Posted in SEND, Uncategorized

Are we failing pupils with SEND?

We are currently in an era where many schools endorse and embrace the goal of full inclusion for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Undoubtedly, inclusion is the key to obtaining education and social equity.

Unfortunately, inclusion is often falsely translated to mean the “place” where teaching and learning occurs, stemming from the ideological belief all pupils should be educated in the general classroom – that instruction provided outside of this setting is akin to segregation. While general education can, and should, be strengthened to better meet the needs of all pupils, for many these practices alone are just not enough. Continue reading “Are we failing pupils with SEND?”

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Posted in SEND, Uncategorized, yoga

Yoga for autism: does it work?

Specialist yoga teacher, Michael Chissick, has been teaching yoga to children in primary mainstream and special schools for two decades.

Last month, during a Commons debate, Education Minister Edward Timpson said that children should be taught Buddhist meditation techniques and yoga in schools to help them “unplug from their online world”. He suggested that lessons taught as part of the PSHE curriculum could enable children “to enjoy good mental health and emotional wellbeing”.[1] Continue reading “Yoga for autism: does it work?”

Posted in Assessment, research, SEND, Uncategorized

Dyslexia: overlooked and left behind?

Every year, SATs results and other national testing shows that too many children and young people are not meeting expected levels in literacy, with 1 in 5 children leaving primary school below the national expected levels in reading, writing and mathematics.[1]

If you cannot learn to read, you cannot read to learn, and too many children are unable to access the curriculum due to poor reading skills. It is these children who then become disengaged and leave school with few, or no qualifications, resulting in significantly reduced opportunities. Continue reading “Dyslexia: overlooked and left behind?”

Posted in communication, education, leadership, learning, policy, schools, SEND, talk, teaching, technology

Speech and Language Therapy, What do I do exactly?

Today we welcome guest blogger, Claire Johnston, a Speech and Language Therapist at Springhill High School in Birmingham, who sheds light on how to support pupils with speech, language and communication difficulties, through the context of her day-to-day work.

“Hi, my name is Claire.”

“Hi, what do you do for a job?”

“Oooo, I know a little boy who has a lisp, I bet you loved the King’s Speech Film.”

And so it goes on!

For Speech and Language Therapists (SLT) I think that this is quite a familiar conversation. Certainly when I first start talking to people, most think that SLT’s just work with children who have difficulty with their speech sounds or we work with people who have a stammer. Many are surprised when I explain it as a birth to grave profession and that we are not a quasi-science. Our work is guided by evidence based practice and scientific research. Speech, language and communication difficulties can occur at any point in our lives and it may hit us like a ton of bricks, a life changing event. We are a birth to grave profession.

From birth we may work with families and new born babies who have been born with a cleft palate or other facial structural abnormality to support safe feeding, and will support the child and their family on a long journey.

We work with children who have an autistic spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), pathological demand avoidance syndrome (PDA) and other developmental conditions. We support them by working with the child and the team around them to develop communication skills using various methods from signs to symbols and voice output devices. We also develop behaviour modification strategies and support the school team with differentiation of the curriculum.

Click here to see a video about how speech and language therapy can help pupils with autism to communicate.

We work with teenagers, adults with learning difficulties and young offenders. It is estimated that up to 90% of young offenders have undiagnosed speech, language and communication difficulties. Negative behaviour for some is the only communication tool they have to express their anxiety, embarrassment at not being able to do class work, stresses, peer pressure, bullying, self-harm and trauma, or mental health difficulties. Never dismiss negative behaviour as “Oh, they are up to it again disrupting the whole class”. It is hard to find the time with the pressures of the school day to spend time with students but there is always a function to the behaviour.

Part of our caseloads may be working with adults with learning difficulties to support them in becoming fully active members of their communities. We also work with individuals who have had a stroke and lost their ability to express themselves or understand what loved ones are saying to them and people who have degenerative conditions such as motor neuron disease who lose their ability to speak, individuals who experience a traumatic brain injury, or Parkinson’s disease.

We work with every professional under the sun from teachers to social workers to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHs) to the police/young offending teams (YOTs) to carers to neurologists and audiologists. Most importantly, the person who needs us themselves is central to our role, for many we give them a voice to say thank you and I love you to the people who matter most to them.

And yes we work with children who have difficulty with speech sounds and individuals who have a stammer! This isn’t an extensive list by any means of the client groups or the professionals we work with but this video gives you an idea as to what we do!

I currently work in a specialist independent secondary school based in Birmingham, where we have young people from many different local authorities. Many of the young people attending the school will have experienced numerous placement breakdowns due to challenging, negative and often very aggressive behaviours but behaviour is communication, it is how it is interpreted that is often the challenge. The staff team within school and the residential placements (not all of our students live in our residential provision) work within, and have a thorough understanding of, social learning theory and the need for unconditional positive regard. Every day is a new, fresh page.

As a Speech and Language therapist, I support the staff team within the school and the residential placements in many ways. This is managed by working directly with young people and indirectly by supporting the staff team and families.

First is the development of a whole school approach to understanding speech, language and communication. This is achieved with training to understand speech, language and communication difficulties, starting with development, this is very important.  If a 14 year old child is scoring on an assessment of receptive language skills at an age equivalent of 6 years, what is the point of handing this information over to the staff team without the support to understand the developmental level the child is presenting to then differentiate the curriculum to meet their needs?

Many of our young people have not accessed speech and language assessments, for those who comply (not all do and there has been the odd **** it, I’m not doing that ****) assessment has been very useful in identifying areas of difficulty with receptive/expressive language skills that had not previously been identified. An example is a young person who was not able to recall sentences during assessment as they increased in length and complexity, secondary curriculum language is complex! These difficulties had not been identified by previous settings, by picking this up the staff team were able to plan with this in mind and chunk verbal communication and use additional supports, such as pictures and bullet pointed information, to support comprehension and engagement within the lesson.

I support the development of one page profiles, this is a very useful document which contains:

  • The young person’s details.
  • Diagnosis.
  • Statement objectives.
  • Speech, language and communication assessment findings.
  • Recommendations from speech and language therapy.
  • Recommendations from educational psychologists or specialist support teams to then differentiate the curriculum.

Using this information, and understanding the need to chunk information for one child to allow time for processing of information, or presenting information with visual supports for another, can mean the difference between engaging or not and interacting in a positive manner or not!

I work very closely with all departments within the school and work jointly with many teachers. Examples of this are joining a P.E lesson to support the staff team by modelling ways to encourage turn taking, waiting, encouraging eye contact and extending communication from one word, for example “Claire” to “throw ball to Claire”. Along with support to develop a sensory activity programme for students to engage with during the day to help students focus. I work with and join drama sessions supporting students who may have specifically focused on body language and communication in 1:1 sessions to then use those skills in drama.

I work very closely with the English department supporting planning for students who are working at P levels to GCSE, this can be from supporting sequencing activities to the development of narratives, understanding who, what, when, where questions and sentence structures.

I support some students with small social skills group activities to develop turn taking, conversation skills, and environmental awareness, as many of our students often start off with 1:1 or 2:1 staffing due to risk. This has developed for some KS4 students into coffee sessions at a local coffee shop where skills became generalised.

Support was provided to PSHE planning to support students with understanding passive, aggressive and assertive behaviours within social situations and how we communicate using different behaviours. This has proven very effective for some students to reflect on both theirs’ and others’ behaviours and then modify them.

1:1 work is provided for some students who have very specific difficulties due to trauma, cognitive, mental health, developmental or environmental challenges. This can be to support many areas such as to develop emotional vocabulary, develop inferential skills, consequential/problem solving skills, receptive language skills, expressive language skills and yes, speech sound work!

The support and benefit of a Speech and Language therapist in school can be massive and the feedback from the headteacher and staff team is that it has supported the understanding and development of the school’s special educational needs (SEN) and speech and language knowledge, but the key to this is good team working and communication.

If you have read this blog, I hope that you have found useful!

Claire Johnston

Speech and Language Therapist

Claire@springhillhighschool.co.uk

cjohnston4slt@gmail.com

If you suspect that a child or young person you work with has a speech language and communication difficulty you can find information to support at;

NHS – Referrals can be made to local speech and language services through GP’s, SENCO’s, child development centres and self-referral.

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists

Posted in curriculum, education, leadership, policy, schools, SEND, teaching, Uncategorized

Talking about… SEND Reform

Unless you’ve been living on a desert island, unable to access the news, you will know that September 2014 is an enormous month for school leaders up and down the country with monumental changes coming into effect.

Governing bodies and headteachers will have to grapple with reforms to performance related pay, the first teaching of the new national curriculum, implementation of universal infant free school meals, the risk pool scheme for free schools and academies, reforms to teacher’s pension schemes, and meeting their duty to support pupils with medical conditions, to name but a few.

I hope you’re still keeping up?

Well, if that wasn’t enough, last month, the reforms to the special educational needs and disability (SEND) framework, outlined in the Children and Families Bill, was given royal assent and became the Children and Families Act 2014. These changes will also come into force on 1st September 2014.

By now, you must be tearing your hair out (if you haven’t already) over all these reforms, but bear with me. TheSchoolBus has your back.

So, how much do you know about SEND? 

Were you aware, for example, that one in five children and young people have a special educational need or disability? Or that the types and range of SEND is increasing all the time?

Twenty percent is a substantial proportion of the pupils in the education system. To put it in perspective, applying the SEND prevalence rate to a class of twenty pupils, for example, would mean that at least four pupils in that class would have a special educational need or disability. This number is far too great for school leaders to brush aside as a secondary issue.

It is also likely that the SEND of each of those 4 pupils is unique, with varying types of support required to accommodate the pupil’s specific needs. That is why the Children and Families Act 2014 sets out a more individualised and better graduated response to support pupils with SEND.

What are the changes?

The overarching change behind all the other changes is that of autonomy. School leaders, teachers, pupils and their parents will be given greater freedom in the way that they identify, assess and deliver SEND provision.

More specifically:

There will be a new 0-25 SEND Code of Practice, setting out the detail of the new SEND legal framework.

Statements of SEN and Learning Difficulty Assessments will be replaced by joint EHC plans, for pupils whose SEND requirements cannot be reasonably met internally, with the resources normally available in mainstream schools. Pupils, who currently have a Statement of SEN before 1st September, will be gradually transferred to an EHC plan. Schools will need to manage a dual system of SEN Statements and EHC plans for the next three years.

School Action and School Action Plus will be replaced with a single SEN Support system. SEN support will be the support available in school for pupils who have a SEND requirement but do not have an EHC plan. Your school should review the support currently given to pupils on School Action and School Action Plus in light of the changes in the 2014/15 academic year.

Local authorities will have a duty to publish a local offer outlining the support that pupils and their families can expect from a range of local agencies, including in education, health and social care. Your school should already be working with the LA, and local health and care providers, to develop the local offer and create the systems and partnerships needed to deliver the changes.

School teaching staff will be held specifically accountable for the progress of their pupils with SEND and will be expected to demonstrate this during their performance appraisals. The training and development of the employees at your school will, therefore, be vital, to ensure that they have the knowledge and expertise of SEND to provide quality provision.

TheSchoolBus

TheSchoolBus has a range of resources in our SEND section that may help you prepare for the new SEND reforms, including:

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Our editorial team is also on hand to provide you with any bespoke document or template that you require, so if there’s something we can do to help you prepare for and implement the SEND reforms, just send us an email to: driver@theschoolbus.net.

Posted in SEND, teaching

Assisting pupils with complex health needs

In the UK alone a staggering 850,000 children and young people suffer from a mental health issue.

More often than not, it is during the childhood and teenage years that mental health is developed and patterns can be set for the future.

Mental health affects cognitive behaviour, social skills and emotional wellbeing, which can have a huge impact in the way we live our lives. As with most medical conditions, early diagnosis and treatment is paramount, but diagnosis can still be difficult, especially in the very young.

In the field of education, individuals are likely to either suffer from some form of mental health disorder themselves or know someone who has, yet attitudes towards these issues are still surrounded by prejudice, fear and ignorance. This makes it harder for sufferers to live a normal life; they may feel isolated, find it hard to maintain friendships or even be able to work. In fact, people’s attitudes towards mental health can sometimes be so negative that it results in individuals refusing to seek help. It’s therefore vital that in order to tackle misconceptions, we must learn more about the issues themselves.

There are many myths surrounding people, both young and old, who have some form of mental health issue, which as a nation we need to challenge!  Firstly, 1 in 4 people suffer from varying mental health issues every year – and not just adults. Statistics have shown that 1 in 10 young people suffer from some form of mental health issue too. Furthermore, there seems to be a myth that people with mental health problems are violent and unpredictable, but in fact they are much more likely to be victims of violence and discrimination themselves.

The very nature of the education profession means that teachers come into contact with many different young people, some with complex health needs, on a daily basis. With this in mind, it’s also important for teachers to be aware of some of the challenges that these children face.

Children with Autism can find lunch and break times extremely difficult. During the rest of their school day, they are given a set of rules and timetables to adhere to, but break times are unstructured and can cause severe anxiety. A way to avoid this scenario is by getting the children to play a structured game, which not only helps develop their social skills but reduces their anxiety.

Children with Asperger’s also prefer routine and rules. They can struggle with changes to their lives, even small ones, like changing the order they get dressed in or changes to their class timetable, which can severely affect them emotionally. A better understanding of the change will help ease any anxiety caused. Giving children time to come to terms with the change also helps. Teachers can do this by explaining the reason for the change, calmly, in advance of the situation, as well as providing reassurance and reasoning during the change itself.

By understanding the nature of syndromes and disorders like Autism, Asperger’s and personality disorders both families, and indeed teachers, will be in a better position to support the child, both during and out of school, which can make all the difference as they grow into adults.

Freedom Care, based in Leicestershire, offers specialised, bespoke quality health care services to help improve the lives of adults and children diagnosed with complex health needs, such as Autism, personality disorders, Asperger’s, ADHD and learning disabilities with recognised Autistic traits.

We also provide residents with a comfortable home environment where users are encouraged to build on their individual strengths whilst developing their social awareness and communication skills.

For more information on how Freedom Care can assist families (or teachers!) coping with children with complex health needs please drop us a message here – we’re always happy to help!

 

 

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Image provided by freedom care