Special Educational Needs (SEN) - Learners, specific pedagogies and strategies lecture
This chapter will define SEN and the various different conditions which fall under this wide-ranging label. SEN learners will be considered in light of the historical background of SEN and SEN provision, followed by a discussion of separate strategies that are employed, with examples of specific learners most commonly found in mainstream classrooms. Consideration will be given as to how different strategies can promote inclusion in existing practice.
Learning objectives for this chapter
By the end of this chapter, we would like you:
- To understand the meaning of the term SEN and the various different conditions which are grouped together under this label in schools
- To understand the differences between different types of learners and their needs as dictated by their condition
- To have a growing understanding of the different approaches towards teaching and learning that can be taken with different students
- To identify the strengths and limitations in existing provision for SEN pupils
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Definition of Terms
Children are deemed to have special needs if they experience any learning difficulties which necessitate special provisions to be made for their education (Department for Education and Skills [DfES], 2001). They thought of as having learning difficulties if they have greater problems with learning than their peers (DfES, 2001). A fuller explanation of this term can be found in Chapter 3.
Examples of the most prevalent conditions covered under SEN are listed below.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is a developmental and behavioural disorder which has no definitive cause, although it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The condition is characterised by a lack of concentration, hyperactivity, impulsiveness and a tendency to be distracted easily. It is thought to effect approximately 2% of the children in the United Kingdom (Specialeducationalneeds.co.uk, 2016).
Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
ASD is a term which is used to cover a range of conditions which have a common 'Triad of Impairments': those affected have issues with regard to the understanding and use of both verbal and non-verbal communication, in understanding appropriate social behaviour, and in thinking and behaving in a flexible way [they engage in repetitive or sessional activities] (Specialeducationalneeds.co.uk, 2016a).
Three specific conditions fall within ASD:
Autism is a lifelong disability which has an impact on how people perceive the world and their ability to interact with those around them. The National Autistic Society (NAS, n.d.) state that those with the condition see, feel and hear the world differently, and this is a life-long issue with which they have to cope. This condition is what is known as a spectrum condition which means that although all autistic people share some difficulties, the effects of their condition will be different for each individual.
This is a similar lifelong developmental disability. Many of those with this syndrome have average or above average levels of intelligence, but they may exhibit specific learning issues. They often have fewer problems with their speech but still have issues with regard to the processing and understanding of language (NAS, n.d.a), which can lead to feelings of anger, frustration and a lack of self-esteem (Specialeducationalneeds.co.uk, 2016b).
Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA)
Individuals with this condition share difficulties with others who have ASD in terms of communication and interaction, but their unique difficulty is the way that they attempt to avoid all forms of demands and expectations on them, as a result of the need to be in control. The condition manifests itself through avoidance of the demands of everyday life, a lack of social understanding, mood swings, impulsivity and obsessive behaviour which focuses upon people (NAS, n.d.b).
ASD is frequently diagnosed alongside other conditions such as ADHD, Hearing Impairment (HI), Down's Syndrome, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Visual Impairment (VI).
Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties (BESD)
This is a term used to embrace a number of chronic, complex issues which are also known as Social, Educational and Behavioural Difficulties (SEBD) and Educational and Behavioural Difficulties (EBD). Providing an exact definition is difficult and can depend upon the beliefs of individuals and/or organisations with regard to the root cause of behaviour problems (e.g. social, emotional). Children's behaviour can range from attention seeking behaviour, disruptive behaviour, a lack of attention in class, a lack of social skills, and the appearance of being isolated. Behaviours such as these can be traced to mental health issues including anxiety and depression (Department for Education/Department of Health [DfE/DoH], 2015).
Down's syndrome occurs when individuals have a partial or full extra copy of chromosome 21. Characteristics common to those with the condition are being a small stature, low muscle tone, an upward slant to the eyes (National Down's Syndrome Society, 2012) and they can have learning difficulties which range from being moderate to severe (Buttriss and Callander, 2010). Down's children often have some auditory and visual impairment, have slower development emotionally and physically (both fine and gross motor skills), have a short concentration span and can have difficulty in transferring skills (Buttriss and Callander, 2010).
Dyslexia is described as a specific learning issue which has its origins in neurobiology. Those with the condition typically have "… difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities… [which result from] a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction" (Lyon et al., 2003, p. 2).
Dyspraxia is a lifelong developmental condition which affects fine and gross motor skills in children, although it can also impact upon speech. It occurs across a range of different intellectual abilities with the coordination issues having a detrimental effect on individuals' ability to participate in everyday things like education and employment (Dyspraxia Foundation, 2016).
Hearing Impairment (HI)
HI is a loss of hearing - which may fluctuate or be permanent - which has an adverse effect on an individual's educational performance, whilst allowing them some degree of access to communication (Reese and Davis, 2007).
Learning difficulties are evidenced when children are slower than and/or are behind the levels of their peers in their learning and comprehension of new concepts. This can cover a range of skills including that of communication (speech and language), motor skills and social skills. There are subdivisions within this, with Moderate Learning Difficulty (MLD) broadly covering children who have an IQ between 50 and 70 and Severe Learning Difficulty (SLD) including those whose IQ is below 50 (Specialeducationalneeds.co.uk, 2016c).
Visual Impairment (VI)
VI has no accurate definition. It describes a range or continuum of visual loss which covers a range from severe sight impairment/blindness to slight impairment/partially sighted, and low vision (McLinden and Douglas, 2014).
Another specific group of individuals who require support, and who fall under the remit of SEN, are those for whom English as an Additional Language (EAL).
Reflecting on the list above, what in your opinion are the difficulties practitioners face when preparing for pupils who are designated as having SEN?
In order to have a full understanding of SEN, it is important to have a grasp of the historical background to the definition and attitudes towards those who experience learning difficulties. Educational practice has been influenced by different models of disability, the main two being the medical model and the social model.
The medical model regards disability as a personal issue which has its root in specific conditions, disabilities or illnesses which can be improved through medical intervention or some form of rehabilitation measure (Hedlund, 2009), as opposed to considering the needs of any one or group of individuals who are affected (Burke and Cigno, 2000). Hedlund (2009) observes that this view of disability focuses purely on the problems of each individual medical condition in order to formulate some sort of diagnosis as to how their problems can be improved. This view is rooted in the ideas put forward at the beginning of the 20th century which saw people viewing individuals purely in the light of their difficulties and their limitations. Alfred Eicholz grouped needs into three specific types: mentally deficient, physically defective and/or epileptic and retarded. The education for the 'mentally deficient' was provided away from their peers and mainstream schooling, often in the country where they learnt skills concerning practical farm work, in that it was thought that they were less likely to do any harm (Haskell and Barrett, 1993). This treatment is similar to the way in which the containment of any contagion is approached, in that individuals were separated from society (a form of quarantine) with the issue of disability being contained, thereby reducing any harm (Hedlund, 2009). The 'physically defective and/or epileptic' were placed on a strict, medically supervised diet in residential facilities, being taught basic life skills. Those who seemed physically healthy but less able than others were labelled as being 'retarded'; these individuals were taught in special schools on a day-to-day basis, being provided with teaching and learning exercises which were designed to help them to overcome their issues to facilitate the joining of mainstream schools (Haskell and Barrett, 1993).
This model regards disability as preventing individuals' ability to function, as a result of health issues or injuries. The very fact that terms such as 'retarded', 'mentally deficient' and 'defective' were used imply that individuals were in some way broken and were in need of repair in order to be 'normal'. It was believed that the normalising process could be facilitated through training programmes or aids, and that an individual's situation could be improved by their practising, in order to hone their abilities such that they could make some sort of valid contribution to society whilst protecting themselves against their impairments or issues which were the result of their disability (Beith et al, 2008; Hedlund, 2009).
Labelling of this kind continued to be used in the Education Act of 1944. The handicapped were grouped in 11 distinct categories by doctors who used "… pseudo diagnostic labels such as 'educationally subnormal'" (Topping and Maloney, 2005, p.3) in their descriptions of each category. Whilst this Act ensured that individuals who had any form of disability were entitled to special education, it did label them as 'suffering.' This legislation made provision for the majority of that education to be conducted outside of the mainstream, with some individuals even being labelled as 'ineducable', leading to their exclusion from any form of structured education (Runswick-Cole and Hodge, 2009). Inevitably, with this philosophical standpoint concluding that education was a means of treating a range of ailments (Ramsut, 1989), learners and their families were left feeling isolated and cut off from society in general (Haskell and Barrett, 1993).
This model has been the subject of criticism resulting from its emphasis upon the individual and the issues that they face, as opposed to looking at their abilities and what they are able to do in spite of their difficulties. It precludes any consideration, as a result of a 'diagnosis', of an individual's potential, and highlights society's shortcomings with regard to providing opportunities for those who have any form of disability. It is also evident that this model is completely dependent upon its understanding of disability through medically accepted statements and criterion based definitions provided by the medical profession. It is pertinent to note that a number of significant impairments are excluded from these definitions as a result of the fact that they are more difficult to quantify; for example, both alcoholics and drug addicts are difficult to categorise, as are individuals who are different from the 'norm'. The medical model, when applied to everyday social problems and issues, fails as a result of leaving many disadvantaged individuals without access to the support that they need through a lack of diagnosis (Hedlund, 2009).
The move towards challenging these long-held ideas came with a shift in the focus of attention from a deficit viewpoint to one of concentrating on "… social oppression, cultural discourse, and environmental barriers" (Shakespeare, 2006, p. 197). In the United Kingdom, the social model of disability has provided an analysis of the social exclusion of disabled people (Hasler, 1993), with this model developing from the work of the Union of Physically Impaired Against Segregation [UPIAS]. The expressed aim of the group was to ensure that anyone with any form of impairment be afforded the opportunity to live independently and to have control of their own lives through being able to participate in, and contribute to, society. In conjunction with the pressure placed upon government by the Liberation Network of People with Disabilities, the British Council for Disabled People was established in 1981.
The first challenge for the UPIAS was to redefine disability. They argued that disability was something that was imposed upon them, in addition to their impairments, as a result of their denial of access to full and meaningful participation in society. This meant, as far as they were concerned, that disabled people were being oppressed (UPIAS, 1975). They defined disability as "… the disadvantage or restriction of activity caused by a contemporary social organisation which takes little or no account of people who have physical impairments and thus excludes them from participation in the mainstream of social activities" (UPIAS, 1975 cited in Shakespeare, 2006, p. 198). It can be argued that the key to the thinking behind this model is a series of dichotomies (contrasts or contradictions).
- Impairment is separated from disability. Whilst doctors and concerned parties attempt to find remedies or cures for an individual's impairment (which are specific and private to the individual), society itself should be focusing upon the acceptance of impairment, thereby removing disability. There should be a realisation that disability is a social construct which can be changed and/or removed.
- This model is differentiated from the medical model. One regards disability as a social construct, whereas the other uses it as a recognition of some form of deficit. The social model advocates the removal of barriers through legislation in order to facilitate independent living and the removal of oppression; the medical model places a plethora of complex individual issues together, reducing them to problems of prevention, cure and rehabilitation.
- People with disabilities are distinguished from people who are not disabled. Professional organisations and charities, as laudable as their motives might be, can be contributors to the oppression of the disabled, in that it is not charity that will solve their issues - civil rights will. It is organisations that are controlled and run by those who experience this oppression on a day-to-day basis (the disabled themselves) who are able to provide apposite solutions.
It is important to recognise that many supporters of the social model attest to the accuracy and validity of the statements and views that were developed by the UPIAS, in the current socio-political climate (Shakespeare, 2006).
In terms of education, the initial impact of the social model was seen in the Warnock Report (1978), which fashioned the fundamental principles of the 1981 Education Act. Warnock's document considered a child's individual needs whilst still providing general classifications covering their particular issues and problems. These ranged from speech and language disorders to emotional and behavioural difficulties, as well as visual and hearing disability and learning issues. Learning issues were separated into four categories - mild, moderate, severe and specific - with these being suggested in order to help inform educators and Local Education Authorities (LEA) as to the best means of supporting children during the educative process. This aspect of the report was critical in that it stated that the majority of children with SEN would need to be identified and provided for in mainstream schools. Furthermore, the Warnock Report (1978) claimed that up to 20% of all children would need some form of support during their time at school, hence the emphasis on the implementation and monitoring of the 200+ recommendations contained within it.
The Education Act (1981) was a watershed in terms of providing a definition for special needs. This were defined as "a learning difficulty which calls for special educational provision to be made" (Education Act, 1981, 1.1). Special educational provision was defined as learning opportunities that were arranged in addition to the activities provided by the LEA. This Act placed the responsibility for the education of those with special needs in the hands of mainstream schools, who were to be provided with additional help via additional monies and/or materials and support (personnel) through Statements of Special Educational Need. These were contracts that agreed support packages for individual students that were designed to meet their specific needs (Runswick-Cole and Hodge, 2009), and which served to acknowledge societal responsibility for the provision of their needs. The subsequent Education Act of 1996 further cemented the legislative responsibilities of schools, requiring the parents of children with SEN to opt out of mainstream schooling as opposed to applying for it to be provided. Further acknowledgement as to the importance of providing individualised support for children was provided by the SEN Code of Practice (Department for Education and Skills [DfES], 2001), which accentuated the need for schools to address children's skills in terms of cognitive learning, social interaction, sensory and physical needs and behavioural, emotional and social development.
The strength of this model is in its simplicity - it is easily explained and understood, and generates debate as well as demanding social change. Through this debate, it identifies many of the social barriers which need to be removed, with Oliver (2004) commenting that it is not merely a theory but an effective tool with which to generate change. It is a model which focuses upon social oppression and the moral responsibility of society to change itself, in order that disabled people are able to engage more with it. In addition, the social model has had a positive impact on the self-esteem of disabled people which allows them to make a personal contribution to society.
Its weaknesses include the fact that there is no acknowledgement that an individual's impairment does have an impact on a disabled person's life. In addition, it makes a clear distinction between the impairment (medical) itself and disability (social), the differences between which are much more difficult to differentiate in real life. The concept also fails to recognise that, no matter how much change is initiated, a barrier-free life for those who are disabled is impossible to put into operation in its entirety; for example, everyone needs to be able to read and write to a certain extent in order that they are able to participate in everyday life (Shakespeare, 2006). Shakespeare (2006) argues that those who are disabled face both discrimination and limitations which are intrinsic to their condition. This means that, no matter how many barriers removed there will still be disadvantages for them to overcome as a result of their impairment. It is also difficult to celebrate something which refers to an individual's limitations or incapacity and there is an issue with regard to the cost of the funding of complete emancipation and freedom for those who have disabilities.
What are the differences between these two models as far as you can tell at this point? In what ways do you think these models are helpful, and how are they limiting? Explain the philosophy behind each one in your own words and try to relate this back to your own understanding of SEN. Does it align more closely with one model than the other?
Learning Issues, Strategies and Inclusion
The following section provides an example of a specific learning issue - ASD - in order to provide a better understanding of some of the difficulties faced by those who have special needs and how educators support them in their development and learning. It should be noted that much of the advice contained within this example can be applied to address other conditions that fall under the banner of SEN (see Chapter 3, which also contains general principles of good practice).
As indicated above, those who have autism (or ASD) have issues in three main areas, which are sometimes referred to as the 'Triad of Impairments.'
- Issues with social interaction
Those with ASD have difficulty in recognising and understanding the feelings of others and in the management of their own emotions. This leads them to have difficulty in understanding unwritten societal rules which the bulk of society regard as commonplace; for example, starting an inappropriate subject of conversation in a social setting, or invading someone's personal space by standing too close to them. It is common for them to seem insensitive, as they have not recognised the fact that someone may be feeling unwell or ill at ease. They also appear to be loners, in the sense that they prefer to spend time alone and will not look for comfort from other people. In addition, they appear to act in a strange manner as a result of not being able to express their emotions, feelings and needs clearly. Many want to make friends with others and interact with them but they are unsure about how to achieve this, leading to issues both inside and outside of the classroom environment.
- Issues with social communication
People with ASD have difficulties in using and comprehending both verbal and non-verbal language, for example, gesture, facial expression and tone of voice. People with this condition tend to have a literal understanding of language, leading them to have difficulty in understanding jokes and the use of metaphors. Some individuals have difficulty in speaking - they have the ability to understand what other people say to them, but may employ other means of communication (sign language) in order to interact with others. Those who have a reasonable command of language may still find it difficult to understand the to-and-fro nature of conversations, leading them to repeat what someone has just said to them or talk about their own interests at great length.
- Issues with social imagination
People with this condition find it difficult to understand and predict the intentions of others or to imagine acting in situations which are alien to their normal routine. This is demonstrated in their repetitive behaviour patterns and a lack of imagination with regard to the activities in which they engage. Individuals have difficulty in interpreting the feelings, thoughts and actions of others and to appreciate what might happen next which can lead them into difficult situations as a result of not having any appreciation of danger. Some children are able to engage in imaginative play but are seen to act out the same scenes each time as they appear not to be able to cope with unfamiliar situations. It is pertinent to point out that these issues in terms of imagination are not all encompassing - they refer to social situations, as can be clearly evidenced by autistic people who have become accomplished in their own fields (Mozart, Tim Burton, Andy Warhol, Chris Packham, Susan Boyle and Dan Aykroyd).
As a result of these issues, children with ASD find if it difficult to learn how to play and to interact with others. 'Fitting in' is very difficult for them as they do not understand how to empathise with others which results in their having problems both inside and outside of the classroom. They are also not comfortable with unexpected occurrences and/or changes in routine. They also do not pick up social cues such as facial expressions, gestures and tone of voice, all of which leads to them being vulnerable to bullies.
In many ways, this could be regarded as a form of hidden disability as there are no outward signs which impact upon an individual's physical appearance. However, where it does become obvious is through patterns of behaviour. For example, they may have difficulty in making and maintaining friendships, find it hard to understand instructions unless they are given very clearly, are seen to be isolated at break or lunchtimes, and find changes in routine difficult. Children with this condition also find group activities difficult as a result of their poor social skills and, where activities are noisy, they can become anxious (NAS, 2011).
You have been teaching your Year 5 class for half a term. Jacob is a pupil in this class who appears, to all intents and purposes, to be happy and content. However, he doesn't appear to have any particular friends or be engaged in any friendship groupings. At break time, he can often be found alone, either watching children who are playing or engaged in solo play on the periphery of the playground area. In the classroom, he does display signs of finding instructions difficult to understand, even to the point of forgetting what he is supposed to be doing even when he has a basic instruction card provided for him. He seems to find group work challenging and can often be found talking too loudly and/or over the top of others in the group. He has been known to have losses of temper when others do not conform to his wishes, particularly where the sharing of materials and/or toys are concerned. When he is playing with toys, it has been noted that he engages in repetitive behaviour, such as lining toy cars up in the same order and turning them over so that he can repeatedly spin their wheels.
A number of approaches can be adopted to address Jacob's issues. The first would be a focus upon communicating clearly with him in order that he has a clear understanding of what is being asked of him. It is important for pupils with ASD that the language used with them is direct, containing no metaphors, sarcasm or jokes so that they are able to fully grasp the content of what is being said. Using his name when addressing him is a good way of gaining his attention. It is important to slow speech down and provide some time after having finished giving instructions to him, allowing him to process what has been said. It is important that this understanding is checked with Jacob before any further information is provided and/or ask him to go about completing any task. It is important that practitioners and other adults are patient with him, although it is important that he is fully conversant with what is expected of him in terms of behaviour and work. If there is a need to intervene with him, it is important that this is done using a calm, measured tone of voice which defuses the situation, as well as removing him to a quiet area.
It is equally important that Jacob has the opportunity to remove himself from a situation when he feels that he is about to lose control of himself. The fact that he does recognise this is a sign that he is making progress; it might be an idea to supply him with some form of 'quiet card' which allows him to remove himself in order to calm down away from the rest of the class. It is also important that any strategies are reinforced with Jacob in his home school diary and/or through communicating with parents as they drop him to and pick him up from school.
It might be the case that Jacob would find it easier to develop his communication skills through utilising visual aids. He might benefit from laminated instruction sheets which reduce anxiety levels when he is starting to engage in tasks like writing. Jacob might also benefit from the use of social stories in order that he can learn how to cope with different situations; these are stories which are written for individual children explaining very clearly, utilising words and pictures, what might happen when they feel under pressure and how they should cope in difficult situations.
Employing different and/or separate strategies with SEN pupils ensures that they have equality of opportunity (Equality Act, 2010) to the curriculum which promotes a more inclusive environment in the sense that they are able to access the same material as their peers, albeit in a slightly modified form. Different approaches allow children to develop their communication and interaction skills, which are enhanced by being in mainstream education. The inclusion of those with learning issues in mainstream schools also provide opportunities for improvements to be made with their social skills - the other children also benefit from interaction with individuals with issues, in that they are able to develop a sense of empathy for their problems and embrace their differences which promotes a sense of unity and equality. It should also be noted that many of the approaches which can be adopted with SEN pupils can also be used to good effect with other students.
The drive for inclusion of all children is evidenced within documentation produced by the DfE and the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted). The DfE (2014) specifically state that teachers should, in all their dealings with pupils, be aware of the equal opportunities legislation which covers race, sex, disability, belief or religion, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, and pregnancy and maternity. It has also recently updated the SEN Code of Practice (DfE/DoH, 2015) to ensure that all children and young people have access to the support they require from their early childhood right through until the age of 25, which also provides links to the Children and Families Act (2014) and the Special Needs and Disability Regulations (2014). Ofsted make its contribution through ensuring, as a part of their inspection of schools, that the needs of those designated as having SEN are being met, inclusive of case studies involving pupils with disabilities and SEN. Clearly, there is a commitment to providing the best possible start in life for those who experience learning difficulties of any sort.
This commitment also extends to placing those who have special needs in the correct place: it will not always be the case that their needs are best met through mainstream schooling through limitations in budget, staffing and the physical environment. Where an individual's condition is particularly severe or requires more specialist support, provision within a special school might be more appropriate for them. Inclusive practice (as illustrated in Chapter 3 and later, in Chapter 6) involves finding appropriate solutions for each individual pupil, by treating them as an individual and placing them at the heart of the educative process.
Having read this chapter, reflect upon your own knowledge of SEN, SEN provision and practice. Devise your own personal list concerning things about which you need to become more knowledgeable in this area and a plan of how you might go about addressing this.
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Bennathan, M. (2009) 'Nurture Groups: early Relationships and Mental Health.' in Cefai, C., Cooper, P. (Eds) Promoting Emotional Education: Engaging Children and Young People with Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers pp. 144 - 150
Beith, K., Tassoni, P., Bulman, K., Robinson, M. (2008) Children's Care, Learning & Development. (Revised Edition) London: Heineman
Burke, P., Cigno, K. (2000) Learning Disabilities in Children. London: Blackwell
Buttriss, J., Callander, A. (2010) Whole-School Guide to Special Educational Needs: a directory of learning difficulties, disabilities and activities. London: Optimus Education e-Books
Children and Families Act (2014) London: The Stationary Office
Department for Education/Department of Health [DfE/DoH] (2015) Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years. Statutory guidance for organisations which work with and support children and young people who have special educational needs and disabilities. London: Department for Education/Department of Health
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McLinden, M., Douglas, G. (2014) 'Education of children with sensory needs: reducing barriers to learning for children with visual impairment.' in Holliman, A. J. (Ed) The Routledge International Companion to Educational Psychology London: Routledge
National Autistic Society [NAS] (2011) Autistic Spectrum Disorders. London: NAS
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National Autistic Society (n.d.a) 'Asperger syndrome.' Retrieved 22nd November 2016 from http://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/asperger.aspx
National Autistic Society (n.d.b) 'What is pathological demand avoidance?' Retrieved 22nd November 2016 from http://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/pda.aspx
National Down's Syndrome Society (2012) 'What is Down Syndrome?' Retrieved 22nd November 2016 from http://www.ndss.org/down-syndrome/what-is-down-syndrome/
Oliver, M. (2004) 'The Social Model in Action: If I had a Hammer.' in Barnes, C., Mercer, G. (Eds) Implementing the Social Model of Disability: Theory and Research Leeds: The Disability Press
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Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations (2014) London: The Stationary Office
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Warnock Report (1978) Special Educational Needs: Report to the Committee of Enquiry into the Education of Handicapped Children and Young People. London: HMSO
Hands on Scenario: Special Educational Needs (SEN) - Learners, specific pedagogies and strategies
- Year 6 pupil - Adrian
Adrian is a relatively new addition to the school. From the outset, he appeared to be quite withdrawn, with his records indicating that he has SEBD which has been exacerbated by the breakup of his parents' marriage. He has difficulties with his reading and comprehension and has been diagnosed as being dyslexic. He appears to have difficulties with regard to concentration and interacting with others, and engaging on a one-to-one and/or group level as a part of class activities. He does appear to be making tentative friendships with two boys in his peer group, who are particularly patient with him when playing both inside and outside of the classroom environment.
On one occasion, he became physically aggressive with a pupil from another class at break time whilst playing outside. Both of the pupils came to blows, needing to be separated by an adult supervisor. It transpired that both boys wanted to use a particular piece of equipment, and rather than sharing with the other boy, Adrian became aggressive and began pushing him, resulting in their both becoming involved in a fight.
Both boys were placed in separate quiet areas. Adrian was asked whether he would like to talk about what had happened - he declined in the first instance, preferring to sit quietly and regain control of his temper. At the end of the break time period (approximately 10 minutes), his class teacher said that he could come to the class, and that when he was ready to talk he needed to indicate that in the usual way.
How would you go about helping Adrian with his problems inside and outside of the classroom, including this incidence of aggression?
Adrian is a pupil who has been assessed as having SEBD. In view of the fact that he is relatively new, further assessment should be made as to the depth and extent of his issues. One particular root cause has already been identified - the breakup of his family. This assessment can take the form of the Boxall profile, which is designed to assess the needs of individual children and design interventions and tracking programs to evaluate the extent of their progress. It is a two-part diagnostic test which is completed by practitioners whilst they are observing children in order to ascertain their skill levels and areas on which they need to improve. The first part identifies Developmental Strands which provide an indication of a child's current position with regard to learning in light of their development. The second is a Diagnostic Profile, which highlights specific areas with regard to attitude and behaviour which present barriers to the process of learning. In utilising this profile, individual interventions can be designed in order to meet children's specific needs (Bannathan, 2009). These interventions can be utilised both in the main classroom and also in nurture rooms where they are present.
In this case, the school already has a nurture room and nurture corners in each of their classrooms. It would appear that Adrian would benefit from exposure to the nurture room over a specific period of time in order to work on his social and interactive skills, as well as his ability to concentrate for longer periods and manage his own behaviour effectively. Children engaged in work in nurture rooms are typically provided with half a day in the nurture room, followed by the remaining part of the school day in the classroom with their peers. In the nurture room, children are provided with opportunities to develop their social skills through working with others, sharing things with others and developing their life skills through engaging in activities like group cooking. It is through developing both their independence and their ability to socialise with others that their learning is improved. They also engaged in activities which work on their ability to recognise the signs that they may be losing control of their emotions. Practitioners are encouraged to model the behaviour that they expect from their pupils through remaining calm and demonstrating the right way to approach dealing with difficult issues. They also develop a set routine in order that the children feel comfortable within this group situation. It is important that these practices are extended into the classroom by other practitioners, in order that the children who have been exposed to the nurture room feel safe and confident in using the tools that they have learnt to help them with their behaviour and learning.
An example of this might be the use of a card which indicates that they need to go to a quiet area (a nurture corner within the room or a quiet room set aside outside the classroom) when they feel that they might lose control of themselves. Practitioners can a knowledge the card with a simple nod or a 'thumbs up' or by doing nothing at all, allowing the pupil the freedom to learn how to control their emotions by quietly calming down and thinking things through on their own. It is important that pupils are provided with an opportunity to talk should they so wish, which can be done with a simple sign on the nurture corner saying 'I would like to talk' which can be displayed when they are ready, or by having a card that they can carry on their return to the classroom which indicates that they do or do not wish to talk at this point.
These strategies are all designed to empower the children and to teach them how to control themselves, thereby removing potential barriers to their learning and helping them to learn how to engage with others.
Adrian's incident of aggression;
This could be dealt with by asking Adrian how he might have handled the situation differently. It is important to talk this through with him in order that he understands that aggressive behaviour is not something that is tolerated either in the school or in wider society. He needs to be spoken with rather than spoken at in order to change his behaviour in future. He might also be asked whether he felt and emotional change before he became aggressive in order that he is able to better recognise this in the future and remove himself from the situation. It is important that children who have behavioural issues begin to recognise the signs of when they might lose control and learn not to place themselves in situations where these incidents can occur. It is also important that any standard consequences are applied to both Adrian and the other people in order that they, and their peers, understand that undesirable actions do carry consequences.
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