Education plays a critical role in equipping our patients with skills for life as well as building confidence and self-esteem.
Posted / 30 August 2018

From the point of admission, we are focused on the skills an individual needs to develop and how to assist them in preparing for discharge or the next stage of their journey. In order to achieve these goals the Education and Therapy department employ a qualified teacher, along with Occupational Therapists that lead a team of three technical instructors and a sports development practitioner to deliver a variety of activities.

The educational activities offered within Cedar House are broken down into two key areas, Cedar Academy and Cedar Recovery College.

Cedar Academy

Cedar Academy offers 75 sessions per week that aim to develop educational, functional and social skills through individual and group sessions.

These sessions enable us to offer a variety of courses known as ASDANs. ASDAN is a curriculum development organisation and awarding body offering programmes and qualifications that explicitly grow skills for learning, employment and life. ASDANs have been designed to allow learners of all abilities to engage and progress and Cedar Academy offers two types: Short Courses and Towards Independence.

ASDAN Short Courses allow learners to engage in extended topics that are broken into a series of challenges. The learner selects the challenges they wish to complete and are able to work with staff to plan and structure their own learning using a ‘Plan, Do, Review Sheet’. This allows learners to tailor their learning to their individual needs, plan the way they will complete the challenge and highlight which skills they wish to build upon. As learners complete challenges they are then encouraged to review their progress and reflect upon their achievements. Upon completion of an ASDAN Short Course learners are awarded a number of credits relating to the challenges completed, these credits can then be put towards qualifications awarded by ASDAN.

ASDAN Towards Independence provides a framework of activities through which personal, social and independence skills can be developed and accredited for those with severe learning difficulties (SLD) and profound multiple learning difficulties (PMLD). Towards Independence offers formal recognition for small steps of achievement towards a larger goal. Modules can be used separately and accumulated to build a record of personal achievement.

All ASDANs can be evidenced through video and photography rather than written work and courses are broken down into bite-sized chunks that can be completed over as long a period of time as necessary. All evidence is then kept in the student’s ASDAN folder that they compile to evidence their learning. For patients with conditions on the autistic spectrum the breaking down of tasks into small steps, with no time pressures, enables them to complete one step at a time without becoming overwhelmed.

Cedar Academy also includes a large variety of open group sessions designed to focus on social interaction through low pressure, entertaining group sessions requested by patients and able to be adapted to the individual levels of the patients attending. This is an important aspect of Cedar Academy as many of our patients have had poor experiences in formal education, resulting in poor confidence and a lack of desire or interest in continuing their education.

Cedar Academy works very differently to traditional education settings that they may have experienced previously and encourages a relaxed approach to education where the individual determines how long they wish to engage for and how demanding the topic may be. As patients increase their attendance there is also a notable increase in their willingness to engage for longer and to approach subjects that they find more challenging.

Evidence of patient engagement is collected through all aspects of Cedar Academy and this evidence can be used to complete elements of an ASDAN Activities and Peer Tutoring Short Course should a patient wish. To date, 31 patients have provided evidence for engagement in this course and this will allow patients who do not have the confidence or desire to complete an academically based short course to gain a number of credits that are able to be put towards further courses.

Cedar Academy has sessions available for money management, food skills, sports, arts and crafts, science, literacy and numeracy as well as more social activities such as pool competitions, patient run breakfast clubs and cafes and film clubs. Whenever a change of timetable is carried out patients are consulted with regards to the sessions they wish to see included and this allows the Academy to continue to develop a patient centred approach to its delivery.

Cedar Recovery College

Cedar Recovery College is the second aspect of the Education and Therapy Department and offers an innovative approach towards mental health recovery.

Cedar House Recovery College is the first college to be set up within the independent sector nationally to provide recovery focused education-based interventions for patients with a primary diagnosis of intellectual disability. Our Recovery College enables education-based sessions to be co-produced and co-delivered alongside people with lived experience (peer trainers). The Recovery College parameters set out that the college should deliver relevant recovery focused interventions delivered by both a clinician and a person with lived experience of mental health issues.

It is imperative that a person with lived experience of mental health issues works alongside clinicians to develop the relevant recovery-based programmes, to ensure that a patient-centred approach remains the dominant theme within the college; this can best be achieved by them acquiring a central role in the development and delivery of the college curriculum.

By working closely with NHS England and an expert advisor Nash Momori, we have developed a Recovery College specifically tailored to the needs of patients at Cedar House. Patients were eager to put themselves forward for the Recovery College Peer Training course, where four originally qualified as Peer Trainers; this has since increased to 6 as other patients look to the Peer Trainer title as a means of furthering themselves within the hospital and giving them a greater feeling of role validation. The Peer Trainers benefit from the range of skills they develop through the co-production and co-delivery of the training, which in turn aids them on their own recovery journey.

The Recovery College is still developing, but it has already shown to have a positive impact on the lives of several patients and this impact will only increase as the Recovery College continues.

Impact on Patients

One of our great success stories is that of a patient who undertook a Sport and Fitness ASDAN. She lost 2 stone in weight (having had a BMI of over 50), created a fitness DVD, developed and delivered a cooking course and created posters on healthy eating that were displayed around the hospital. The success of her cooking course was not only beneficial to others but also to her, enabling her to learn how to share what she had learnt and grow ever more confident in her abilities.

One patient who at 43 years of age had never achieved any qualification until he completed an ASDAN short course in Sport; the achievement the patient felt was huge. It was the first time in his life he had ever completed a course or obtained a qualification.

Another patient loved to play badminton but always did so without moving her feet. Her study of badminton as part of her Sport ASDAN enabled her to learn how to move when playing – making it much more effective as a form of exercise and adding to her enjoyment of the sport.

Patient feedback reveals just how much they value our approach to education and therapy:

“This course has totally changed my life. It has changed my way of thinking, and how I perceive myself. I don’t want to turn back to crime. This course has made me believe in myself, and that I can do something better with my life when I get into the community”.

“I am excited. In the beginning I could not stand in front of the group and present. Now, I feel comfortable and confident to do it”.

“He (Nash Momori, Peer Trainer Service User Consultant) has been an inspiration. He is always smiling, and he shows me how to build my skills. He helps me to understand how to build my skills by showing me how to do it first, and then talking me through it. I can’t thank him enough”.