Focusing on the positives of dyslexia

In her regular column for Education Today this month, independent Specialist Teacher and Assessor JOANNE GLADDERS looks at dyslexia and calls on practitioners to focus on the positives and engage in dialogue to ensure that dyslexic learners have the opportunity to channel their strengths to develop their learning.

Last month saw the Annual Dyslexia Awareness week, an opportunity to raise awareness of what Specific Learning Difficulty is and how it has affected people in different ways. This year’s theme was ”Dyslexia Creates…” and this got me

thinking; how often do we associate Specific Learning Difficulty with a list of things a student cannot do? Perhaps we as educators need to alter our mindset to focus on the strengths our students have – the things they can do, and channel these to enable them to be effective learners. The focus on Dyslexia Creates… shows that: Some jobs are known to have far higher numbers of dyslexics.

These include creative things like acting, arts, mechanics, architects, computer designers (especially games), engineers and lots more. People with dyslexia have a combination of abilities and

difficulties but strengths are also a key part of dyslexia; people who are dyslexic have lots of abilities such as being able to generate creative ideas and problem solving, often being very good at coming up with new ideas about how to do things. Hence the reason that lots of inventors and entrepreneurs are dyslexic. No two dyslexics have the same profile and we should not

assume that our students have set difficulties or strengths. Rather we should work with them individually to help identify their own profile. All too often we just associate dyslexia with difficulties with reading, writing and spelling rather than considering which parts of their Cognitive Profile are impacting upon those skills. Dyslexic people may have difficulty processing and remembering

information they see and hear which then can impact upon learning and the acquisition of literacy skills. Dyslexia can also impact on other areas such as organisational skills. In many instances, these difficulties are masked by coping strategies the learner has developed to compensate. An example is the use of finger tapping to recall how many pieces of information have been given that they then need to be able to remember and recall. One of the many pleasures of assessing for dyslexia is the

conversation with the student to explore how they perceive their learning and how they have developed strategies to overcome obstacles in their learning. Interestingly, in many instances, these strategies have been developed subconsciously and they are not even aware that they use them. A quality assessor will always make recommendations to develop

the strengths of the student and show how to apply these strengths to their learning. In addition, they will ensure that the assessment is a positive experience and engage in conversation to ensure the learner fully understands the components being assessed and how they impact upon learning. So my challenge to you is to focus on the positives of your

learners and engage in dialogue to ensure that they all have the opportunity to channel their strengths to develop their learning.

November 2020

Inclusion can be tough on schools

In her regular column for Education Today this month, KATE SARGINSON, Deputy Headteacher and SENCO, examines the issue of managing challenging behaviour in pupils with SEND.

Mainstream schools are increasingly expected to cater for children with special educational needs, many of whom would previously have had their education provided in separate specialist provision. Inclusion is a belief system that values a child’s abilities first, not their disabilities, and schools have shown commitment to its principles and practice. Barriers to learning that are presented by children can vary widely, as can the school’s ease of response. Different categories of need can be seen to be more easily accommodated than others, for example, schools have been found to adapt effectively to physical and/or sensory conditions, but encounter more challenges to the inclusion of children with challenging behavioural conditions.

Children who are on the autistic spectrum have three main areas of difficulty – interaction, social communication, and imagination. It follows that the first two can be challenging to navigate in a school context, as children are required to interact in large groups for sustained periods of time and a proficient level of communicative ability is assumed in order to listen to and follow instructions from adults and build relationships with others. Many schools have growing concerns about managing extremely challenging behaviour as part of a child’s special educational needs. Low level disruption can usually be adequately dealt with within the school through its behaviour policy, but one child with behaviour difficulties can disrupt the whole class through monopolising staff time and focus.

The presence of children with special educational needs in the mainstream classroom can be viewed as diverting resources and time away from other pupils. In addition, some children’s behaviour can be aggressive towards staff and/or peers, presenting additional risk and pressure. It can be very difficult for parents to show empathy and understanding when it is their child who is scared after witnessing someone else, or they themselves, being hurt. Making reasonable adjustments to reflect that a child’s challenging behaviour is not their fault means that the usual steps of issuing fixed term or permanent exclusions is not appropriate. As tempting as it may seem, the solution isn’t for that child to leave, but it can be difficult for staff to know what support is in place and what the consequences are when the usual measures are removed. School is a place where children need to feel safe. School is a workplace where staff need to feel safe.

The inclusion of children with challenging behaviour requires careful monitoring and ongoing communication. Detailed record keeping can help to track the antecedents, behaviour and consequences and gain an understanding. Judgments have to be suspended to keep an open mind about the potential triggers and the context and environment. There can also be internal factors which can be more difficult to ascertain. Specialist support may be required, and commonly such logs are required to be successful in a referral for outside help.

The reality of inclusion can place a huge demand on school staff, many of whom feel ill-equipped to understand and meet increasingly complex behavioural needs. The impact of such difficulties on the other children in the class can be significant, and can be tough for teachers to reconcile. Unfortunately there are no easy answers. 19

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48