Tag archives: additional needs

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Supporting children with learning difficulties in museums and libraries – useful websites, blogs, case studies and videos

ss GBI loved giving training on special educational needs at the fabulous ss Great Britain earlier this week. I give lots of courses on supporting children with learning difficulties for people working in museums and other cultural and heritage organisations, and lots for library staff too. It’s one of my favourite (and most frequently requested) training topics. I feel very passionate about inclusive provision.

I have found the following websites, blogs, case studies and videos useful and illuminating, and it occurs to me that others might too.

ABC of Working with Schools: Special Educational Needs
Asperger, Heritage and Archaeodeath
Astro Plane Force
Autism-Friendly Game Masters
Autism-Friendly Libraries
Autism in Museums
Autism in the Museum
Bag Books in Kent
Chatterbooks for Children with Dyslexia
Dimensions Autism Friendly Libraries Training Video for Library Staff
Disability Co-operative Network for Museums
Engaging Children with Special Educational Needs in Creative Experiences and Art 
Five Things I’ve Learnt About Accessibility
Going to a Museum
How Can Your Museum Better Welcome Families and Young People with Autism?
How Heritage Embraces Autism
Inclusive Galleries and Museums for Visitors with Special Needs
Kent Dyslexia Friendly Libraries
KidsHub Library Sessions
Making Museums Autism Friendly
Manchester Art Gallery Open Doors
Museum of Childhood Quiet Days
Museum of Childhood Visiting with an Autistic Child
Orleans House Gallery Octagon Club
Secret Museum: Film Production with Autistic Young People
See Dyslexia Differently
Sensitive Storytimes
Supporting Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs
Tom’s Tall Ship of Stories
Top 5 Autism Tips for Professionals: Autism-Friendly Museums
Working with Special Needs in an Art Gallery

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Special needs and reading – links and tips for making books and reading more accessible

library 1Although I give more training courses on supporting children and young people with reading difficulties and other special educational needs than almost any other topic, it’s ages since I last blogged about special needs and reading.

I very much like Margaret Meek’s wise words: ‘Children learn to read by experiencing success.’

Clearly it is vital that children who struggle with reading have easy access to books and information that they can read. For significant numbers, reading from a device or computer screen is easier than reading print. Many SEN readers find fiction less daunting than non-fiction. Many like magazines. Lots enjoy picture books and graphic novels. HILO (high interest, low reading age) books are crucial. There are fabulous HILO books by top authors available from Barrington Stoke and other publishers.

I am often asked how to judge the readability of texts. Several systems are obtainable. Unfortunately they tend to contradict each other, and have been found to be largely inaccurate. A far more useful way of judging whether a book is appropriate is to talk to the reader. Readability is by no means only about the words used and the complexity or otherwise of the grammar, though these are important (as are font, text size, illustration and layout of the page). Readability is also about interest. Children with special needs – like everyone else – read more, read better and understand more when they are gripped.

Good, well-stocked libraries are of course extremely important for SEN readers – libraries with lots of accessible books, and no stigma in choosing them. (Please never use the term ‘Easy Reads’.) The photo shows a small part of the library at Wilstead Lower School, where I gave inset last week. I loved seeing children’s work everywhere – gives everyone a sense of ownership.

If you haven’t already seen it, Dive In is a valuable guide for dyslexic and reluctant readers from Dyslexia Action and Barrington Stoke. Well worth checking out the hints and book suggestions. Love Reading 4 Kids has a list of dyslexia-friendly children’s books too.

The Bookmark pages on the BookTrust website are consistently helpful for anyone with an interest in books and disability. I also find Interventions for Literacy and Literacy Action Net useful.

Scottish Book Trust has produced tips on sharing books with young children with additional support needs.

Let me end with another great quote. Peter Young and Colin Tyre tell us ‘Instead of finding out what they [struggling readers] can’t do and giving them a hell of a lot of it, we need to find out what they can do and give them the sense of achievement in doing it.’ Yes!

Friday, 27 February 2015

Supporting children with learning difficulties in museums – my course in Qatar

tileI felt immensely privileged and touched to be given this tile by a delegate on the UCL Qatar course I gave last week on working with children with learning difficulties in museums. It was made by a young Qatari man with very severe learning disabilities. His needs were not met by school, but working with an artist in a cultural organisation released his abilities, and enabled him to express himself. What a fantastic illustration of the positive impact arts and cultural engagement can have on SEN children.

I had an amazing time in Doha delivering the training. The delegates came from five different museums, one of them well-established, the others all in the planning stages. Because the course was five days long, we were able to explore issues in depth. There were so many fascinating and important debates about the needs of children with all sorts of learning problems and the implications for engagement with museums, and about effective methods for supporting their learning and enjoyment. It was great to have time to share a wide range of case studies. We talked a lot about autism-friendly approaches. I found the discussions on multi-sensory learning especially interesting, and the plans groups produced for inclusive activities and events were truly exciting. The lists of components of successful practice that each delegate came up with on the last day were extremely impressive.

3D printsWe were very lucky to have the use of some wonderful artefacts commissioned by UCL Qatar. These 3D prints of the lid of an Egyptian canopic jar are amazing. They are different weights, sizes and finishes to enable a variety of learning methods. A fabulous way for children to experience history.

And these puppets, based on two very special and precious exhibits in the Museum of Islamic Art, made by the Little Angel Puppet company, and ably demonstrated here by Annie Rowbotham from UCL are superb. They are used to help children learn about conservation. The children ask the monkey and falcon questions, and the answers come via a ventriloquist. Such a brilliant idea. They are also going to play a role in museum story-telling events. Approaches like these can be totally transformative for children who struggle with learning.monkeyfalconMany thanks to all the great delegates and to Qatar Museums and a big thank you to UCL for inviting me back to Doha. It’s a stunning city, so to end, a few photos: the souk, the royal camels against the inevitable background of cranes (they’re everywhere in Doha), two shots from the extraordinary falconry souk, some dhows, and the beautiful Museum of Islamic Art.souk at night 2camelsfalcon - souk 1falcon - souk 6dhowsMIA

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Autism-friendly approaches for museums and libraries

WAADToday is World Autism Awareness Day, so an appropriate time to put down some thoughts about making libraries and museums autism-friendly for children and families, and give some links.

Museums and libraries can be great places for autistic children. They love learning more about topics they are fascinated in. Some love books and reading. It is vital to respect their needs.

Many autistic children are extremely anxious about new experiences, and value information prior to a visit about what to expect, including photographs or video. There’s an example below. Autistic children often find change very difficult and need routine, for example they may feel unsafe if they cannot use the same computer on every visit. Respect autistic children’s need for personal space and their difficulties with distractions. Some museums have a quiet room for children who are feeling overwhelmed.

As crowds are very difficult for autistic children, several museums and other organisations offer early bird sessions, quiet days or special events specifically for them, examples below. It’s important in such actitivites to minimise visual clutter, bright lights and loud noises which can all be distracting or frightening.

I have found these websites, articles and blogs etc very useful:

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Courses on working with children in museums – my training in Qatar

MIAI finally have time to reflect on the training I gave in Doha for UCL Qatar earlier this month. What a privilege to work there. The training venue was the stunning Museum of Islamic Art.

The museum scene in Qatar is very exciting, with lots of new institutions in the planning stages, including an amazing Children’s Museum. Although it has no building yet, staff are already doing ground-breaking work. My training was primarily for museum practitioners, from there and other museums, but I was delighted to have some library delegates too.

The first course was on provision for babies and under 5s. We talked about early child development and the role of cultural organisations in supporting it. There were great discussions on effective activities for families with young children, and lovely ideas for making them enjoyable and fully participative.

Day two was on working with primary age children. I loved the debates about how children learn, and ways to engage them and break down barriers to use – not least that there is not yet a culture of museum visits in Qatar. Some brilliant plans were made for supporting formal education and family learning.

The last day’s course was on working with children with special educational needs. The discussions on learning difficulties and strategies for nurturing SEN children’s learning and enjoyment were excellent. I was tremendously impressed with the initiatives delegates devised and are going now to put in place – wonderful inclusive, multi-sensory, interactive approaches.

Working in Qatar was an extraordinary opportunity. I learnt so much and met fascinating people. Many thanks to everyone for making me feel so welcome.