Selecting A School For Children With Disabilities
Selecting A School For Children With Disabilities
Sandra Hutchinson (Editor, the Good Schools Guide: Special Educational Needs) gives expert video advice on: What are the educational implications for children with Dyslexia?; Are there any medical conditions that can give rise to SEN?; Are there any conditions which have yet to be formally recognised? and more...
What are the educational implications for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders?
The autistic spectrum is indeed a very, very broad one. At one end you have children who cannot communicate at all who are completely non-verbal. At the other end, you have children who are very communicative who can speak and actually can appear normal in terms of they will hold a conversation. What they don't understand is very much about the social nuances of language. They may be not able to read body language to understand feelings and emotions and to use words and sentences appropriately. The educational requirements will vary considerably. For the non-verbal child and indeed for some children who are verbal, what you need to do is think about is how the child learns. They tend to be very visual. Things like the picture exchange system, PEX, can be a very good way for a child to communicate. With this system, they have a card with a picture on of something they want and they begin to exchange that for what it is that they want, so language has a meaning for them. It also means that they can start to contextualize language and start to understand it. Very often for autistic children or children with autism, the way forward is actually to use a lot of drama and the arts because these very expressive and very visual subjects can actually help. Drama can help tremendously: role play; acting out a situation; how do you greet a person in Sainsbury's; how do you greet your friends and how does this differ? You can use language to think what's an appropriate question and what's an inappropriate question and also the nuances within that. To ask a child, "How old are you?" is fine. To ask that of an adult is not so good. So you look very closely at the individual and their needs. With a child with autism, you really are focusing on communication. It's also about dispelling the myths of autism. It doesn't mean that because a child is autistic, they can't or won't ever make eye contact at all. And it's about doing things appropriately. It's trying to make sure that they don't come out with comments at inappropriate times. Somebody may be very fat and it's to start getting out the idea that you don't say: “You're very fat,” that that's not appropriate.With behavior, which can be very problematic for children with autism, one of the key things to work on is why is a child having these terrible behaviors. Very often it's because that way of communicating has been the only way that they can get what they want or get the attention. So it's looking at alternative means and alternative parts to help them. Once they get rid of the behaviors and the behaviors lessen, the anxieties lessen. Then they can start to learn and they are in a good position to move forward.
What are the implications for children with ADD or ADHD?
Children who have attention deficit disorder, whether it's with or without hyperactivity, are often actually very bright. The problems come because they can't concentrate or focus on the task for a very long time. They can very quickly lose interest, lose their way, and they can be considered naughty and disruptive. If they have hyperactivity, they may actually be literally leaping around the classroom and be disrupting the education of others. It's very important to find a good way to manage their behaviors without being critical of what they're doing, so it maintains their self-esteem, and then they can learn. It's very much about focusing on the individual and what helps them to achieve, and not concentrating on the child being naughty and doing something willfully.
What are the educational implications for children with Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties (BESD)?
The key thing for children who have the behavioral and emotional and social difficulties is to find schooling that's going to meet their needs, and that very often is residential provision. It depends how much the behaviors and emotions are getting in the way. It also means that they need access to good therapeutic care, to counseling to help them come to terms with the problems and difficulties that they're facing. BESD children often have very traumatic starts to their lives, and there are lots of issues that need to be unraveled before the learning can take place. You need to deal with the emotional aspects, and you need to manage things in very bite-sized chunks that are very child-focused. The way forward would be to start focusing on what the child is interested in, and very often what you will find is that the schools don't even think about the learning and the curriculum until they can start to address the behaviors. Where there are complex problems, I would suggest that a specialist school in a specialist environment is the best place for the child.
What are the educational implications for children with Down's Syndrome?
Children with Down's Syndrome have many great strengths, as we know. They're very sociable and often very employable too, and many hold down jobs. The problems in school that they may encounter depend on the nature of their difficulties. Very often, Down's children have associated problems with hearing, with vision, they may have heart problems, they usually have quite poor coordination, and their speech may be affected. We need to look at the difficulties they face and how they're going to be addressed, maybe putting in appropriate therapies. Also play to the strengths of the child, what their interests are. We know, for example, because they are so sociable, that shop work often is very suitable. So it's really looking at the life skills. But many children with Down's Syndrome also get GCSE's, so having Down's Syndrome doesn't mean a child will not achieve. Quite the reverse. Many children do very well, indeed.
What are the educational implications for children with Dyslexia?
Your child probably has difficulties with any or all of reading, writing, or spelling. Dyslexics tend to be very articulate. They are usually very bright and we can think of people like Richard Branson, Sir Steve Redgrave, Einstein, famous Dyslexics who are high achievers. The biggest problem for the Dyslexic, or the child with Dyslexia, is actually being misunderstood, misdiagnosed or simply labeled as idle or stupid. This can affect their self esteem, so it's very important to get a specialist's help. Dyslexia is now becoming very much more readily diagnosed. Many schools have screening tests, and once that's in place there's actually government funds just released recently to help children with Dyslexia, or to certainly help schools help children with Dyslexia. It's about getting the right kind of support for your child as early as possible so that they can really feel good about themselves and realize that they can do very well, because they have this great ability. Usually they have very good brains, and it's very frustrating that their thoughts and ideas cannot move from their brain onto paper.
What are the educational implications for children with Dyscalculia?
Well, Dyscalculia is a trouble with math. It's where children have difficulty with numbers. They may find even counting very difficult. They will almost certainly count on their fingers when they're adding up, they will find times tables very difficult, and so on. I think a lot of the problem is that children in maths are often not taught from very good strategies. They're not taught from the concrete to the abstract. Thay're expected to abstract straightaway. I would suggest that, for any child with Dyscalculia, that the way forward is a multi-sensory approach so that it can actually understand what two rows of three look like and how it differs from three rows of two. That they can actually feel numbers using an abacus and using cubes. Not just using cubes for counting, but to look at a cube and to draw it, to use cubes to make sequences and patterns, to actually be very involved and to use all their senses to help them develop.
What are the educational implications for children with Dyspraxia?
Dyspraxia used to be referred to as Clumsy Child Syndrome. A child with Dyspraxia has coordination difficulties, and that means that they may have problems, for example, with catching a ball, with handwriting, with posture, and they will have poor muscle tone. Within the class, it means that it's the child who produces the spider writing. It's the child who's copied down three sentences from the board when everybody else has copied down a page, and what's more, their three sentences aren't even correct. So children with Dyspraxia, because often they're very bright, may initially be incorrectly labeled as stupid, as not trying. On the sports field, the child with Dyspraxia is the one who will probably fall over their own feet as they go to kick a ball. So within sports, PE games become very important. Children with Dyspraxia need occupational therapy. They need good PE staff who will check their positioning to make sure that muscles are developed in an appropriate way to make sure that they're not overcompensating which will give problems later. In practical classes, there may be health and safety implications when they're making things within metal work, or working with wood. So there are several implications. The main thing to remember with a child with Dyspraxia is that whilst they have a learning difficulty, they also have many strengths as well which should be played on and where you can actually work to build up their self-esteem and confidence.
What does 'Moderate Learning Difficulty' (MLD) mean?
A child with moderate learning difficulties will very often nowadays be in a main-stream school. They're the ones who will struggle to learn. It will take them a long time to process information, but nevertheless they should achieve and very often will end up around level four of the national curriculum. Some will get GCSEs in some areas, perhaps maybe in arts - they have a moderate degree of learning difficulty. The problem comes where children with moderate learning difficulties also have other problems, that maybe they have sensory problems or they may also have dyslexia. The difficulty becomes more complex for the children with moderate learning difficulties and additional problems, so a special school may be the appropriate place for them. You may often find that children with Moderate Learning Difficulties are also very immature and find it socially difficult to mix with children of their own age. While they cope in the primary setting, they may not cope so well in the secondary setting, particularly when you have to move from class to class. It's very important to look at the child, where they're at and what they need and the needs will probably change as they develop.
What does 'Severe' or 'Profound and Multiple' Learning Difficulties (SLD and PMLD) mean?
there;s alot of diffrent deffenition that i;ve cone across over the years but i would say recovery is more of a orientation to life i think it has to do with uh honesty dealing with the issues that come in to you life be
What are the educational implications for children with Sensory Impairments?
Most children now with sensory impairments, when we talk about sensory impairments, we're actually talking about children with visual impairments or with hearing impairments, and sometimes with speech impairments too. With the hearing and visual impairments, if that is the only difficulty then very often they're not even categorized as a child with special educational needs. They have sensory needs which could be met, usually in a mainstream school because the child has visual impairment. It doesn't mean that they are blind. Only 4% of children are actually blind and use Braille. Likewise, a hearing impaired child doesn't usually mean that they will be completely deaf and never hear at all. In terms of educational implications, I could quote two examples of two very bright children. One, a boy whose parents were adamant that he should go to the local grammar school, where he did and he achieved very highly. They put in place some of the acoustics that were needed and the sound fields and so on. He was in a normal school and went on to university. Another similar case, almost identical profiles and the family were adamant that the child should go to a specialist school for the deaf where they would have a non-hearing peer group and feel very much part of that. So, it does depend on the child, on the parents and on the degree of difficulty. What you often find is that children with sensory impairments also have other difficulties, and then the needs will depend on the nature of those difficulties. And that is what we call accommability when the child has more than one difficulty. Therefore, I should say that it will just depend on them. There are also the deaf blind and that is known as multi-sensory impairment, and obviously for them that will usually require specialist schooling.
Are there any medical conditions that can give rise to SEN?
There are medical conditions that can give rise to SEN. If you think of hydrocephalus or spinabifida, there almost always will be special educational needs associated with those. But epilepsy, for example, some children with epilepsy manage perfectly normally in a mainstream environment, and the epilepsy never really impacts their education. Other children actually attend special schooling because their siezures and fits are so great that it may have implications, and therefore they may have other associated learning difficulties.
What are the educational implications for children with Elective Mutism?
A child with Elective or Selective Mutism isn't actually a child who can't speak, it's a child who won't speak, and that's usually through emotional trauma. It tends on the whole to be fairly short-lived, so what's very important is looking at any kind of counseling or therapeutic needs that will help the child. What is important is to understand that the child isn't doing this deliberately, they are not being naughty, they are suffering some kind of trauma that prevents them from speaking, or just prevents them from speaking in certain situations. For a child to be described as Elective Mute or Selective Mute they must have had the problem for more than one month, and that means not just on starting school. Very often, transitions can cause a child to become an elective or selective mute, but that may be quite short-lived.
What are the educational implications for children with Tourette's Syndrome?
Most children with Tourette's and other tic disorders tend to be quite bright, so on the whole, there tends to be very few educational implications. The key thing is to make sure again that the child has good self esteem to account for things for bullying and to understand that when they feel a flurry of tics it's not something that they can control. So it's finding a system that works. It may be that the child has some kind of way of asking to be excused from the classroom that indicates that they are about to have a flurry of tics, and they have somewhere to go where they can basically get the tics out. It's about understanding the child. It's also understanding that the child may have had a very poor night's sleep because of the Tourette's Syndrome and therefore that may need to be taken into consideration during the school day.
What are the educational implications for children with Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral Palsy is a very wide ranging condition. At one end you have children who may be wheelchair bound, can't speak, and need to use voice activated software. At the other hand you have children where the Cerebral Palsy is barely noticeable. What many parents have used is the National Center for Conductive Education. There's one in Birmingham. There are centers throughout the country. Their working is based on the work of the PETA institute, and that's very much aimed at looking at the physical mobility of the child and improving walking and standing. It's not an educational program, but obviously the impact on education after that can be very far reaching.
What is 'Central Auditory Processing Disorder' (CAPD)?
Central Auditory Processing Disorder is basically where the ear and the brain don't coordinate. The ear hears sounds, and the brain can't make sense of them. It's a problem understanding and using words and using them appropriately. The child will need to be seen by speech and language therapy and audiology, to make sure that there's a correct diagnosis of this and then a way forward in terms of how to work with and help the child.
Are there any conditions which have yet to be formally recognised?
First of all, there are hundreds of conditions, and some of them are better known than others. For example, with connected disorders, most people have heard of Down's Syndrome, some have heard of Fragile X, but when you get to Rett Syndrome, Williams Syndrome, Angelman, and so on, they're less well known. But to answer your question about ones that haven't been diagnosed yet, I'm sure there are. For example, the debate that's raging at the moment as to whether or not all the people diagnosed with dyslexia are actually dyslexics, or if people are simply jumping on the bandwagon. What is important to remember there is that they have a difficulty which is preventing them from learning and making the progress they should. Whether we call that dyslexia, or in ten years time find a new condition that matches half of those people, it doesn't really matter. What matters is not the label, it's about making sure help and support are there, and it's there early when everything is first picked up and noticed. The key to that is making sure that there is good screening, and people are on the lookout for difficulties, and not assuming that the child is just lazy or disinterested.