THOMAS Outreach Programme
The THOMAS Outreach Programme is an educational service for preschool children aged 2-4 years with social communication difficulties or autism. The service supports children at home and in their preschool.
Who to contact
- Contact Name
- Nikki Bouvier
- 01252 814729
Where to go
- THOMAS Outreach Programme
Hampshire Educational Psychology, Rushmoor Borough Council Offices,
- GU14 7JU
- Age Ranges
- 2, 3, 4
- What does your service do?
THOMAS is a Hampshire approach to meeting the needs of children with social communication difficulties and autism in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). There are two elements to this approach; a training programme for practitioners working in the EYFS and parents/carers and an outreach programme which supports individual children. The THOMAS Outreach Programme (TOP) may be appropriate for your child if they are between 2 and 4 years old and have social communication difficulties or autism. Your child will be attending (or planning to attend) a mainstream pre-school provision and planning to attend a mainstream school. The service will typically support your child until the end of their first term in a Hampshire mainstream school. A TOP worker will work with you and your child at home and with the practitioners in your child’s early years setting. The TOP worker will use a range of strategies which will be individual to your child and may include: using visual structures, teaching individual skills through small steps and supporting communication through visual approaches. The TOP worker will model ways of working with your child; enabling you to develop and use such skills. They will work in a similar way with the early years setting, so as to support the consistency of approach for your child. TOP will work in partnership with others, especially at the time when your child transitions to school, to ensure that plans are in place to support this change.
- Who does your service provide for?
TOP may be appropriate for your child if they have difficulties in social communication or autism and they are of pre-school age (between 2 and 4 years old). Typically children who are taken on to the programme will have at least a term remaining in their pre-school setting before they transition to school. You will also need to be committed to a home-based programme which offers substantial involvement with you and your child and your child attending a local mainstream pre-school setting and mainstream school. TOP will offer support for the first term to your child’s school, when they are transferring to a Hampshire maintained mainstream school or a Hampshire Academy. A child may not receive TOP if they already have a place at one of Hampshire's specialist nurseries or have other specialist outreach support. Similarly, a child may not have support from TOP and Portage at the same time.
- How can I start using the service?
Referrals to TOP are typically made by people who routinely deliver services to young children (e.g. area inclusion coordinators, pre-school practitioners, Portage home visitors, early years outreach workers, paediatricians, health visitors, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists). Potential referrers are encouraged to initially contact their local centre to discuss a child’s suitability for TOP, prior to completing a referral form. Referrals to TOP need to be made on a TOP referral form, available from the TOP centre. The form should be completed by the referrer, in consultation with you and be supported by reports from other professionals who know or are working with your child.
- Where is it located and what areas does it cover?
If you live in Hampshire, TOP can be accessed from one of our eight centres
- East Hants: Bushy Leaze Children and Families Centre, Eastbrooke Road, Alton, GU34 2DR. Tel: 01420 87675
- Hart and Rushmoor: Farnborough Grange Nursery and Infant Community School, Moor Road, Farnborough, GU14 8HW. Tel: 01252 541879
- New Forest: Forest Park School, Ringwood Road, Totton, SO40 8EB. Tel: 02380 864949
- Fareham and Gosport: Haven Nursery School and Children’s Centre, Harris Road, Bridgemary, Gosport, PO13 0UY. Tel: 01329 232095
- Winchester and Eastleigh: Lanterns Nursery School and Children’s Centre, Bereweeke Road, Winchester, SO22 6AJ. Tel: 01962 860393
- Basingstoke: Maple Ridge School, Maple Crescent, Basingstoke, RG21 5SX. Tel: 01256 323639
- Test Valley: Norman Gate School, Vigo Road, Andover, SP10 1JZ. Tel: 01264 323423
- Havant: Riverside Community Special School, Scratchface Lane, Purbrook, Waterlooville, PO7 5QD. Tel: 02392 250138
- How are decisions made about who can use your service?
When a referral to TOP is received, a discussion takes place between the TOP centre staff (TOP worker and TOP teacher) and the county TOP coordinator. A TOP worker and/or teacher may also visit you and/or your child’s early years setting in order to gather further information and to help decide whether the service is appropriate for your child and/or family. Once all the relevant information has been received and discussed, the TOP centre will notify both you and the referrer about the outcome. You will be informed that either a named TOP worker will be in contact soon to agree when to start working with you and your child, or that TOP visits are not possible. Centres typically need to prioritise children for the service due to the limited number of places available. Where it is not possible to offer a place, the referrer and the family will be informed as soon as possible. Typically, the TOP centre will discuss with the referrer what other support might be available to you. If, following discussion with the TOP centre, you are still unhappy with the decision made; you can contact the county TOP coordinator.
- How do you communicate with service users and how are they involved in decision making?
Because TOP involves regular, on-going, face to face contact with you, your child and the educational setting; communication between all those involved with the programme is natural. You will be asked to identify who you want to be involved and whether you are happy for the TOP centre to contact them to share information about your child and the programme. The initial allocation of TOP time to your child will be based on discussion of their needs with you, the TOP centre staff, educational psychologist supervisor and pre-school setting. The TOP worker can support you to set up activities which can be continued between visits and that are based on targets you wish to work towards at home. The level of TOP commitment to your child will be discussed half-termly and future allocations of TOP time will be based on evidence of your child’s progress, their successful inclusion in their local provision and your views about the effectiveness of the TOP programme. Termly records and a final summary report will be given to you and copies retained for evaluation purposes. With your agreement, copies will be shared with others who are working with the child. Where possible, you will also be encouraged to attend relevant local training e.g. Earlybird (a parenting programme for the parents/carers of children with autism) or THOMAS (a three-day training for practitioners and parents of children with autism or social communication difficulties). TOP workers may signpost you to other services that may be of benefit.
- Is your service fully accessible?
Our service is based within your home and the early years setting of your child. Therefore, accessibility is subject to your own home environment and that of the early years setting. However, every effort is made to make sure that our service is made as accessible as possible, using the resources available from HCC (such as translators). All early years settings are encouraged to make reasonable adjustments to their provision to ensure all children can be included and TOP workers would look to support settings with this commitment.
- What training are the staff supporting children and young people with SEN and Disabilities had or are having?
TOP workers receive regular on-going professional development which includes supervision and training from members of the TOP centre team and educational psychologists. Prior to recruitment, TOP workers should already have had experience of working with young children with social communication needs. They also receive TOP specific training and THOMAS training. In addition, TOP workers may access specific training to support their individual training needs. TOP workers may also be Accredited Earlybird trainers and/or have received the initial Portage training.
- How will I know my child is safe?
The TOP centres have a responsibility to ensure that all children that use the service are safe. Safer recruiting practices are followed when recruiting staff to work with the TOP programme. All TOP staff attend relevant safeguarding training provided by their setting and in line with good practice guidelines. All settings where TOP workers are based will have a child protection officer with whom the TOP workers and teachers can discuss any concerns.
- Who can I contact for further information?
If your child is part of the TOP programme, your first point of contact will be your TOP worker. For questions about the service, the first point of contact would be your local TOP centre (as above).