Category Archives: Practical Help

Minimising the effects of additional learning needs: Part 4

education6
The last in a four part series discussing parents’ common worries about education with special or additional needs.

Much is written about systems for identifying and meeting the educational needs of children with the most severe disabilities and learning difficulties, particularly at the moment information about the new system in England.  However, many more children have additional / special educational needs without being at the greatest / most complex level calling for a Statement, Education Health and Care Plan (new, in England) or Co-ordinated Support plan (in Scotland).  This is the final part in a series of four articles about the support for this larger group of children. Each article deals with a common worry parents have about their child’s education when they have special or additional needs.

You can read the other parts here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Q.  “Child X has Y condition, therefore we cannot expect much.”

A.  It is not logical to assume that a child cannot do things because of a defined disability or condition although there is no doubt that some conditions, particularly neurological ones, do make specific kinds of learning difficult and some can make it harder to prosper in typical school environments.  To presuppose that a child cannot reach a particular level of learning or qualification because of a diagnosis or difficulty is a more subtle form of labelling.

What the codes emphasise here is individualisation – “reasonable adjustments” might help a child with a disability to access learning and testing more easily, individualised attention or a more specialised environment might help them to overcome or find ways around barriers they face.  Only when all that is put into the equation, is it truly realistic to define what a child may or may not be able to achieve.  The codes contain many statements about this, for example in Wales, LEAs (Local Education Authorities) have a duty to publish their arrangements for “auditing, planning, monitoring and reviewing provision for children with SEN (generally and in relation to individual pupils)” (Welsh Assembly Government, 2004), and among the many references to individualisation is this about early years provision: “Monitoring of individual children’s progress throughout the early years is essential. Where a child appears not to be making progress either generally or in a specific aspect of learning, then it may be necessary to present different opportunities or use alternative approaches to learning. Ongoing difficulties may indicate the need for a level of help above that which is normally available for children in the particular early years setting.” (Section 4:9).

A potential pitfall, where there is a defined diagnosis or learning difficulty, is to look only at that and not at other factors that might be considered if there was no such definition.  For example, a child’s reaction to their experience of school, and their possible view of having to be there as an inconvenience, might come into the mix with a defined diagnosis etc. as well as without one.  Shakespeare’s “As you like it” describes the “whining schoolboy with his satchel and shining morning face, creeping like snail unwillingly to school”.  This could have something to do with the time he had to get up in the morning, but also some children still find school to be a pleasanter experience than others.  Looking at how this can be influenced may also unlock some enthusiasm and ability.

In the United States the term “accommodations” encompasses reasonable adjustments, differentiation of the curriculum, assistive technology, multisensory techniques, individualised learning measures etc.  An Internet search on “accommodations” with “education” will yield additional suggestions for supporting children with different learning issues.  For example, “A critical part of teaching and assessing students with disabilities, then, is providing them with accommodations that support learning and that support their ability to show what they know and can do.”  (Luke SD and Schwartz A, 2007-2010).

References

Luke S.D. and Schwartz A., Assessment and Accommodations (Evidence for Education, Volume 2, Issue 1, 2007, Resources updated October 2010, currently http://nichcy.org/wp-content/uploads/docs/eeaccommodations.pdf, moving at the end of September to http://www.parentcenterhub.org).

See also; Ideas that work: toolkit on teaching and assessing students with disabilities,  (US Office of Special Education Programs).  Some of the recommendations on teaching techniques for children with dyslexia, in Rose, J. 2009, Identifying and teaching children and young people with dyslexia and literacy difficulties, (DCSF Publications) could be useful for other SEN / AN issues as well.  One more out of the many resources containing practical ideas iswww.teachingideas.co.uk/more/specialneeds/contents.htm.

Special educational needs code of practice for Wales (2004), (Welsh Assembly Government).

Items in our library on communication

communication-poppy

We bring you a list of books, DVDs and CDs and communication aids available to borrow from our postal lending library.

Books

  • L1210 – Trouble Talking: a guide for parents of children with speech and language difficulties by James Law
  • L6215 – More Than Words: helping parents promote communication and social skills in children with autism by Fern Sussman
  • L6238 – Communication Issues in Autism and Asperger Syndrome by Olga Bogdashina
  • L6242 – The Classroom and Communication Skills Programme by Megan Ahlers
  • L6381 – Enabling Communication in Autism by Carol Potter
  • L6411 – Helping Children to Improve Their Communication Skills: therapeutic activities for teachers by Deborah

Plummer

  • L6460 – Children with Social Emotional and Behaviour Difficulties and Communication Problems by Melanie Cross
  • L6461 – A Pictures Worth: PECS and other visual communication strategies in autism by Andy Bondy
  • L6468 – Early Communication Skills for Children with Down Syndrome by Libby Kumin
  • L6515 – Teach Me With Pictures: 40 picture scripts to develop play and communication skills in children on the autism spectrum by Simone Griffin
  • L6532 – Rising to New Heights of Communication and Learning for Children with Autism by Carol Spears
  • L6533 – Augmentative and Alternative Communication: models and applications for… caregivers and users by Filip Loncke
  • L6540 – Developing Communication for Autism Using Rapid Prompting Method by Soma Mukhopadhyay
  • L6546 – Social and Communication Development in Autism Spectrum Disorder: early identification and intervention by Tony Charman
  • L6586 – Talk to Me: conversation strategies for parents of children on the autism spectrum by Heather Jones

Audio visual

  • AV6388 – Talkabout: social communication skills (DVD)
  • AV6409 – ISPEEK at Home: over 1300 visual communication images (CD-ROM)
  • AV6538 – Discovery Pathways to Better Speech for Children with Down Syndrome (DVD)

PECS cards

  • C0208 – PECS Cards Keyrings: ‘Instructions and Behaviour’ and ‘Feelings and Emotions’

Portable Communication Aids in the sensory library

  • SmartTalk – 8 picture communication aid, recordable
  • Partner 4 Plus – 4 picture communication aid, recordable
  • iTalk2 – 2 button communication aid, recordable
  • Quick Talker – 12 small picture communication aid

New books in the library published in 2014

This month’s booklist is the new books we have that were published this year.

General

  • L6522 – Mindful Therapeutic Care for Children by Joanna North  ISBN 9781849054461
  • L6595 – Navigating the Medical Maze with a Child with ASD: a practical guide for parents by Sue Ming  ISBN 9781849059718
  • L6529 – A Practical Guide to Mental Health Problems in Children with Autism by Khalid Karim  ISBN 9781849053235
  • L6537 – Identifying Special Needs: checklists for profiling individual differences by Glynis Hannell  ISBN 9780415820233
  • L6588 – Understanding Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: a guide to FASD for parents carers and professionals by Maria Catterick  ISBN 9781849053945
  •  L6605 & L6606 – Sleep Better: a guide to improving sleep for children with special needs by Mark Durand ISBN 9781598572940

Sensory processing

  • L6526 – The Anger Box: sensory turmoil and pain in autism by Phoebe Caldwell  ISBN 9781909810440
  • L6534 – Sensory Processing Challenges: effective clinical work with kids and teens by Lindsey Biel  ISBN 9780393708349
  • L6600 – Sensory Stories for Children and Teens with Special Educational Needs by Joanne Grace  ISBN 9781849054843

Communication

  • L6533 – Augmentative and Alternative Communication: models and applications for educators speech language pathologists psychologists caregivers and users by Filip Loncke  ISBN 9781597564984
  • L6579 – A Different Kettle Of Fish: a day in the life of a physics students with autism by Michael Barton  ISBN 9781849055321
  • L6583 – Colour Coding for Learners with Autism: a resource book for creating meaning through colour at home and school by Adele Devine  ISBN 9781849054416
  • L6586 – Talk To Me: conversation strategies for parents of children on the autism spectrum or with speech and language impairments by Heather Jones  ISBN 9781849054287
  • L6587 – Targeting Language Delays: IEP goals and activities for students with developmental delay by Caroline Lee  ISBN 9781606131985
  • L6594 – The Green Zone Conversation Book: finding common ground in conversation for children on the autism spectrum by Joel Shaul  ISBN 9781849057592

Personal Skills

  • L6536 – Personalisation in Practice: supporting young people with disabilities through transition to adulthood by Suzie Franklin  ISBN 9781849054430
  • L6601 – Tom Needs to Go: a book about how to use public toilets for boys and men with autism related conditions by Kate Reynolds  ISBN 9781849055215
  • L6602 – Exploring Friendship Puberty and Relationships: a programme to help children and young people on the autism spectrum to cope with the challenges of adolescence by Kate Ripley  ISBN 9781849054393

Children’s books

  • C0207 – Babies are Noisy: a book for big brothers and sisters including those on the autism spectrum by Anne Marie Harrison  ISBN 9781849054591
  • C0210 – My Autism Book: a childs guide to ASD by Gloria Dura-Vila  ISBN 9781849054386
  • C0211 – The Disappointment Dragon: learning to cope with disappointment for all children and dragon tamers, including those with Aspergers by K I Al-Ghani  ISBN 9781849054324
  • L6598 – Can I Tell You About Cerebral Palsy? by Marion Stanton  ISBN 9781849054645
  • C0214 – Can I Tell You About Tourette Syndrome? by Mal Leicester  ISBN 9781849054072
  • C0215 – Can I Tell You About Dyspraxia? By Maureen Boon  ISBN 9781849054478
  • C0229 – I’ll Tell You Why I Can’t Wear Those Clothes by Noreen O’Sullivan  ISBN 9781849055109

Minimising the effects of additional learning needs: Part 3

education3
The third in a four part series discussing parents’ common worries about education with special or additional needs.

Much is written about systems for identifying and meeting the educational needs of children with the most severe disabilities and learning difficulties, particularly at the moment information about the new system in England.  However, many more children have additional / special educational needs without being at the greatest / most complex level calling for a Statement, Education Health and Care Plan (new, in England) or Co-ordinated Support plan (in Scotland).  This is the third part in a series of four articles about the support for this larger group of children. Each article deals with a common worry parents have about their child’s education when they have special or additional needs.

You can read the other parts here: Part 1 and Part 2.

“My child has special / additional needs but the school does not say whether or how they are being addressed.”

In all parts of the UK, statutory codes and guidelines expect the education system to work with parents and keep them informed when a child is involved in assessment for or inclusion in SEN / AN provision.  Notwithstanding this, there are parents whose children do have these needs, yet are unaware of what is happening about them at school.
In some cases this could relate to a concern, brought out in particular by the new SEND Code in England, about disadvantage brought on by the “labelling” of children as needing SEN / AN provision.

If a teacher and school are putting in techniques and measures to give a child extra support, they may describe what they are doing without mentioning SEN / AN.  On the other hand, the official approach in all parts of the UK is not only of overt identification of needs, collaboration and sharing of ideas between education providers and families, but also there is an emphasis, particularly in the newer systems, on collaboration and sharing with the children themselves.

An analytical approach to the needs can be split into broad areas, e.g. cognition and learning; behaviour, social and emotional development; communication and interaction; and sensory and/or physical needs (Oxfordshire County Council, 2010).  Or, a starting point might be observing what tasks the child finds difficult, and what works to tackle these.  For example, it should be possible to identify a problem with working memory and to put strategies in place for this, as inhttp://www.learning-works.org.uk/susan-gathercole-workshop-1-pdf.  Exactly when to bring in specialist analysis of any of these areas (“triggers”) would often depend on judgement.

It may be useful to know about two methods that teachers and trainers use:  the lesson plan and personalised learning.  The lesson plan analyses what the teacher would like pupils to have learned by the end of a lesson or series of lessons, what points they will put over to the pupils, varied ways of putting over the material taking account of pupils’ individual differences, and how the teacher will ensure that the pupils have learned the material.

If a pupil has additional needs / a disability, the teacher may prepare a handout or something in a different format for that pupil, in addition to any materials that are prepared for other pupils.  Other elements of preparation may include where to position various children in the room, how they will organise any group work, how they will assist all the pupils to participate, and what the dynamics might be between different pupils.  Teachers should get to know your child, how they can best learn, how to approach them and what extra help they might need.

The approach is obviously different at different levels of education – nursery, primary, secondary etc.  One question to think about when preparing for transitions between different levels is, how will the child be able to deal with the different approaches and expectations of the new level of education they are moving into – for example, the more varied, demanding and academic secondary setting can be hard for children with additional needs to adapt to, which can bring out difficulties that were not apparent, or not important at primary level.

In other ways they may find the new environment exciting and challenging, and begin to enjoy making more of their own choices about things.  Parents might be able to predict some of these elements in their child, and help them and their school to prepare for them.

Without a Statement / EHC / CSP there is no annual review to discuss these things, but there are still other opportunities to discuss and plan with schools and to respond to reports.  A teacher who is aware of ways in which learning can be assisted for a pupil can incorporate those into lesson plans, remembering that there are likely to be several children with disparate additional needs in a class, as well as different characteristics and learning styles among all the other pupils; and of course subject-based teachers will deal with a number of groups of children in a day / week.

Personalised learning is a way of assessing the needs of a student with SEND, forming a relationship with them, finding out how they learn, planning ways of teaching them personally, and assessing progress as the teaching progresses (University of Exeter, 2010).

References

Luke S.D. and Schwartz A., Assessment and Accommodations (Evidence for Education, Volume 2, Issue 1, 2007, Resources updated October 2010, currently http://nichcy.org/wp-content/uploads/docs/eeaccommodations.pdf, moving at the end of September to http://www.parentcenterhub.org).

See also; Ideas that work: toolkit on teaching and assessing students with disabilities,  (US Office of Special Education Programs).  Some of the recommendations on teaching techniques for children with dyslexia, in Rose, J. 2009, Identifying and teaching children and young people with dyslexia and literacy difficulties, (DCSF Publications) could be useful for other SEN / AN issues as well.  One more out of the many resources containing practical ideas iswww.teachingideas.co.uk/more/specialneeds/contents.htm.

Oxfordshire County Council 2010, Guidance for identifying and supporting young children with special educational needs for early years settings, schools and support services.

SEND code of practice: 0 to 25 years (2014), (Dept for Education and Dept of Health, England).

University of Exeter (2010), Framework for personalised learning.

Pairing yourself with a child with a neurological condition

pairing-bellaSleep Practitioner Bethan Roberts gives advice on pairing yourself with a child to help deal with problem behaviour.

Pairing is the process of creating an enjoyable and reinforcing relationship between the child/young person and a given situation/person. Pairing is a very important place to start when trying to create behavioural change, by pairing yourself (as a parent/carer/professional etc) with positive reinforcement, so that you become the reinforcer rather than just the giver of reinforcement, can help achieve behavioural change and enable children feel safer in unknown/unpreferred situations.

Social situations

Every child and young person has the right to be a valued part of their society. The level of involvement is very individual however.  Many adults that children and young people come into contact with have an expectation that children will seek social reinforcement naturally. However many do not and therefore need to learn and experience that these situations can be reinforcing. If we think about school as an example, is there a lesson or activity they’re struggling with? Try to establish what the specific problem is, for example is the sheer length of the assembly and expectation for ‘appropriate behaviour’ too much to be achieved right now? Is there a compromise to be made? Could the time spent in assembly be limited to 5 minutes and increased as tolerance is developed. This would ensure that the young person has access to high value reinforcement in exchange for the desired behaviour for example a magazine in exchange for remaining in assembly and not screaming.

pairing-poppyDay to day activities

Doctor appointments, supermarket shopping, day trips, play dates, going to the bank, dentist – the list is endless and somewhat overlooked sometimes by those who’ve never experienced a meltdown due to unforeseen cues at supermarket checkouts, or the smell of the dentists surgery. But when is this activity necessary? It’s quite common for children and young people to dislike attending appointments with the above professionals, but unfortunately somewhat necessary, and therefore something that could benefit from being worked on. Practice when success is not vital. Would your doctor/dentist be willing to see your child weekly (short term) for 5 mins to work on pairing with reinforcement? Could you call into the supermarket when you don’t need to buy anything, spend two minutes walking up an aisle and then out?

Deciding where to start when tackling these issues can be tricky. There are things that we could begin to deal with today and some that are best left to a later date. Below are a few points to consider:

  • What kind of benefit will they/the family get from this i.e. going on holiday vs supermarket shopping?
  • Is it essential that they are able do this right now i.e. attend a doctor appointment vs attending the school disco?
  • Be mindful of any additional demands that may be inadvertently placed on the child i.e. being quiet, sitting still
  • Try and have a bag of tricks with you. If they are sensitive to noise, could headphones or ear defenders be useful. Keep some high level reinforcement handy that you will only produce when demand levels are very high, these can be produced in exchange for desirable behaviour (perhaps teamed with verbal praise to reinforce what they’re doing)
  • Understanding why the undesirable behaviours happen can help to change them

Work with other agencies such as school, doctors surgery, youth groups, supermarket staff, etc to ensure success there too. It has been my experience that often (not always) people that you come into contact during these times can be important in achieving success. Very often, by sharing with them a little information about your child and what you’re are trying to achieve can help foster an environment of understanding and positivity. Don’t forget, safety is always the most important thing to consider. Never be afraid of admitting things aren’t going to plan. You can always abandon the plan and start again another day!

Accessing Services: The View From a Parent

Alison Thompson

Alison Thompson

Alison Thompson is an author, speaker and mum to Daniel, who was diagnosed with ADHD when he was six. This is her heartfelt account of the troubles she has faced when trying to access services for Daniel.
My son Daniel was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder when he was six, but I’d known there was something wrong long before that. He was a fretful and anxious baby who rarely slept, and as a toddler he was constantly on the go. We went to a local parent and toddler group and he was the child you’ve all seen, running round the room knocking over the other children’s Lego towers, climbing the shelves to get what he wanted from the top, throwing paint on the floor causing chaos. At story time I had to wrestle him to the floor to get him to sit still, and even then he’d be calling things out and distracting the rest of the group.

Daniel was a caring, funny, quirky little boy, with a charming smile and a wicked sense of humour – though he had some strange obsessions. He had a purple teddy bear called Strum who went everywhere with him, and Daniel could not get to sleep if Strum wasn’t there. One day we left Strum behind at a motorway service station and I did a sixty mile round trip to retrieve him, because I knew what a nightmare bedtime would be without him! For a while Daniel was also obsessed with Only Fools and Horses. He could recite some of the episodes word for word – which was fine until the day he told a friend to “Shut up, you tart!” I was mortified.

Daniel Thompson

Daniel Thompson

But there was a darker side to Daniel too. He couldn’t concentrate on anything for very long and he seemed to drift off into his own little world at times. At meal times I’d have to remind him he was meant to be eating as his fork would stop halfway between the plate and his mouth, and in the mornings I’d leave him to get dressed and come back to find him in his room, one leg in and one leg out of his trousers because some toy or game had caught his attention. But the worst thing was the tantrums. Like Jekyll and Hyde, the smallest thing would set him off and he would turn into a mini Incredible Hulk, lashing out at anyone or anything that got in his way. He’d have several meltdowns a day and they could last for hours. Our home was full of holes in the walls and my daughter and I were constantly covered in bruises.

Daniel started at nursery but he didn’t seem to fit in with the other children, somehow he wasn’t in sync with them, and his domineering personality caused problems. At the end of the year, the teacher recommended I see my doctor because she felt there was more going on than normal toddler tantrums, and I agreed. The GP referred us to a paediatrician who said Daniel was “borderline ADHD” – which meant nothing, really.

Continue reading

Darcy’s on the move!

Darcy riding her trike

Darcy riding her trike

A little girl will be having lots of fun this summer on her new trike, funded by Cerebra.

Darcy has a coloboma (a gap in the structure of the eye) that has left her partially blind. She also lives with painful spasms, epilepsy and developmental delay.

Her conditions make day to day life difficult but it doesn’t slow Darcy down and she enviously watched her sisters playing on their bikes.

Darcy’s mum couldn’t afford the specialist trike that Darcy needed, so applied to Cerebra for a grant to help with the cost. Her mum told us:

“The trike has given Darcy the chance to keep up with her sisters and she loves it. She’s like the queen waving at everyone as she passes! She has taken it to play group so she can join in when they do outside play then rides home on it. Thank you so much – it means the world to us that she can enjoy an activity safely without seizures and balance being an issue”.

The support given to Darcy and her family by Cerebra is all thanks to the money raised by the public. If you’d like to help us to keep making a positive difference, head over to our fundraising page.

Legal Entitlements Research Project Update

Booklet with reading glassesOur new on-line request form makes it easier for families to ask for help under our Legal Entitlements Research Project and to understand how the project can help them.

Cerebra’s Legal Entitlements Research Project is open to parents and carers of children aged 16 or under who have a neurological condition and who need help to resolve a legal problem regarding access to health, social care or (to a more limited extent) education support services.

Law students at Cardiff University (under the supervision of qualified staff, firms of solicitors and other disability organisations) can offer legal support to families by providing a written opinion which explains the relevant law and a draft letter which parents can send to the relevant local authority or health body.

As well as providing practical assistance to families, the legal advice scheme also forms part of a wider research programme, under the direction of Professor Luke Clements as our Academic Chair.

The aim of the research programme is to understand why public bodies sometimes fail to discharge their legal duties and identify effective ways of overcoming these problems, so that we can better equip families to resolve problems with the statutory agencies, and enable statutory agencies to improve their decision-making processes and reduce the likelihood of similar problems arising in future.

We have recently developed a new on-line request form for parents who would like to be considered for support from the Project. We hope that the new form will help parents to frame their request and enable us to capture all the relevant information at an early stage. Please let us know if you have any comments or queries about using the online form.

We have also published Project Guidelines which explain how the scheme works in more detail and describe the type of legal problems we may be able to help with.

If you have a legal question about your child’s access to health, social care or education services, please have a look at the Project Guidelines for further details and complete the online request form available on our website.

Early Rising

Small girl waking her parents early in the morning.

Early rising is a common sleep problem

Our useful checklist gives tips for what you can do if your child is an early riser.
Early rising is a common sleep issue. Have you considered or are you already doing the following?

  • Is your child waking due to a noise?
  • Is the room dark? If not, do you have a black out blind?
  • Is your child going to bed at the same time every night?
  • Does your child have a way of knowing when it’s an acceptable time to get up? ( e.g. a clock of some kind)
  • If your child is over 3, have they stopped having naptime?
  • If your child is under 3, have you tried reducing naptime?
  • Are you unintentionally rewarding them when they get up early by letting them come into your bed or taking them downstairs?
  • Have you tried using a reward chart for your child staying in their room until an acceptable time?
  • Do you have anything in the child’s room that they can do quietly if there is no chance of them going back to sleep?
  • Have you minimised anything in the room that is noisy or overly stimulating for your child?
Download this checklist as a PDF

Cerebra’s sleep practitioners can advise on a range of sleep issues in children, such as settling difficulty, night waking, early rising, sleeping alone, bedwetting, night terrors and anxiety. Visit our sleep pages to find out more.

Books on sleep in our library

Dog with head resting on a book

Books on sleep

We have several books on sleep in our postal lending library. Below is a list.

For kids:

C0166 – What To Do When You Dread Your Bed

Advice for children with disabilities:

L1320 – Sleep Better: a guide to improving sleep for children with special needs
L6325 – Sleep Disturbances in Children and Adolescents with Disorders of Development
L6392 – Sleep Difficulties and the Autism Spectrum
L6367 – A Clinical Guide to Paediatric Sleep
General sleep advice for children:

L6315 and L6531 – Solving Children’s Sleep Problems: a step by step guide for patents
L6107 – The New Baby and Toddler Sleep Programme
L6324 – Teach Your Child to Sleep: solving sleep problems from newborn through childhood