The “Construction Crew” came about when families who had transitioned out of Connect Child and Family Service’s early childhood intervention (ECI) program in the Nepean Blue Mountains region and into school, found that their children with disabilities were experiencing a range of social difficulties. For some children, these social difficulties were impacting on their behaviours, learning, self-esteem and willingness to attend school.
Basically, the Construction Crew is a mobile Lego® club that goes into the schools at lunchtime and facilitates a social skills program within primary schools and includes a mix of children with and without disability.
We have developed a scaling tool which is used prior to and post program participation. Prior to enrolment in the program, Connect staff meet with class teachers and parents to outline individual needs of the students. Parent and teacher collaboration is an important part of the processes to fill in the scaling tool and break down the important areas of friendship and social skills that the program has been designed to support.
What changes have been observed during the program?
What we noticed is that children who may have previously been dreading lunchtime, couldn’t wait to go to Construction Crew. There have been positive changes for children with and without disability and/or developmental delay. It has also been great to hear the feedback from teachers in the partner schools. This was one of our favourite comments: ” Children with disabilities have had opportunities to demonstrate positive behaviours that had not often been witnessed in the classroom, such as relating to peers cooperatively, feeling confident to volunteer information… building trusting relationships…”
Keys to success:
Respectfully educating typically developing children around how to engage with children who have disability and/or developmental delay has shifted these peers perceptions, enabled them to have more positive interactions and allowed them to view the children with disability and/or developmental delay in a new social light.
The main things which make this program successful are the fact that this is provided in the school setting where the school staff and typically developing peers gain skills and strategies which help the social skills developed to be generalised outside of the Construction Crew program. Some of these kids may have been fairly socially isolated and not viewed in a positive light by their peers in the past. This program is flipping perceptions and experiences around. Connect staff encourage the children’s classroom teachers to provide opportunities in the classroom to share the Lego® project they have produced, which is a positive way to improve their social status and embed learning within general classroom experiences. “Buy in” from school staff, is crucial to the success of the Construction Crew program.
Is this a program that others could replicate?
The beauty of this program is that it is quite easy to replicate. We now have a number of schools approaching us to ask us to set up a Construction Crew program in their school because they have heard through the grapevine about the positive impacts of this program. The availability of the NDIS has created an opportunity for this type of flexible service delivery to be possible in response to local need.
About Ruby Wright
Ruby’s background is in early childhood education, where she has been a teacher, educator and centre director. From the early childhood sector, Ruby moved into Health Sciences and Disability. Ruby started at Connect 14 years ago, delivering services to young children with disabilities and their families. In her current role of Manager of Connect’s “Children’s Development and Disability Services”, Ruby has been instrumental in ensuring Connect’s readiness for the NDIS, which has been delivered to children and their families in the Nepean/Blue Mountains since January 2016. Ruby has sat on a variety of boards and committees, including: the Blue Mountains Aboriginal Cultural Resource Centre, ATAPS – Access to Allied Psychological Services, NDS – Children, Young People & their Families, the UWS School of Medicine Evaluation Committee, Aboriginal Education Coalition Group, and ECIA NSW/ACT. Ruby is also an Adjunct Fellow to the University of Western Sydney School of Medicine.