Specific Learning Difficulty Dyslexia – take a moment to

reflect! As she continues to examine the definition of Specific Learning Difficulty Dyslexia and offer pointers for practitioners looking to incorporate Dyslexia-specific practice into their daily work, this month, in her regular column for Education Today, independent Specialist Teacher and Assessor JOANNE GLADDERS explains why it can be important to take a step back before making the decision about a Dyslexia diagnosis.

This month we consider why it is important for a quality assessor to look at the bigger picture before determining a decision as to whether a person has a Specific Learning Difficulty – Dyslexia.

A reminder of the definition from Sir Jim Rose. The definition is as follows:

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed.

Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities. It is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points.

Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor co ordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia.

A good indication of the severity and persistence of dyslexic difficulties can be

gained by examining how the individual responds or has responded to well founded intervention.

A good, quality assessment which follows the SASC guidance will ensure that no stone is left unturned. The assessor will look for evidence to be mapped to the definition but, in addition, will also look to unpick other co-occurring difficulties.

How might they do this? Part of the assessment process involves taking a detailed history about how a person has progressed in their education.

It is important to take a detailed history because SpLDs are developmental in nature and are not the result of a medical condition. (SASC2019:5)

Some of the questions that might be asked are as follows: When did you first become concerned about your learning? Have you had any intervention? What was the outcome? Has there been any Speech and Language concerns? Were all the developmental milestones met? Were they met on time?

This information helps to inform the bigger picture. There are many

crossovers between Specific Learning Difficulty Dyslexia and other conditions such as Dyscalculia, Language and motor co-ordination. A quality assessor will ensure that consideration is given to other potential reasons for the difficulties that are being experienced. If appropriate, recommendations will include further exploration and signposting to the relevant professional. As a result of a quality assessment, whatever the findings are, quality

recommendations should be given. These recommendations should be based on the findings of the assessment and seek to move that person’s learning forward.

June 2021

Could a summer birth date determine likelihood of a SEND

categorisation? In her regular column for Education Today this month, KATE SARGINSON, Deputy Headteacher and SENCO, looks at an intriguing connection between birth date and SEND.

The London School of Economics (LSE) recently published a research paper which concluded that children are more likely to be labelled as having Special Educational Needs if they are born in the summer. If as many as 2 in 5 summer-born boys are being categorised as having SEND, this must call for questions over the rigor and relatability of the methods children are measured and judged, as well as potential wider questions over the age that children start school. For parents, being made aware by school that their child is showing indicators of having a special educational need can be very worrying and uncertain. Could the statistics be causing needless concern and fear, when the explanation is not an underlying learning difficulty, but rather the outcome of a system which has inaccurately categorised them? Using the National Pupil Database census containing over 6

million children’s records, researchers analysed data for a decade from 2008 to 2018. The difference between girls receiving some sort of SEND support was 10%, compared to those with birthdays in Autumn (26%, and 16%). This is starker for boys, 28% compared with 40%. The study found that these disparities between gender and season of birth persist throughout primary school, being most pronounced between the ages of 6 and 8. Dr Tammy Campbell, the report’s author, highlighted the ‘over- attribution’ of the SEND status and suggested that for young children, early testing is inappropriate. Children are denoted as either sufficient or deficient, and age is not factored into the calculation. The assessment system could be argued to be creating, rather than identifying, special educational needs. The importance of when a child is born and opting to be older

when they start school has been specifically advocated for by The Summer Born Campaign. The group consists of parents, carers and professionals, and campaigns for summer born children to be age 5 when they start Primary school. The current system sees children usually starting school in autumn after they turn 4. It is perhaps not widely known that a year’s delay can be requested by parents of children born between April and August. There has been an annual increase in asking for this delay every year since 2016. Statistics from the Department for Education showed that 1.2% of summer-born pupils delayed entry in January 2020, a rise from 1% in January 2019. This decision could significantly reduce the number of children being classified in school records as having SEND, if the explanation for their difficulties is simply their age at the time of assessment. SENCOs and teachers are subject to, and rely upon, the

required assessment tools and processes to systematically identify children who may have special educational needs. If studies such as one conducted by The London School of Economics conclude that a disproportionate number of summer-born children with SEND in schools, SENCOs and teachers need to respond, and bring an additional level of enquiry into the steps they already take to classify children. 19

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