“I had a terrible education.
I attended a school for
Reading the warning signs
“At school, new ideas are
thrust at you every day. Out
The Special Award winner at the Dyslexia-Friendly Best Practice Awards,
in the world, you’ll have to
Devra Applebaum, was recognised for her dedication to whole-school find the inner motivation
support for learning disabilities. She explains her school’s strategy and
to search for new ideas on
gives advice to teachers when it comes to educating dyslexic pupils
y career in SeN began important to focus on learning outcomes rather than the see assistive technologies rolled out across the entire
more than 10-years-ago while path a student takes to get there. at our school, teachers school, so all students can have access to them.
“True terror is to wake up
teaching science in a London now accept detailed mind-maps in place of essays from Our mind-mapping software, for example, would
secondary school. some dyslexic students. be incredibly beneficial to every student at the school,
one morning and discover
SeN students were taught as long as there is clear demonstration that the however at present, there is not funding to roll out
that your high school class
solely in the mainstream student has understood and learnt the concepts taught, whole-school licences.
mixed ability classroom and then the format should not be the issue. I believe this would also increase usage of the
is running the country.”
the vast majority of my students only spoke english another important consideration for SpLD students is technologies by the students with learning disabilities
as an additional language. It was working with these support during exams. a teacher’s first-hand experience themselves, as many do not use our support centre as
Kurt Vonnegut Jr
young people and realising the impact even I, as a non- of his/her students’ strengths and weaknesses should much as they could.
specialist teacher, could make on their learning that led definitely be discussed with the SeNcO before exams. across education, I would like to see more resources
me to become a full-time support teacher. For example, many of our dyslexic students are now made available to schools to employ support staff “The philosophy of the
One of the most important things I have done since provided with a scribe so they can concentrate on the capable of professionally identifying children with
taking on the role has been to study for my Master’s in content and not on how they are going to get it down learning disabilities. The quicker we can identify these
school room in one
SeN and dyslexia. This qualification has equipped me on paper. young people, the quicker we can put support in place
with the expertise to professionally identify dyslexic revision can also be made a lot less taxing for to help them. I would also like to see teaching staff
generation will be the
students, which enables the school to very quickly put dyslexic students by helping them get to grips with working even more closely with SeNcOs and using
philosophy of government
the correct support in place to help students realise their mind-maps rather than pages of wordy notes. their first-hand experience of students to help ensure
full potential. best practice is embedded in the classroom. SecEd in the next.”
Assistive technologies for independent
Raising awareness in the teaching
• Devra Applebaum is a support teacher at Coedcae
School in Llanelli, Wales.
at coedcae School, we believe it is vital that students
During my career I have seen first-hand the importance with learning disabilities are supported to become more
Dyslexia-Friendly Best Practice Awards 2009 “The person whose
of understanding and supporting SeN across the entire independent learners. We want them to go on into the In celebration of National Dyslexia awareness Week
school community. Over the years, I have worked 6th form and the world of work with the confidence and 2008, iansyst Ltd (www.dyslexic.com) launched its
problems are all behind
extremely hard with staff at my school to ensure they skills to reach their potential. Dyslexia-Friendly Best Practice awards. created to
them is probably the school
understand how conditions such as dyslexia can impact assistive technologies such as text-to-speech, reward exemplary dyslexia-friendly practice in schools,
on a student’s learning experience, not least on their dictation and mind-mapping software have helped the 2009 awards will be calling for entries from October. bus driver.”
self-esteem and confidence to excel. students immensely to achieve their goals. Because To register your interest and to receive an update when
To promote “dyslexia-friendly practice” and to help students with dyslexia have trouble making the basic the awards are open for entry, email senco-award@
teachers understand the condition, I ran a one-year connection between letters and their sounds; they often dyslexic.com
or visit www.dyslexic.com/award
project with a particular group of students taught by the have difficulty learning to read, write and even speak.
majority of our staff. In this time we critiqued existing Many of my dyslexic students are incredibly capable
practice and devised support strategies for our students and driven, however, their writing comprehension often
with specific learning difficulties (SpLD). lets them down. assistive technologies give them greater
We implemented a range of simple techniques such independence by providing the facility to understand and
as identifying and working to students’ strengths, which check over their work. This ultimately helps raise their
resulted in more sensory teaching being introduced. We confidence and self-esteem among their peers, which in
also adapted teaching styles to ensure information is turn has a dramatic impact on their learning.
taught in smaller chunks to account for the speed at which
our dyslexic students could copy from the whiteboard.
My advice to schools is to work closely with It is key that senior management understands the
the SeNcO to ensure every teacher has a basic inextricable link between good SeN provision and
understanding of SpLD. If teachers are aware and can improvement in behaviour, attendance and attainment.
identify traits that might suggest a student is dyslexic, Headteacher and senior-management support is
the student can be assessed and support put in place instrumental in the embedding of dyslexia-friendly best
before the child slips through the net. practice and bringing about change in a school.
It is also important to recognise that a SeNcO My senior management team recognises the
cannot work in isolation, as in reality, students with importance of early identification. The heads from our
SpLD such as dyslexia will still spend the majority of feeder primary schools have allocated funding from our
their time in the mainstream classroom. For example, school’s transition budget to employ a teaching assistant
in our school, SeN students only spend an average of who will be working to identify children with SpLD at
three lessons per week in our support centre. The other key stage 2. This ensures that as children come up to
27 lessons take place in class. our school, we can be ready to fully support them.
Dyslexia-friendly teaching is good for
I have worked with students at opposite ends of the
identification spectrum, from those that have been
I think the most profound finding which came from my identified early and excelled, to those that have not
study was that dyslexia-friendly teaching is actually been picked up until year 9 and have failed to reach
just good teaching practice. every school across the their full potential.
country is working towards truly personalised education It is imperative that everyone at the school works
for young people and dyslexia-friendly teaching is together to identify students early so that you are
a natural extension of this. With the support of a working to build on aspirations rather than undoing years
qualified SeNcO to help guide and advise on the best of disengagement. My advice to non-specialist teachers
approaches to SeN provision, all teachers should be is to talk to your SeNcO and arrange some basic training
able to adapt their teaching to help every student in their to enable you to identify traits in your students. Let Moss Bros Hire, the UK’s leading formalwear hire specialist with the most stylish
class. So, if the teaching is good for dyslexic students, it also, remember that your SeNcO’s door is always
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could lead to identification, so go and talk to them.
Working to raise awareness of SpLD at my school,
Support from your SENCO
coedcae School in Llanelli, has definitely led to a rise in It is important to remember that even the most experienced
achievement among students with learning disabilities. teacher is not a SeN specialist and so the SeNcO should
S p e c i a L S t U d e n t o f f e r
Increased teacher confidence and the implementation of be working very closely to support staff every step of the
proper support strategies, has seen a rise in the number way. I can help mainstream teachers to prepare materials
£ 2 6 . 0 0 t w o p i e c e t U x
of dyslexic pupils moving into higher sets for subjects in suitable formats and advise them about how to put
like mathematics and science. strategies into practice. Teachers have now become more
involved in the provision for SeN students, and are now
Flexible, personalised learning
using their knowledge and experience with individuals to
My advice to teachers would be to work alongside your devise strategies themselves.
Your local Moss Bros Hire store can visit your school for a free,
SeNcO, identify the strengths of your SpLD students,
Future plans and best practice
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For example, a very bright dyslexic student will Practice awards 2008, I am very excited about building
often have difficulties writing down what is in their on our school’s provision for dyslexia with the latest
head, so why not implement a group work session version of the literacy support tool read&Write GOLD.
whereby another student writes as they dictate? It is For the future at our school, I would like to
MBH HSP ad.indd 1 27/03/2009 14:20:23
SecEd • April 2 2009 9
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