Gesher is a new educational charity, established to transform the lives of Jewish children aged 4 - 11 with special educational needs, with a special focus on children with high-functioning autism.

Gesher's vision is to open an exemplary, small special needs school that will provide early and intensive support to 56 children in an environment that enables them to flourish and which is committed to the Jewish faith.

The very specific needs of these children are often neglected in mainstream schools. These children are more likely to be isolated, bullied, excluded from school and go on to experience extreme challenges and poor outcomes in later life, which can be devastating to families as well as a significant burden to the public purse. Yet the early, intensive intervention we are proposing is proven to transform the trajectory for these young people.

Although there are some excellent (albeit limited) services for children with profound autism, there is currently no specialist provision for children who are more high-functioning. These children are a very special cohort, as they often have enormous potential to re-enter mainstream education, find employment and make a contribution to society.

However achieving this potential depends on accessing intensive support their child needs in their formative years – when it can make a difference.

A team of parents and professionals have worked tirelessly over the past two and a half years, as a result we have made significant progress securing:

  • Premises at Sinai School and a commitment to share resources;
  • Relationships with experts including world leader in autism, Professor Simon Baron Cohen;
  • Partnerships with Langdon and Norwood, facilitating opportunities for peer to peer mentoring and work experience; and
  • Commitment of £300k from The Wohl Foundation, and a further £400k from other donors.

This success has been hard won and we still have much to do, in particular to secure the remaining £400k start-up funding we need until the school reaches self-sufficiency in five years’ time. 

HabAid are helping us build on this success and make a significant difference towards the opening of the school in September 2017. In particular, are providing support towards the development of a sensory room, which will be a vital resource in our new school and for which we currently do not have the funds.

HabAid are helping us build on this success and make a significant difference towards the opening of the school in September 2017. In particular, are providing support towards the development of a sensory room, which will be a vital resource in our new school and for which we currently do not have the funds.

The Sensory Room

Gesher have consulted widely and have sought the advice of leading autism and special education needs’ experts, in order to develop the focus, values and approach to the education at Gesher School. In summary, children are at the heart of Gesher School. We believe that all children have the potential to achieve, but that every child is individual and requires a tailored, child-centred approach to ensure they flourish in school.

We will follow the principles of National Curriculum for England, teaching all of the core subject areas, whilst setting highly personalised learning goals for each child. Whilst there will be focus on academic achievement, equally important is a child’s emotional health and resilience, their independence, and their ability to self-manage their behaviours. We want our students to be able to think creatively and see the future as full of possibilities, in preparation for, ideally, their transition to the mainstream environment. In addition to this all children will receive a Jewish education, which will be woven into the curriculum.

As such the school will have a major focus on OT (Occupational Therapy), SaLT (Speech and Language Therapy) and Creative Therapies in particular drama, dance, music and art, to promote self-esteem and confidence. Key to supporting these elements of our curriculum will be a new sensory room.

How will the sensory room be used?

A multi-sensory room creates surroundings that either stimulate or soothe a child. This is achieved through a variety of equipment within the room that can offer sounds, captivating aromas, tactile experiences, massage and vibration, vibrosonic sensations, and gentle movement. Interesting light effects and comfortable seating allow children to self regulate (or learn to manage their emotions, behaviour and attention) by choosing sensations.

A sensory room at Gesher will have a huge impact on children, and is a critical piece of equipment within the school. It is beneficial in many ways, it will:

Support early therapeutic intervention by developing sensory processing (smell, light, touch, sound etc)

Provides a space to support challenging behavior and to help calm and soothe, in addition to this some children are sensory seekers and seek physical input to help them regulate and manage their behavior. This unique space will give them the opportunity to release.

Occupational Therapy - a multi sensory environment will provide a unique interactive space to offer the Gesher child a range of tactile, visual, scented, and interactive activities to engage with. It will also allow therapeutic activities for a range of sensory, cognitive, fine motor and gross motor skill levels

To support Autism - When it comes to supporting and caring for children with autism, the physical environment is a vital component of any environment. Therefore this room will be designed in a way that means it can be adapted to the different needs of our children.

Gesher will employ an occupational therapist from Year 1 and therefore, there will be an expert based in the school who understands how to use the sensory room and achieve maximum impact. This person will also form part of the child’s learning team to ensure both the classroom environment and the sensory room are used to enhance and promote each child’s wellbeing, attention and behavior.

The Costs

HabAid will be providing the £26,000 total cost of all of the equipment required for the ‘white’ sensory room, which would be split into a grant of 13k a year, over 2 years.

If You Wish to Support Gesher

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