The Synergy Programme
Synergy was jointly developed with our partners the Laskaridis Foundation in Greece. This was in response to the need to produce a practical and ethical approach to working with children at risk of social exclusion or with behaviours that challenge in schools. Synergy aims to build and sustain capacity in local schools or support services through a system of mentoring and support.
This is based on a positive narrative around the child or adult, knowledge of how mindset, stress and bias affects attitudes and behaviour of support adults and a deep understanding of those issues affecting the child and those supporting them.
The programme is designed to change working practices through practical application of psychological theory and CPD accredited training in specific evidence-supported techniques and processes.
Background / Ethos
Synergy is about building and sustaining local capacity and expertise. It does this by working in partnership to develop understanding of those aspects (worker mindset and self-awareness and the narrative) that influence worker behaviour and how these impact on the child. By a deeper understanding of ourselves and through reflective practice we can change harmful narrative and our behaviour to provide a calmer and more effective way of working with children and adults describes as ‘challenging’. By focussing on what can be changed i.e. ourselves, we greatly increase our chance of success. Developing our understanding and our experience in a deeper way we may also begin to interpret the context for behaviour and our part in it, reducing stress and allowing us to plan more effectively. Models that see ‘behaviour’ as rooted in the child and which intervene at that level have been found wanting in terms of their ethics, efficacy, cost and sustainability. This approach may be compounded by the intervention of expert professionals unfamiliar with the child, their family or the school. Moreover, it is also likely that such an expert may not sufficiently understand the local political landscape, language, environmental or cultural context. Such a model also risks disempowering staff at the local level with a long-term negative impact on local capacity and expertise.
“people are not disturbed by things but rather by their view of things. “
Albert Ellis 1913-2007
“Men are disturbed not by things, but by their opinions about them”
Epictetus 55 – 135 AD
Synergy offers practical strategies for understanding and responding to behavioural challenges in schools through a model of mentoring and ongoing guidance and support. It delivers this via local Synergy Mentors. The AT-Autism team trains the Synergy Mentors in practical evidence-supported techniques and approaches that develop greater refection, self -awareness and planning. The AT-Autism team visit each partner by agreement to train and support staff and review progress. AT-Autism offers ongoing support and advice via Skype, telephone and email. The programme is in 3 parts starting with an open seminar followed by a practice workshop and mentor training workshop. Once completed, individual bespoke seminars are then available and there is an annual conference and follow up sessions where needed. Synergy Mentors each provide regular support based on the Synergy approach to designated ‘Mentor Teachers’ in schools or services. Each Synergy Mentor will usually have up to five schools or services they support. Contact between the Synergy Mentor and local school or service mentor is on a regular basis. This is backed up by advice and support from AT-Autism staff. For information on modules or to discuss Synergy Training with an AT-Autism Director please click here
Evidence / Evaluation
Synergy evaluates the impact of its work in the following ways:
- The University of Athens and University of Peloponnese are evaluating quantitative and qualitative outcomes.
- Service or school-related changes, benefits – How services/schools build capacity.
- Child/adult, Teacher/worker/parent related changes and benefits – (Personal reports).
Knowing me – knowing me. Changing the story around ‘behaviours of concern’. Promoting self-awareness, self-control and a positive narrative.
Richard Mills and Michael McCreadie: June 2018
This article builds on a blog for the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) in April 2018 and a longer article in the Learning Disability Today in 2017. It describes an approach (Synergy) to working with individuals who are at risk by reason of ‘behaviours of concern’. Developed by AT-Autism and the Laskaridis Foundation, Piraeus, Greece, Synergy was a response to a need for Greek schools to be more inclusive of children displaying ‘challenging behaviours’. Our initial work was at a time when Greek schools were facing new and additional difficulties in accepting refugee children and teachers faced personal and professional hardships related to austerity. The approach therefore needed to be values-led and sensitive to local circumstances, culture and resources. It was also important to build local capacity that would enable schools to help children with increasingly complex and diverse needs, rather than rely on external ‘experts’. Training therefore needed to be practical, clear and thorough to aid fidelity but short and able to work within tight financial and other constraints.
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“Before Synergy, I struggled when dealing with students with autism, but now I feel calm and confident. The training gave me guide for me to follow.”
Hara Nitsaki, Teacher Mentor
“We can now see the difficulties and challenges with an emotional distance and not in an amplified by our daily stress.”
Tina Daltou, teacher mentor
“The knowledge we gained through deeper understanding resulted in immediate application and improved our practice throughout the whole school. “
“We learnt how to better understand not only our students but their parents as well. Ultimately through our school taking part in Synergy we all felt a sense of relief.”
Afroditi Sakelaridou, Head teacher.
“The program has definitely changed the way i think about ‘behaviour’. The last three years I had the opportunity to observe children’s behavior within the school context. Talking with teachers helped me see things from a different perspective and to better understand behaviors of concern.”
“As a result , I was able to help teachers and Headteachers share that understanding. This had an impact on how I also felt: As I started to truly understand human behavior, I felt less stressed and more capable of handling difficult situations and so did the teachers I worked with.”
Sofianopoulou Katerina- Synergy Mentor.
“…“other” and the “self”, and how we can empower others through showing respect, and cultivating abilities and skill sets.”
Tzonaka Josephina, Synergy Mentor