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April 16, 2018

What can mainstream schools learn from those working with Special Educational Needs pupils?

What can mainstream schools learn from those working with Special Educational Needs pupils? - Rebekah

On Friday 23rd March 2018, guest speakers arrived at the Centre for Teacher Education Inclusion Conference. The focus of the conference was teaching strategies for students with Special Educational Needs (SEN). Discussions have often led to trainee teachers asking ‘that’s great in an autistic school, or an inclusion centre, but how exactly can these techniques inform my own practice?’ This is a tricky subject, yet one that must be faced in mainstream schooling. As such, here are the seven ideas I feel my colleagues could take away from the conference:

1. To think of dyslexia as a learning preference rather than an impairment could vastly improve the teaching of dyslexic students. Dyslexic students achieve best when they are taught the concept first, then the concept alongside the operation. This then allows them to develop the operation before finally allowing them to gain mastery over the operation.

2. Whilst more males than females are diagnosed with autism, this does not mean that there are less females with autism. Teenage girls are incredibly adept at copying the behaviours of one another – be sure to look out for changes in behaviour or challenges faced by the girls in your classrooms.

3. The ‘Theory of Mind’ suggests that Autism is a self-centered condition. Autistic students struggle to empathise and take other people’s feelings and emotions into account, trying using “I hear what you’re saying but…”

4. Students with Autism can definitely achieve GCSEs and make progress, it’s all about how you guide them. There are many ways to support students, but one that stuck out was to give clear explanations of what the words in each exam question mean and clear time limits for each question/mark.

5. A neuro-typical person understands verbal communication mostly through body language, imagine how difficult that is if you cannot read the body? For a neuro-typical person we understand verbal communication in three ways: 7% through the spoken word; 38% through the tone of voice and intonation and 55% through body language. For those that struggle to read body language you must always choose your words carefully and try to keep a straight face.

6. Everyone has the ability to perform at 100%, but there are three factors stopping each and every one of us from performing at this level. 1) Knowledge – do we know how to succeed? 2) External Factors – do we have the equipment or the space to complete the task? 3) Internal Factors – what inside us stops us from achieving? Is it fear of failure? Support your students in these three ways and everyone can achieve.

7. Yes, differentiating for autism and dyslexia in mainstream schooling is difficult, but there are many ways to make teaching better for all, not just for those with a special educational need. By making subtle differentiation, all will benefit.

Many thanks to Gareth Hobson, David Lisowski, Shivaun Moriarty, Lisa Batch, Sarah Heckle and Kate Foxton whose sessions have informed the writing of this article.


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