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Little Acorns

Denise Wilson-Bainbridge has more than ten years’ experience in helping children with special educational needs. A former nursery deputy manager and SENCO, Denise now works with youngsters at Little Acorns day nursery in Hurworth, County Durham.

The nursery was rated ‘outstanding’ in 2016 by Ofsted inspectors who praised the passion and commitment of staff and the support available for children. The inspection report said: Staff have an excellent understanding of all children and their individual interests and learning needs. 

Planning, observation and assessment systems are sharply focused. Staff have high expectations of children and provide them with a rich variety of challenging learning experiences. This helps children to be well motivated, confident, independent and actively engaged.

Denise is evangelical in her praise of Special iApps. She says: When we looked at the educational software available for our children with special educational needs none of it was really suitable. Then I discovered Special Words and it was an absolute revelation. The interface was clear and straightforward with no distractions and the activities weren’t too difficult. Children could progress at a pace which suited them and pick the activities they wanted to do without having to do stages they weren’t interested in first.

Most of all we found that all the children who used Special Words just found it enjoyable and, because they liked it so such, motivation was never a problem.

Denise also uses Special iApps software at home with her daughter Ava, who has Down syndrome, and says: Ava uses Special Stories to take photos of her day and creates a story which we look at when she gets home. That way it feels like we are sharing the experience together. It’s a wonderful way to explore the world and encourage SEN children to open up about the way they are interact with the environment around them.

At Little Acorns children can link their tablets to an interactive white board and show their stories during Show and Tell sessions. So they might create a story about what they have done at the weekend then show it to their friends when they come to nursery on Monday, explains Denise. All their friends love to see what they have been up to.

As Ofsted found: Planning, observation and assessment systems are sharply focused. Staff have high expectations of children and provide them with a rich variety of challenging learning experiences. This helps children to be well motivated, confident, independent and actively engaged.

Denise was so impressed by Special Words that she even volunteered to help work on the new ‘Pro’ version of the software.

Special Words Pro Includes everything from the standard edition of the software plus printing, assessment sheets, dual control and a growing library of curriculum resources. Denise worked on the new app’s instruction manual and says Special Words Pro will appeal to educationalists: The software market is predominantly aimed at parents, but this new app has been created with the education sector very much in mind Teaching staff will definitely appreciate the wider customisation and free downloadable curriculum-based materials. By using Special Words Pro teachers will be able to let children progress at their own pace.

Little Acorns works has established close links with its host primary school. One of the nursery’s key aims is to ensure children are well-supported as they move into primary education. As Denise says: Thanks to Special iApps software all our SEN children are making a great start as they begin their learning journey.