant theoretical knowledge to a given situation.

As psychology is an evolving discipline it is necessary for the team to embrace innovative research and apply this effectively. Relevant research is then relayed to the staff informally and through in-house training.

Speech and Language Therapy

The Speech and Language Therapy team consists of a number of experienced Speech and Language Therapy Assistants (SLTAs) working under the supervision of Speech and Language Therapists. The high ratio of Speech and Language Therapy Assistants to pupils enables regular input that may include Attention and Listening groups, Makaton groups, Expressive Language groups and individual therapy sessions. In addition, the SaLT team assesses each pupil, writes annual reports, devises Speech and Language Therapy programmes and provides communication targets. The team works closely, as part of a multi-disciplinary team, with classroom staff, residential staff and the other therapists to create a comprehensive, holistic and individual therapeutic approach.

Specifically, the SaLT team offers support by overseeing the use of the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), Makaton signing and Intensive Interaction. In addition they assist pupils to develop areas of need which may include; oral motor skills, articulation, auditory discrimination and awareness, attention and listening, social skills, expressive language, understanding (processing) of language, vocabulary and concepts. The SaLT team also provides programmes to strengthen literacy skills, visual support and symbolic understanding and grammar where necessary. Emphasis is placed on promoting a ‘Total Communication Environment’ with effective communication strategies. The team offers formal training and informal support to staff in these areas.


Aromatherapy has long been a part of the school curriculum. Upon entry to the school each pupil has a specific massage synergy formulated for them that is tailored to their own needs, be they medical, psychological, or emotional. The synergy also takes into account any medications that the pupil is taking and the pupil's own choice of what they want the synergy to smell of, as pupil choice and interaction is at the forefront of our sessions.

The sessions usually take place in one of the sensory rooms, with a combination of music and lighting, and on occasions a weighted blanket. The purpose is to achieve conditions in which the pupil can relax and benefit fully from the therapy.

A number of reflexology and massage techniques are employed during the session, with feet, hands, face, back, and stomach being massaged. Initially sessions generally do not last the optimum thirty minutes as pupils can find the experience over stimulating, but by working at the pace that each pupil sets we gradually build up to the full thirty minutes.

The session is designed to be a relaxing and fun part of each pupil's week, as well as being a way of trying to get each pupil to accept appropriate touch.

Occupational Therapy

Our Occupational Therapists assess the pupils’ sensory needs and devise strategies and intervention programmes to develop their ability to self or co regulate. Our Occupational Therapists provide sensory integration therapy and write sensory diets as required. We have sensory suites fully equipped with sensory integration equipment.

Sensory integration is believed to be necessary for almost every activity that we perform because the combination of multiple sensory inputs is essential for us to comprehend our surroundings. At Kisimul we recognise that children and young people with autism and learning difficulties generally require a great deal of help in organising their senses and in processing sensory messages. The sensory integration work we do, combined with the other therapeutic interventions we offer, go some way towards helping our pupils to make greater sense of the world.

The team also provides interventions and advice regarding the development of fine and gross motor skills and assessment and support for pupils with eating and drinking difficulties. Pupils can access 1:1 or group therapy sessions.

Music Therapy

Kisimul employs the services of a full time Music Therapist who works across the schools on a sessional basis.

Music Therapy is an established health profession in which music and sound are used therapeutically to support and encourage emotional, social and physical wellbeing in young people who have behavioural and learning difficulties. For pupils who do not communicate verbally, or who have very limited verbal ability, music therapy can offer an alternative language through which they can express themselves, release their emotions and frustrations and through which the therapist can establish a common connection. The therapist uses free-flowing improvised (not composed) music and the young people can express themselves by using a variety of instruments such as drums, guitars, keyboards, wind-chimes, blowing and ethnic instruments. As the therapist listens and responds to their sounds, silences and non-verbal communication, new ways of relating can emerge, leading to development and change.

Such musical dialogues involve many of the fundamental elements of social interaction, such as self-awareness and "self in relation to another". Because of this, the musical aspects of interpersonal timing, attuned reciprocity in shared play, turn-taking, listening and responding to another person can be augmented in music therapy very effectively with people with autism to accommodate and address their frequently idiosyncratic and avoidant style of communication.

The individualistic approach of music therapy, in which the therapist will actively endeavour to ascertain and work with the type of sound that a particular individual prefers, is one of the strengths of its application to people with autism as it offers them an opportunity to feel confident when expressing themselves, to experience a wider range of emotions and to discover what it is like to be in a two-way communicating relationship.