SPORTROOM and Multisensory teaching – Sport activities for children with LD as a tool for learning – FDP Romania

Country Studied: Romania

Area of Focus: language, assistive technology, multi sensory

FDP Association is a non-profit institution that serves young people come from the orphanage. All has learning difficulties and some time even more severe mental disability. The young people are integrated in some parts of the social life such as ( the catholic church activities, sports, travels ) or are taught the life responsibilities. They are taught how to communicate, respond and initiate interactions despite the presented disability.

The organization was set up in 1996 by Italian and Romanian volunteers, with the support of the Italian organization AVSI. The initial name of the organization was the Foundation for People’s Development.

The methodology of the SPORTSROOM used by FDP is structured on the seven values of the great Spanish club: equality, autonomy, team spirit, motivation, self-esteem, health and respect. 65 ypug adults ( age between 18-40) from two disadvantaged areas in Bucharest (Giulesti-Sarbi and Faur-Republica) are beneficiaries of this program which includes:

  • 4 football training sessions / week,
  • weekly meditations conducted with the help of 10 volunteers – students of St. Sava and Gheorghe Lazar colleges
  • individual and group psychological counseling according to the needs of each child,
  • counseling sessions for parents of children in the program and support in identifying jobs,
  • leisure activities: children’s theater, film and museums, sports competitions.

In this Association we have identified more good practices that are used and successfully applied, but we have choose to describe the Multisensory teaching, as it can be connected with TudorS project objectives.

The other identified good practice in FPD are :

  • Supported living for people; Services working together and helping people to live in the community.
  • Access to Public Health Services
  • Young people working together – partnership with some private companies. The young people are integrated to work in private companies. Before starting to work they are participating to vocational training courses, organised by FDP Association
  • Looking at people’s strengths and skills
  • Participating to the catholic church life – the adults with disabilities can find their place, having their own responsibility inside the daily community life of the Bucharest catholic church

Team sports are about so much more than their physical benefits. This is especially so when group sports activities are incorporated into a young person’s life. Studies have shown a direct correlation between physical activity and academic performance.

Multi-sensory instruction can be broken down into four pathways:

  • Auditory (Sense of Hearing)
  • Visual (Sense of Sight)
  • Tactile (Sense of Touch or Fine Motor Movement)
  • Kinesthetic (Body Movement or Gross Motor Movement)

Adolescents with learning disabilities (L.D.) experience difficulties with self-esteem, quality of life, and social adjustment. Many of these areas – and a life-long interest in fitness and healthy living – can be developed through athletic participation. Since youth affected by L.D. partake in less recreational activities than their peers, it is incumbent upon instructors to foster a positive environment for everyone’s physical and mental health.

Sound teaching in the classroom equates to sound coaching on the court. Flexibility is paramount, whether it is utilizing differentiated instruction to suit the strengths of each student-athlete or making allowances for skills that are difficult to master. Instructors must understand that each individual is unique.

Another identified good practice that is sometime used together with sports activities is Multisensory teaching. It is one important aspect of instruction for dyslexic students that is used by clinically trained teachers. Effective instruction for students with dyslexia is also explicit, direct, cumulative, intensive, and focused on the structure of language. Multisensory learning involves the use of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile pathways simultaneously to enhance memory and learning of written language. Links are consistently made between the visual (language we see) , auditory (language we hear) , and kinesthetic-tactile (language symbols we feel) pathways in learning to read and spell.

Multi Sensory Environments (MSEs) are designed with two goals in mind: to promote intellectual activity and to encourage relaxation.

A Multi Sensory Environment is a dedicated space or room where sensory stimulation can be controlled (intensified or reduced), presented in isolation or combination, packaged for active or passive interaction, and matched to fit the perceived motivation, interests, leisure, relaxation, therapeutic and/or educational needs of the user.

Multisensory classrooms include:

  • Lighting effects, such as projectors with wheels that disburse light patterns throughout the room, bubble lamps, spotlights, star panels, fiber optics, UV lights, mirror balls and even Christmas lights. These lighting effects are best seen if the room has a total blackout capability.
  • Sensory activities such as blowing bubbles, finger painting, and using play dough.
  • Tactile experiences such as touching various, changing textures that are included in an interactive tactile wall panel.
  • Cause and effect items such as the use of switches to allow the individual to control items within his or her environment, and toys that provide visual effects, vibrate, make noise, or have a tactile feel.
  • Soft items on the floor such as mats, pillows, or beanbags.
  • Sound effects such as children’s music, nature sounds, or animal sounds.
  • Selected rhythmical music with a variety of tone, pitch, rhythm, and spacing can be used to soothe children.
  • Tasting experiences of different flavored drinks and foods.
  • Motion stimulation ….and much more.

The best practice presented in this institution is the implementation of a multisensory classroom especially for adults ( generally between 18 and 40 years), with various deficits, such as : ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or other LD on autism spectrum, based also on speaking disorder  and other forms of functional variations.

Multi-sensory instruction can be broken down into four pathways:

  • Auditory (Sense of Hearing)
  • Visual (Sense of Sight)
  • Tactile (Sense of Touch or Fine Motor Movement)
  • Kinesthetic (Body Movement or Gross Motor Movement)

Typically, one of these modalities is usually predominant in each student. Some prefer to use their hands when learning, while others might need to see a visual representation of an image or picture to grasp the concept.

As Dr. Samuel Orton indicated in his research, brain dominance has a substantial impact on learning to read. Both hemispheres of your brain act and react, think and process, and solve problems in very specific ways. Each is quite different from the other and one is usually dominant.

When a lesson utilizes all four learning pathways, it capitalizes on student strengths and strengthens their weaknesses. By using lessons that engage multiple modalities, educators have a much better chance for students to grasp a concept on initial instruction.

While some still think the Orton-Gillingham reading approach only belongs in special education or reading intervention programs, we have seen firsthand the type of impact it can have for all students.

Multi-Sensory Activity Examples

Students learn at different paces. However, by using multi-sensory strategies, students are given multiple opportunities through various delivery styles to reach their full learning potential. Here are five activities that are used in the FDP classes:

Read it, Build it, Write it

This multi-sensory activity is perfect for teaching Red Words, or irregular words. For these words that don’t fit the expected spelling patterns, students need to be able to master them and identify the irregularities.

In this activity, students are given a sheet of paper with three boxes on it, labeled “Read It”, “Build It”, and “Write It”. Each student is also given flashcards that have Red Words already written on them, magnetic or block letters, and a writing tool.

Writing in Sand/Shaving Cream

This multi-sensory technique incorporates visual, auditory, and tactile pathways to reinforce letter-sound correspondence.

Using cookie sheets, plastic trays, tables, paper plates or other mediums, teachers can have sand prepared or shaving cream ready ahead of time. The teacher calls out a known sound. The student repeats the sound, then uses their pointer and middle fingers to write the letter that makes that sound while verbalizing the letter name and sound (/b/ b says /b/). By using their fingers to write, they are accessing thousands of nerve endings that transfer patterns to the brain.

If you choose to use this strategy for whole words instead of letters, make sure you are choosing phonetic words that follow expected spelling patterns.

Air Writing

This is a similar activity to writing in sand or shaving cream but uses gross motor. Air writing, also called sky writing, helps reinforce the letter and sound that each letter makes through muscle memory.

When air writing, have students stand and air write with their dominant arm. Students should move from their shoulder to promote large muscle movement. Tell your students to visualize the letter in a specific color. As students air write, have them verbalize the letter name and sound.

Arm Tapping

This activity is aimed at helping students master irregular words through multi-sensory review, using card and the arm touch and position.

Blending Boards

Blending boards are used for students to practice segmenting sounds and blending the sounds into syllables. This helps prepare students for decoding multisyllabic words.

It is held in the special classrooms and sports classrooms, organised by FDP Association. Through this methodologies adults with LD difficulties are getting a skill that can be easily integrated in working activities.  There is no qualification, the LD adults develop specific skills and competence. At the end of the course a participation certificate is issued.

Length of course that good practice is part of; If different type of setting brief description of what it is; Are there any prerequisites for entry to the course?

Generally, professional personnel works all day long with LD adults in order to have a sooner and good results. The sport activity is 1 hour long and can be twice per day.

In conformity with the final objective of the course, the participants are identified and the groups of young adults created. The course couldn’t be individual. To take part to this course the LD, the therapist is evaluated firs the LD and the specific need of the person.

The period is evaluated by the psychologist and depends very much on the LD level and depends on the adult that can receive and understand the information, sooner or later in conformity with their learning rhythm.

The teaching principles embedded in this programme are structured in conformity with the methodology described above and in conformity with the level of understanding of the LD adults.

For this best practice the type of learner that is supported is a lifelong learning, because it starts from early ages till adult period, and never stops. In a period of minimum 2 years, adult teenagers know how to embrace their daily activities and to be self-aware of their life.

Also the new immigrant, VET learner, HE learner/undergraduate can be supported through the participation of this type of courses, as they can be easily integrated on the working market and they as can  improve the existing skills and competence.

The adults with learning difficulties that are participating to this type of courses are evaluated through all their period of learning, it depends very much on their learning rhythm and individual typology. They are evaluated through the surveillance also at the end of the programme, for at minimum 1 year period.

The assessment is made through the continuous communication between the LD adult and teacher.

With the help of a multisensory course, methods and practices, the adults develop their speaking, writing, spelling and vocabulary skills for better future learning in all areas. The final goal of the SPORTROOM and multisensory classrooms methodologies is to create a perfect environment in order to obtain a functional communication

The main resources used were:

  • Human resource – being the most important one in the methods used;
  • Material resource – using all the materials that were at the center in order to apply the methods used;
  • Financial resource – that is common to the Human resource – being the training of the qualified personnel in order to implement the specific methods
  • Special sports Rooms and materials and special multisensory classrooms

The main purpose of the Sport-room and Multisensory classroom is to develop a  self-confidence in order to  encourage a healthy lifestyle. Those with severe disabilities are paired with an assistant to help them cope with the activity and meet their needs. The main objectives are:

  • developed positive behaviors in their relationship with their parents, but also with the representatives of the schools (teachers, principal) and colleagues
  • become more motivated to engage in different activities
  • decision-making autonomy increased
  • easy integration into social groups and working market
  • reducing behavioral problems
  • accepting failure and identifying solutions / ways to overcome difficult situations

We considered Sport-rooms and a multisensory classroom methodology/courses for adults with LD  as a Good Practice because we can have results of the process for the participants, such as:

  • Developing positive behaviors in their relationships
  • Easy integration into social groups
  • Reducing behavioral problems
  • Good communication level

More than 150 children have benefited from this program so far and every year their school and personal outcomes have been improving:

  • no school dropout
  • in 2016 all 3 graduates of the 8th grade were admitted to high school
  • children have developed positive behaviors in their relationship with their parents, but also with the representatives of the schools (teachers, principal) and colleagues
  • they have become motivated to engage in different activities and the autonomy in decision-making has increased
  • easy integration into social groups
  • reducing behavioral problems
  • accepting failure and identifying solutions / ways to overcome difficult situations

Multisensory classroom

  • Development of functional communication
  • Improving vocabulary and language skills
  • Making connections between new information and what they already know;
  • Use nonverbal problem-solving skills.

Sport-room classroom:

  • Developing positive behaviors in their relationships
  • Easy integration into social groups
  • Reducing behavioral problems
  • Good communication level

The FDP working method envisages a positive approach, the person being at the center of all actions, while its value is not defined by the circumstances of life.

FDP intervenes, in an integrated way at community level, with three major objectives:

  • Preventing school dropout for children from disadvantaged families
  • Reducing the risk of exclusion for families from disadvantaged backgrounds
  • Facilitating access to healthcare and health services for beneficiaries

The FDP working method envisages a positive approach, the person being at the center of all actions, while its value is not defined by the circumstances of life.

Reducing the risk of exclusion for families from disadvantaged backgrounds. Facilitating access to healthcare and health services for beneficiaries

The FDP implements the first transnational project of exchange of experience in key areas: child protection, professional integration and Roma population, in partnership with organizations from Romania, Italy, Poland, Bulgaria and Belgium.