Minimising the effects of additional learning needs: Part 3

education3
The third in a four part series discussing parents’ common worries about education with special or additional needs.

Much is written about systems for identifying and meeting the educational needs of children with the most severe disabilities and learning difficulties, particularly at the moment information about the new system in England.  However, many more children have additional / special educational needs without being at the greatest / most complex level calling for a Statement, Education Health and Care Plan (new, in England) or Co-ordinated Support plan (in Scotland).  This is the third part in a series of four articles about the support for this larger group of children. Each article deals with a common worry parents have about their child’s education when they have special or additional needs.

You can read the other parts here: Part 1 and Part 2.

“My child has special / additional needs but the school does not say whether or how they are being addressed.”

In all parts of the UK, statutory codes and guidelines expect the education system to work with parents and keep them informed when a child is involved in assessment for or inclusion in SEN / AN provision.  Notwithstanding this, there are parents whose children do have these needs, yet are unaware of what is happening about them at school.
In some cases this could relate to a concern, brought out in particular by the new SEND Code in England, about disadvantage brought on by the “labelling” of children as needing SEN / AN provision.

If a teacher and school are putting in techniques and measures to give a child extra support, they may describe what they are doing without mentioning SEN / AN.  On the other hand, the official approach in all parts of the UK is not only of overt identification of needs, collaboration and sharing of ideas between education providers and families, but also there is an emphasis, particularly in the newer systems, on collaboration and sharing with the children themselves.

An analytical approach to the needs can be split into broad areas, e.g. cognition and learning; behaviour, social and emotional development; communication and interaction; and sensory and/or physical needs (Oxfordshire County Council, 2010).  Or, a starting point might be observing what tasks the child finds difficult, and what works to tackle these.  For example, it should be possible to identify a problem with working memory and to put strategies in place for this, as inhttp://www.learning-works.org.uk/susan-gathercole-workshop-1-pdf.  Exactly when to bring in specialist analysis of any of these areas (“triggers”) would often depend on judgement.

It may be useful to know about two methods that teachers and trainers use:  the lesson plan and personalised learning.  The lesson plan analyses what the teacher would like pupils to have learned by the end of a lesson or series of lessons, what points they will put over to the pupils, varied ways of putting over the material taking account of pupils’ individual differences, and how the teacher will ensure that the pupils have learned the material.

If a pupil has additional needs / a disability, the teacher may prepare a handout or something in a different format for that pupil, in addition to any materials that are prepared for other pupils.  Other elements of preparation may include where to position various children in the room, how they will organise any group work, how they will assist all the pupils to participate, and what the dynamics might be between different pupils.  Teachers should get to know your child, how they can best learn, how to approach them and what extra help they might need.

The approach is obviously different at different levels of education – nursery, primary, secondary etc.  One question to think about when preparing for transitions between different levels is, how will the child be able to deal with the different approaches and expectations of the new level of education they are moving into – for example, the more varied, demanding and academic secondary setting can be hard for children with additional needs to adapt to, which can bring out difficulties that were not apparent, or not important at primary level.

In other ways they may find the new environment exciting and challenging, and begin to enjoy making more of their own choices about things.  Parents might be able to predict some of these elements in their child, and help them and their school to prepare for them.

Without a Statement / EHC / CSP there is no annual review to discuss these things, but there are still other opportunities to discuss and plan with schools and to respond to reports.  A teacher who is aware of ways in which learning can be assisted for a pupil can incorporate those into lesson plans, remembering that there are likely to be several children with disparate additional needs in a class, as well as different characteristics and learning styles among all the other pupils; and of course subject-based teachers will deal with a number of groups of children in a day / week.

Personalised learning is a way of assessing the needs of a student with SEND, forming a relationship with them, finding out how they learn, planning ways of teaching them personally, and assessing progress as the teaching progresses (University of Exeter, 2010).

References

Luke S.D. and Schwartz A., Assessment and Accommodations (Evidence for Education, Volume 2, Issue 1, 2007, Resources updated October 2010, currently http://nichcy.org/wp-content/uploads/docs/eeaccommodations.pdf, moving at the end of September to http://www.parentcenterhub.org).

See also; Ideas that work: toolkit on teaching and assessing students with disabilities,  (US Office of Special Education Programs).  Some of the recommendations on teaching techniques for children with dyslexia, in Rose, J. 2009, Identifying and teaching children and young people with dyslexia and literacy difficulties, (DCSF Publications) could be useful for other SEN / AN issues as well.  One more out of the many resources containing practical ideas iswww.teachingideas.co.uk/more/specialneeds/contents.htm.

Oxfordshire County Council 2010, Guidance for identifying and supporting young children with special educational needs for early years settings, schools and support services.

SEND code of practice: 0 to 25 years (2014), (Dept for Education and Dept of Health, England).

University of Exeter (2010), Framework for personalised learning.