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Learners with PMLD thrive thanks to personalised curriculum

ASDAN’s Lifeskills Challenge has engaged PMLD learners, boosting outcomes and confidence. Teaching and Learning Lead, Suzanna Bance, tells us of the course’s flexibility, creativity and success in developing skills for life.

Rutherford School in south Croydon, London, is a setting for people with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) and complex health needs from the ages of three to 25.

“Our vision was to be able to provide young people with PMLD the opportunity to continue to undergo a breadth of engaging experiences that enable them to have fun, make friends and continue learning into adulthood,” says Suzanna. “ASDAN’s Lifeskills Challenge has provided just that. Lifeskills challenges are meaningful, flexible and celebrate the achievements of all students. Feedback from our students, families and staff has truly expressed how taking time to listen and plan activities around students’ interests can have a positive impact on all areas of their development. Lifeskills Challenge enables such personalisation of the curriculum.”

Adam shopping for paint


Making learning meaningful

Suzanna outlines how Rutherford School began their Lifeskills Challenge journey.

“The activities in the working towards Entry 1 (WTE1) and Entry 1 (E1) categories have provided us with the opportunity to set personalised challenges for students in which they can achieve an accredited outcome. 

“We began our Lifeskills Challenge journey by offering our young people and families a choice of their ‘modules’ for each term. Our most popular Lifeskills Challenge activities in the first term were, ‘Introduction to trade skills (painting and decorating)’ and ‘Personalising trainers’. Being active members of the community and taking learning outside of the classroom are intrinsic values held at Rutherford and the Lifeskills Challenges provide a context for learning in the community. For each challenge, students were able to learn both inside and outside the classroom.”

A multisensory, flexible approach

Lifeskills Challenge has been developed to cater for every learner, regardless of their ability. “The flexibility offered through the Lifeskills Challenge allows students to access activities in a way that is meaningful and reflective of their individual communication and physical preferences,” explains Suzanna. 

“Our students were all able to make choices to achieve their learning outcomes using different methods of communication, for example vocalisations, eye movements, objects and symbols. Activities could be accessed in multisensory ways, meaning that every student could be included and their voice heard.”

Abigail making choices


Celebrating achievements

Suzanna details how Lifeskills Challenge celebrates small achievements, regularly. “The structure of ASDAN’s Lifeskills Challenge means that there are frequent opportunities to celebrate the progress and achievements of students as they achieve each outcome to complete a challenge.

“Our students were all able to follow their own interests and learning pathways to achieve accreditation. Students gained much more from the subject areas than we first expected. High levels of engagement in tasks that were fun and relevant to them supported their communication skills development. The overall engagement in sessions was fantastic and students gained confidence in encountering new experiences.”

Suzanna can see the school has achieved a big improvement in student outcomes. “One student who had previously been able to tolerate spending no more than 10 minutes in a group session is now able to engage throughout the entirety of a half an hour session without becoming frustrated.”  

Ezekiel researching trainers


“Another student who used to disengage completely during class trips and would close her eyes for the whole trip has, since beginning ASDAN, begun to engage and interact with staff and other members of the public wherever she goes.

“We are all really looking forward to carrying on our Lifeskills Challenge journey and would recommend it to anyone looking for highly engaging, structured areas of study to develop the life skills of people with PMLD.”

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.