Interview with Jeanne Fountain in Mallorca

Jeanne has a background in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and worked for 11 years at one of the National Autism Society schools in the UK. Here she talks to us about her work and her decision to move to Mallorca in 2014.

Can you tell us how you became involved with Radlett Lodge, a National Autism Society school?
Funnily enough, I didn’t seek it out… what I mean to say is, it wasn’t a direction that I was looking for, let me explain; I had Home Educated 2 of my 4 children and was passionate about alternative education, at the time I felt that the education system was too rigid and needed, in my opinion, to be more adaptable to the children’s needs, we are all individuals and education should allow for that flow of individuality. And so, with this background in mind any work environment I chose would be, inspiring, looking to be at the forefront of education, focussing on the individuals and the best fit for them. Radlett Lodge was this environment, I felt inspired by the ethos of the school and the comradeship of the staff who worked there.

How were you able to use your knowledge of technology to help autistic children?
Before I worked at the school I had been a qualified ICT teacher. I was a mobile trainer working with groups and individuals with a company called ‘Hairnet.’ This company was formed with the vision of helping all those over 50 who wanted to learn how to use computers and needed a different approach to their learning, adapting the training to suit their needs.

At Radlett Lodge it was my observation while in class, that the children innately new how to use the technology, so my focus initially was to train the staff (teachers and learning support assistants) on how best to utilise the technology that was available to them.  This was accomplished through researching software available and how it best met the needs of the pupils, this meant sifting through the vast amount of software that was available and refining to the best possible fit; and staff training.

The most notable advancement came with the introduction of iPads into the school; I myself had seen the benefits of the iPad from it’s early inception and was one of proponents of its use with the pupils.  I already had a catalog of apps that I considered the best in the market for use with our pupils (along with some tough cases for every eventuality). The music apps where particular favourites, some children loved to listen to tones and rhythms; many of our pupils where on the lower end of the Autistic Spectrum, along the cognitive range of an equivalent 2 year old, with limited communication skills (from a psychology point of view).

The iPad gave them the means by which they could communicate with the world around them, using communication apps that spoke for them, and advancing this skill was of great benefit to them but also gave them the tools to adapt their own learning.

You moved to Mallorca in 2014. What prompted you to move there?
Sometimes life just gives you a big push to throw everything up in the air and make big changes, I like renewal it keeps me fresh and opens me up to new ideas and new avenues.  I had a good friend who had lived here for 7 years and loved the life she and her family had here. It is a beautiful island and the people are so accommodating and friendly, so no better place from that point of view.

Whereabouts do you live and what is the area like?
I’ve settled in Puerto De Andratx, initially to be near my friend, (she has, along with her family moved back to the UK recently). I love being near the sea, it has everything I need right now.

Your children are now grown up but do you consider the area where you live and the island itself to be child friendly?
My  youngest is 21 years old.  I would consider the area in which I live to be perfect for families. There is a school within walking distance, 5 minutes, Colegio Público Ses Bassetes. I have visited the school when my friends daughter attended to watch a play. All the amenities such as shops, post office, doctors surgery are on my doorstep.  As I mentioned my friend had lived here for 7 years, I had watched her daughter grow up here and loved to see her thrive on the relaxed carefree life she had. Yes I would consider it to very child friendly.

Are you working now?
I didn’t work for the first year on the Island but when a post came up at Palma College I applied. I am currently looking at the possibility of home tutoring in a school in Andratx.

Can you tell us about the position that you have at Palma College?
Palma College is an International 6th Form College. I teach ‘A’ level ICT and give IT support.

Have you been able to continue your work with autistic children since moving to Mallorca?
The short answer to that question is no… but I have looked at the possibility of running an online advice service for English speaking families who would like to use technology in the home with their Autistic child/children.

Can you elaborate on that? How real is this possibility?
It is a very real possibility, I have some premises here in Andratx Town for consultations and am working on a new website. My introduction would go along these lines: ‘I specialise in educational apps for Special Needs children. Through my years of working in a Special Needs school I have had experience of advising parents and teachers on the best app for a particular child for educational and communication purposes.’

I can offer a very unique service to guide parents through the maze of apps that are available and hone in the best fit for their child. This is done through observation using the UK Performance P-Scale Attainment Targets for Special Needs.

For more information you can contact Jeanne by email:  jeannefountain@gmail.com




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