Melissa Johns is a Higher Level Teaching Assistant at the Royal Free Hospital Children’s School and recently has been in charge of implementing the use of the RIX Wiki. She was first introduced to the RIX Wiki by her headteacher who had wanted to bring the RIX Wiki into the service since the day he got on the job. The RIX Wiki is most popularly used as a communication and self-advocacy tool for individuals with intellectual disabilities so Melissa had to create a new system for using the RIX Wiki that would be more applicable for her students. The hospital school is primarily focused on teenagers with mental health difficulties.
“We don’t use a lot of the video and sound aspects because our students do not need them so their Wikis are primarily text and pictures. However, there are days when a student does not want to speak at all and it is very important that he or she still has a say in matters concerning them.”
These students have a lot of professionals meetings that they are required to attend. At some meetings there can be up to ten professionals. “There are social workers, consultants, psychiatrists, and parents all making decisions for this one person, and this is where the Wiki comes in” Melissa explains.
The RIX Wiki allows the student to express his or her opinions, goals, and feelings even when they are having a really difficult day or are too embarrassed to speak up. In many ways it ensures that the individual’s voice is always being heard. Melissa says the purpose of having the wiki is to “put the student at the center of their own planning and in all of the decisions that are being made around them.”
There are currently ten students using the RIX Wiki at the Royal Free Children’s School. All of them are between the ages of 15 and 17 and dealing with mental health challenges, but this doesn’t make them any less teenagers.
“Most of them have a very difficult time writing about how they would like to be supported because at that age you don’t want to be asking for help and when you have a mental health challenge this becomes even more difficult” Melissa says.
Motivation is also another issue that Melissa has run into but last term she was able to come up with a solution.
“I have a list of set tasks, and I give the students a series of prompts and questions to guide them in their writing. We noticed that when given a prompt the students find it much easier to write” she explained.
The RIX Wikis are also very helpful to the staff at Royal Free Hospital School.
“We are a really small provision here and it is a very personalized learning environment. The Wikis keep everyone in the bubble” she explains. “A teacher can look at a student’s Wiki and see how he or she wants to be supported and the goals he or she wants to achieve and then implement that into the lesson.”
The wikis also help students in their transition into college.
“Since it is electronic it is easier to share with other professionals. When one of our students is going to college we have the option of sending their support coordinator the student’s Wiki, and by having that information it makes it easier for both the support coordinator and the student” Melissa says.
Ultimately Melissa says “The Wiki gives our students a voice again. It is really hard to expect a teenager with mental health difficulties to be put in a room with people and say this is what I want, this will make me better, and this is how I want you to support me. Although the Wiki doesn’t provide the exact answer to those questions it certainly aids them in finding a solution.”
Melissa has recently been awarded by RIX Research and Media as a RIX Wiki Champion due to her fantastic work with use of RIX Wiki’s.