Treat the Need not the Label

Every few months a newspaper report comes along to claim ‘dyslexia doesn’t exist’ or ‘ADHD is made up’. Of course, this is usually a sensationalist version of a new report showing controversial research in the field. Yesterday, Tom Bennett wrote an article on the misdiagnosis of ADHD and dyslexia.

https://www.tes.com/news/school-new…r-dyslexia-and-adhd-are-over-diagnosed-crypto

For a SENDCo this can become tricky as teachers may begin questioning your advice citing this example from a ‘behaviour tsar’ as evidence. They would be right to question you, after all Bennett influences government policy, he must know what he’s talking about, right? This is my response.

It is perfectly valid to question the validity of diagnoses such as ADHD and dyslexia. There has been an increase in children with ADHD and medication such as Ritalin is being prescribed more. There are correlations with government policy (in US) and it is sad if normal behaviour is being pathologized. In contrast, figures for diagnoses of dyslexia in state schools is going down which appears to correlate with the reduction in Local Authority SENSS services. Dorset for instance, which still has a service has more dyslexia recorded than other counties who no longer have a service. You could, I’m sure find a similar picture in the quality of NHS services when assessing for ADHD. It’s complex, and it’s not perfect. 

But none of this should matter to the day to day practice in a mainstream, classroom. What would a teacher do differently if a child was diagnosed with ADHD compared to one who wasn’t?
As teachers we have no right to question a paediatrician even if we want to. We have no right telling a parent that we believe their child doesn’t have ADHD because a ‘behaviour guru’ told us that misdiagnosis is rife. We have no right to tell another teacher that if they just set some boundaries that the ADHD is likely to disappear. We have no right, morally or, as it happens, legally. 

We have no right telling a 15 year old who can’t read that the diagnosis of dyslexia isn’t true because it doesn’t exist. The Equality Act and the teaching standards mean that as a classroom teacher we must put reasonable adjustments in place to meet the needs of all our students, not just the typically developing ones.

This may seem harsh but it’s true. What we do have control over however is the classroom, our students, and their right to learn. We have the right to expect support from the leadership team, our SENDCo and outside agencies should we need it. All our children have the right to an education and we have the right to deliver it in whatever way we wish as long as we are meeting the needs of the class.

A professional teacher must be informed, know their students well and teach responsively. Where does the label come in? Well, only as a starting point. It’s part of an holistic picture of the child. It doesn’t matter if the child has ADHD or not. If she is exhibiting behaviour traits which seem similar them treat the need not the label. A child with ADHD is impulsive, struggles to filter out irrelevant information and can become easily overwhelmed. This is really useful information.

Let me give you an example of responsive teaching based on this. A child comes bouncing in from the playground. She’s been playing a game of ‘wee and poo’ with her friends. Not under adult supervision the children have been shouting wee and poo at each other and giggling. The bell goes; her typical friends find it easy to transition back into the classroom and ‘turn off’ the game, walking quietly into class, sitting themselves down and preparing for learning. The girl with ADHD however struggles to self-regulate; she’s still mentally in the game and runs into class blurting out ‘poo’. She’s immediately in trouble and is sent to sit away from the group. Becoming upset, the pupil screams at the TA who is trying to keep her away from the group and the incident escalates until she’s sent out of the classroom to prevent disruption to the rest of the class.

As a teacher, observing behaviour traits which appear similar to those of ADHD, I can anticipate this impulsivity. Putting my hand up to the little girl as a physical reminder to self-regulate. I then tell her playtime is over and it’s time for learning. She’s given a few minutes for the transition to ‘check in’ then I ask her to enter the classroom calmly for learning. 

It doesn’t matter if this child has an official diagnosis of ADHD or not, recognising behaviour traits and responding is the same, label or no label.

 

Segregation – a collection of responses

Edu blogging and edu Twitter can be extremely rewarding at times but also nail bitingly painful. When you work in SEN, it can be difficult reading ignorant comments and hearing views from teachers who clearly believe students should be elsewhere. These ‘outclusionists’ have less idea where they should go just ‘away from me and my class’.

When  QT wrote a blog post claiming to be playing devil’s advocate, I thought actually, it was not provocative just prejudiced and in poor taste. So I wrote a rather ranty blog. I also questioned how ‘normal’ you have to be for mainstream a while ago.

What happened next was better however: the Titans of SEN began to respond. I’ve used this image before; over the brow of the hill came the voices and it made me burst with SEND pride that such professionals champion those with the least resources available to them. Here they are: 

Nancy writes beautifully but harshly on ‘Rose tinted spectacles’ giving some statistics which we should all read.

Simon writes an excellent post challenging the views that we all find ‘like minded’ people and suggesting teachers should be looking for solutions to mitigate difficulties.

Chris tells us how children can be learning opportunities for teachers and that investigating options as a teacher is rewarding.

Jarlath responded with an aspirational blog lamenting how some dwell on the deficit model of SEN rather than seeing students who have a lot to give and achieve. 

New to me is  Kate, who writes a positive post on inclusion based on real experiences which was a pleasure to read.

OldPrimaryHead ‘s stonking blog sums up the problem but also the solution – a decent head who believes in inclusion past test results.

And Sue reminds us, of course, that #Everychildmatters.

Lena writes an interesting post encouraging more understanding and commitment to inclusion. 

Why is inclusion so important? Read Jude ‘s post – it brilliantly destroys the prejudiced arguments in favour of segregation.

A post from Liane on how teaching students with SEN has made her a better teacher is one which will resonate with many.

Beth reminds to to look for triggers behind the behaviours and that segregation could be yet another knock back for some vulnerable children.

Cherryl gives some examples of students in special school and asks the question; should all children be in mainstream?

JordyJax tells us SEND is not going away and gives some very practical advice on spotting SEN in students causing difficulties in school. 

Rob compares the lack of funding for flood defences with inclusion and how the subsequent fall back costs far more – he’s right, we need more money and more accountability for students with SEN – provision is currently a lottery.

Bennie has written a fantastically moving tribute to teachers on why we teach  – the stats are shocking too.

Maryisherwood, a special school headteacher writes how inclusion is personalised and inclusion for one student may mean a special school and for another mainstream.

Matt, a parent should have the final Words which are in the comments section of QT’s post.

   

 
  

Segregation and Stereotypes 

QT
is trying to be controversial. – so was Toby Young when he called pupils with SEN troglodytes. 
But when does controversy actually become plain offensive? When does controversy perpetuate stereotypes of students with learning difficulties? 

And when does controversy forget that the group they are offending are children? And children with the least resources available to them? Children who may not be able to fight back? 
In my Speech and Language Base (students who access SALT and English but otherwise are educated in the mainstream) are learners who are quiet, studious and tremendously hard working against all odds. Despite the fact that school runs in fast forward for them, some of my students’ attendance records are excellent, behaviour exemplary and they crave quietness so they can concentrate. Yet to QT they are lumped with chair throwing pupils. Let’s be clear; they’re are many neurotypical chair throwers too.
So if we are to segregate by quiet and studious what is the other group? Loud and unscholarly? And are these all people with SEN ? I struggle with opinionated rugby players can we have a separate school for them?
Where does segregation begin and where does it stop? I find people often agree with such ideologies until they or their children are excluded. 
Worst of all, as segregation really is just the inclusion debate between mainstream and special school, no, worst of all is the gross generalisations made about those who the author wishes to segregate. Anyone who has agreed with the blog is complicit in reducing children with SEN to derogatory stereotypes which border on the grotesque. If you’ve met a child with SEN you’ve met one child. 
So no I’m not with you QT and I’d be really disappointed if anyone were. 

Segregation and stereotypes 

QT
is trying to be controversial. – so was Toby Young when he called pupils with SEN troglodytes. 
But when does controversy actually become plain offensive? When does controversy perpetuate stereotypes of students with learning difficulties? 

And when does controversy forget that the group they are offending are children? And children with the least resources available to them? Children who may not be able to fight back? 
In my Speech and Language Base (students who access SALT and English but otherwise are educated in the mainstream) are learners who are quiet, studious and tremendously hard working against all odds. Despite the fact that school runs in fast forward for them, some of my students’ attendance records are excellent, behaviour exemplary and they crave quietness so they can concentrate. Yet to QT they are lumped with chair throwing pupils. Let’s be clear; they’re are many neurotypical chair throwers too.
So if we are to segregate by quiet and studious what is the other group? Loud and unscholarly? And are these all people with SEN ? I struggle with opinionated rugby players can we have a separate school for them?
Where does segregation begin and where does it stop? I find people often agree with such ideologies until they or their children are excluded. 
Worst of all, as segregation really is just the inclusion debate between mainstream and special school, no, worst of all is the gross generalisations made about those who the author wishes to segregate. Anyone who has agreed with the blog is complicit in reducing children with SEN to derogatory stereotypes which border on the grotesque. If you’ve met a child with SEN you’ve met one child. 
So no I’m not with you QT and I’d be really disappointed if anyone were. 

Day 5 – Voices – Assistive Technology #28daysofwriting

I’m not quite as famous as Ethel Cain (first speaking clock voice) but I was the voice of Falkland Islands telephone exchange in 2000 – Ethel and I had our voice recorded with a finite amount of things to say however, but a synthetic voice is different because a computer generates the sounds of words – the more accurate and naturally sounding the voice, the more expensive it is.

Because I use various Assistive Technologies with my students, I have become very familiar with free computer voices. I would prefer to listen to Jeremy Irons reading Pride and Prejudice obvs but these are prepared audio books.

If you want electronic text read to you unprepared by a human it will be a computerised voice.

And I’m a computer voice nerd. “That’s Daniel” I yell when I hear a satnav or “ah Microsoft Hazel is not as good as Sangeeta” I say to the bewilderment of other less voice spotting staff.

There are many free computer voices and ones which come with certain software – they’re all fine – Tyler from New Zealand is really rather lovely.

The paid for ones however are better but because I work in state education I rarely get to hear these. Ivona sell and create voices as do Cereproc. There are even children’s voices. I would not hesitate to purchase one of these for a student if nothing else worked but so far I haven’t needed to.

Two, high quality voices (Jack and Jess) created by Cereproc for 16+ students are impressive. I use Jack, he’s Northern. Obviously I have never typed ‘Jules I love you will you marry me?’ and got Jack to say it – that would be weird (awkward pause).

When you introduce voice choice in schools you do need to expect expletives to be typed then read out by the voices to immature chuckles, it’s par for the course. Once staff have got over the novelty however the students take over, choose a voice and usually stick with it.

Jack and Jess are free from JiscTechDis and work really well with Balabolka (Day 2 blog) for a totally free, high quality text-to-speech package. The voices will also work with paid for text-to-speech applications. Don’t forget you could download Jack and Jess if you’re studying (aren’t all teachers these days?), you just need to register with the post 16 provider’s name.

So, trial some voices and let me know who you like.

IMG_0616

Dyslexia – How to help in Secondary School

Dyslexia – How to Help in Secondary School

IMG_0439.JPG 

My last blog explained the current definition for Dyslexia/Rose’09.  https://mainstreamsen.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/dyslexia-what-is-it/ .

Next week I will look at Dyslexia – How to help in Primary

What are the Indicators? requested by @suecowley will be the following week.

 


‘If you get SEN right in school you raise achievement for all.’

Writing

‘I know what to say but I can’t get it down on paper’ – students with dyslexia often say this and it impacts on writing.

I like the comparison to index cards: the idea that all the information is there but not in a neat, A-Z sequential order, rather, it is thrown all over the floor.

Concept mapping may be useful – it’s the ability to brainstorm first and then begin to plan thoughts into a linear, more ordered structure.  I love a programme called Inspiration http://www.inspiration.com/. This allows you to plan in a mind map or spider diagram and then press a button which changes it to a linear format.  I applied for my current job using this and it made the whole process less overwhelming.

InspirationDiagram

Post-it notes are good too as they can be moved around; as a whole group exercise try putting them on different walls in the classroom – this really helps to cluster themes into subheadings/paragraphs etc.

Word processing helps due to being able to cut and paste – it takes away the finality of writing – think of those students who are constantly crossing things out, moving paragraphs around with arrows, using asterisks to add bits in.

Obviously grammar and spell checker is also an advantage.  Be aware of students who appear to have a wide vocabulary when they talk and yet their writing does not reflect this – it may just be that they try to use words they are confident in spelling.

Reading

Don’t assume students cannot comprehend what they are reading even if they cannot decode out loud to you.  I know this is controversial but I come across students with dyslexia who have single word reading scores in the ‘well below average’ range but comprehension in the ‘average’ range.  It is not reading in the decoding sense but it is reading.

Teaching reading skills to someone with dyslexia should be phonics based however,  due to phonological difficulties, learning words by sight is easier for many but this will not give them strategies to decode words they don’t recognise.  I advocate (but many disagree with me) a balanced approach. This encourages learning a bank of sight words for automaticity and fluency alongside a more structured, cumulative, multi-sensory phonics programme.

‘Oral language is the precursor to reading’ Snowling ’13.

Although students with dyslexia need support with letter-sound correspondence and phonological awareness, this will not help reading comprehension.  Dyslexia is a language based impairment so here, oral language is key.  And there is bucket loads of research to show spoken language work improves comprehension.

(There is however a difference between poor decoders/good comprehenders and good decoding/poor comprehension – crudely speaking the former may be dyslexic and the latter may have language impairment but there are many overlapping difficulties which does not make it so clear cut).

This http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1460-6984.2011.00081.x/abstract by Snowling and Hulme explains far better than I can.

For a more practical look at language in schools, Chris Chivers’ blog is worth reading.  In fact for good, inclusive strategies all his blogs are useful.  In fact he should be in charge of education full stop.

www.chrischiversthinks.weebly.com/blog-thinking-aloud/all-talk-every-lesson-is-an-english-lesson

Spelling

While I think I can teach pretty much everyone to read, I do not believe this is the case for spelling.  Of course I am describing the very severe cases; for most while their spelling may never be perfect; they can get by with ‘near enough’. (a term coined by Neil McKay 2014)

  • Use colour – colour phonic codes, colour vowel sounds, colour different sections of the word – hell, colour everything.
  • Vowels are really important to teach and telling students that words cannot exist without them (including y) is too. Many students I see struggle with the spell checker or predictive text to help them as they miss vowels out.  Library for instance might be written ‘lbry’ which a computer won’t pick up
  • Chunking syllables maybe more useful to older students than phonic codes – if you examine your worst spellers in an Upper school/college setting, look to see if they have used the correct amount of syllables.  Often students with dyslexia will be quite a way off – recently a boy had written ‘fart’ meaning to write ‘favourite’.  The main letters are there and in order but it is only one syllable.
  • Prefix /root word/suffix – this is sometimes a useful strategy to build words ­and linked to word derivation makes it great for key words in subject areas.  Quick question for you with the word du jour on twitter at the moment.  What does meta mean? Now put in the root word and suffix for English – meta/physic/al poets and for study – meta/cognition – this deep analysis of words is interesting and may appeal (you’ll see at the top of the pictures I use a beautifully drawn stick person lying down – head/prefix – body/root and legs/suffix).

IMG_0438.JPG

IMG_0440.JPG

  • For subject key words – etymology can help – in Romeo and Juliet – Benvolio (good) and Malvolio (bad)  in Twelth Night – link to other words with same prefix – benevolent, malpractice etc
  • Proof reading – this can be a real nightmare for those with dyslexia – they may not be able to ‘see’ the errors.  I have found using something like Balabolka ( a text-to-speech app which highlights the words as it reads) can be really useful for proofreading or, try turning text into an MP3 so students can listen to it  (thank you to @JaPenn56 for this question).

Revision strategies (thanks to @scjmcd for this question)

  • I have mentioned spider diagrams and post-it notes – I think they help.
  • Turning text into MP3s allows students to listen to revision notes (Balabolka will do this and it’s free)
  • Help with time management and organisation – both these can be issues for those with dyslexia, so advice on  ‘how and when’ to revise is beneficial
  • Students may struggle to filter relevant detail for exam style essays so lots of practice with structuring and planning without having to necessarily write the essay each time
  • Mnemonics are like marmite but often loved  by students with dyslexia
  • Narrative – having a hook to remember information – ‘tights come down for stalactites’ (sorry but I never forgot once my Geography teacher told me this)
  • Using songs to help with remembering poetic strategies:

‘I can see clearly now the rain has gone’ – pathetic fallacy

‘Lady Luck and Sister Vanity were not easy to ignore, opened up a door and let me in’ – personification

‘Light up like a candle burning when he calls me up, melt down like a candle burning every time we touch’ – simile.


More questions sourced by twitter

@Podgainy­_j – ‘How to verify the knowledge gap is shrinking?’

This is a tricky one – I have written about the Matthew Effect for poor readers here www.innovatemyschool.com/industry-expert-articles/itemlist/user/5115-julesdaulby.html.

Again, oral language is key: exposing children to books in other ways such as audio, reading to them, text-to-speech for subject based information.  These would all help but I don’t know if we can verify the knowledge gap is shrinking?  Stanovich argues that crystallised intelligence is affected by reading difficulties so you may wish to look at this.  (Does reading make you smarter/childrenofthecode.org).

@rashush2 ‘interventions or not? If yes, what helps?’

I have mixed feelings about this – if as much as possible can be done via Quality First teaching then brilliant.  Some students however do need support and 1:1 teaching by a specialist teacher is the Rolls Royce of interventions.  Small group work will never be able to pinpoint precisely each student’s difficulties but it is obviously a cheaper option.

What helps I have discussed above – what doesn’t help however is untrained staff.  This can actually do more harm than good.  The children with the most persistent difficulties need the highest quality support.

@evenicola1 ‘Is technology the answer?’

Assistive Technology has transformed the lives of many people with dyslexia.  There’s text-to-speech, speech-to-text, concept mapping, predictive text, even Captura now where you can take a photograph of any text and have it read to you. (I will blog on Assistive Technology)

I like the new livescribe pen which records lessons, allows you to handwrite and then change it to text with a swipe. One of my students has this and it’s wonderful.

All these technologies remove barriers to learning and often allow students to show what they are capable of without being disabled by reading and writing difficulties.



A few interesting Research morsels from The Dyslexia Debate – Professor Elliot

“Good interventions in early years reduces later incidence of problems but those left are more resistant”

“Effective interventions for young children result in lower success rates for adolescents with reading difficulties”.

“Phonics more efficacious for younger kids but still works for older children pp 127-129 and p 136 onwards but require more work with language and comprehension”.

This has became a marathon blog (hence why I’ve dealt with identification and primary separately) – if you have got to end – phew, well done.  Thanks for all those who asked questions, I hope I have answered some.

Let’s get vis-u-al

IMG_0378

Drawing an incident for a student with social communication difficulties is a revealing way to find out how the situation had been interpreted by them, and what might have triggered an unwanted behaviour.

Before the iPad I just used paper but now my app of choice is Paper53; designed for architects so I imagine my match stick people are virtual heresy.

It comes from Carol Gray’s Comic Strip conversations (author of Social Stories). Rather than using them to explain social situations before an event however I often use them to unpick an incident.

The more forensic the investigation, the more successful the analysis becomes and the more the student begins to link behaviours to triggers (making the connection is often difficult for a child on the Autistic Spectrum).

*I have changed parts of these stories to protect individuals but I hope they still reflect the usefulness of this approach*

Primary

image

This student had a melt down during registration and began running round then hiding under a table, refusing to come out.

The picture was interesting as we used colour to show feelings. The student was still red under the table – not feeling calm (blue) until we were chatting in another area. I had assumed under the table was a safe haven but anxiety levels were still high.

The main benefit of these pictures for the student was linking his anxiety and subsequent behaviour with the disappointment of not receiving the prize.

Secondary

This student was in trouble for hitting another student.

She told me this had happened:

IMG_0409.JPG

During our comic strip conversation it transpired that while she was going to her lesson some older students had thrown something at her.  She had not told anyone about this incident – to her they were unrelated.

IMG_0315

During our session she asked me ‘do you think I might have hit him because my neck was still hurting?’.  Of course there is still no excuse for what she did but it is a significant piece of the social jigsaw which needed to be made explicit.

We talked about what choice she could have made:

IMG_0313

The student thought that as her neck was still hurting (red dot), she could have gone to a member of staff to tell them what had happened.

Further Education

image

This student found drawing comic strips really useful and we would do one every time I saw him.  I probably learned as much as he did during these tutorials.

Here he explained how he’d got upset as he hadn’t understood the instructions during a practical work based session.  Many thought bubbles were linked to too much information, too much happening around him and the perception that everyone else knew what they were doing except for him.

We came up with targets such as asking staff to give instructions one at a time or asking a peer for help.

Comic Strips are not useful to reprimand a student but are great to explore triggers for a behaviour.

And you don’t need to be good at drawing as I demonstrate perfectly.