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Lifeskills Challenge prepares SEND students for transition to adulthood

ASDAN’s Lifeskills Challenge has boosted the confidence and self-worth of learners at John Watson School, Oxfordshire – including during the Covid-19 lockdown. We interviewed Sixth Form Teacher, Sue Smith, about her students’ successes with the course. 

John Watson School in Wheatley is a community special school for children with severe, complex, or profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD), aged two to 19. The sixth form is comprised of one class of 12 students, all of whom complete ASDAN’s Lifeskills Challenge

“We were looking for something suitable to lead on from ASDAN’s Personal Progress qualification as the students were coming to the end of this course around February half-term,” says Sue. “Lifeskills Challenge looked great and most importantly, the learning was practical. It geared young people up to leave school and covered all areas of preparation for this transition.” 

Personalised learning 

Sue details how Lifeskills Challenge supports teachers and students’ individual learning plans. 
“The programme provides plenty of valuable and rewarding opportunities for differentiated activities and preparation for adulthood. The structure of the course is fantastic – as a centre, we can teach one subject, but at many different levels, which is really helpful. What makes it such an enjoyable, flexible course is that it can be tailored to the individual’s progression.” 

Developing practical skills

“Our students love the practical nature of Lifeskills Challenge,” says Sue. “One particular skill that was an outcome of Lifeskills Challenge was the students’ ability to recall information. This was particularly apparent with our food-focused activities. As part of a challenge, the students made a shopping list by recalling what ingredients they needed. When the food order arrived they were able to find their ingredients from the food delivery before making pizza to share with their friends. Lifeskills Challenge enables students to gain practical skills and this in turn gives our students a huge confidence boost. Some of these learners struggle with writing, but they have excelled in practical cooking activities. 

“I believe our centre’s emphasis on food in Lifeskills Challenge is hugely valuable for young people, not only to increase their confidence and skill set but also to develop a healthy relationship with food to take into adulthood. Each challenge can be personalised to individual learners’ abilities and personal development. These practical achievements give learners a real sense of self-worth.” 

Self-development to live well in adulthood 

Lifeskills Challenge encourages the development of hobbies and interests for students to progress into adulthood. 

Student developed artistic skills and
hobbies while making a decoupage dog


“Hobbies are important for young people’s wellbeing. We all aspire to have hobbies or passions to develop in our spare time. To be able to introduce and progress students’ hobbies through meaningful tasks in Lifeskills Challenge is a wonderful personal development that prepares students for the change they experience when moving on from education and beginning to take ownership of their own free time." 

“Prior to the challenges, the students showed some anxiety around taking part in art as it was new to them. They have since developed a creative interest and one student is now practising decoupage, collage, and making mosaics with his grandma at home."

“Our Lifeskills Challenge activity, Engaging with supportive objects linked to a story (WTE1), has seen particular improvement in students’ engagement. They not only engaged with specific objects but also their peers and supporting staff members. This challenge had very positive outcomes and even rekindled one student’s love for books so much so that he started to want to read books with his family.” 

Continuing learning from home 

ASDAN’s Lifeskills Challenge has continued to benefit students throughout lockdown this spring.
“Lifeskills Challenge is an excellent course for home learning. Each week, I have been able to set homework that links to the Lifeskills Challenge activities already started in school. The challenges are flexible and suitable to be completed from home,” says Sue. 

“The students’ families have seen them succeed with developing their own independence through the completion of Lifeskills Challenge activities at school, and have since been encouraged to give them opportunities to practise these skills at home. It has been great to see the growth in the students’ interest in cooking and we heard one young person is doing his own washing during lockdown.

“The students send me photographs of their work, which I add to their school folders. Lifeskills Challenge fits in really well for both our centre and our students’ personal progression. It has given my students the confidence to try new activities and become motivated to continue developing their independence for the future.”

Challenge ideas

John Watson School uses Lifeskills Challenge activities for students who need a more sensory approach to learning and to develop creativity among the students. Sue gives us insight into activities she delivered with her students: 

Mother's Day gifts created in
Exploring Art challenge


•    To explore the seasons and changes that occur using a multi-sensory approach (WTE1)
“With this unit our students experience learning time both outside and inside the classroom. Using a multi-sensory approach, activities included throwing artificial snowballs, defrosting ice that has a plastic polar bear inside, using a switch to operate a fan to blow autumn leaves that they had helped to collect and helping to decorate a Christmas tree.”

•    Experiencing a multi-sensory environment (WTE1)
“The students had fun exploring large pieces of various fabrics including silk, cotton and fleece before selecting strips of their favourite materials to weave through a plastic garden trellis.” 

•    Exploring Art (E1-3), Hobbies (E1) and Experiencing hobbies (WTE1) 
“Students elected to either make a decoupage animal, use fabric pens to decorate a t-shirt, paint on a small canvas or decorate a small bag as a Mother’s Day gift.”

Please contact  if you would like to work with us to share your centre's success story or would like to find out more about ASDAN's Lifeskills Challenge.