Tag archives: additional needs

Friday, 21 February 2014

Supporting children with special needs in museums – effective provision and training

It was a treat to work at ss Great Britain yesterday. I gave a course on supporting children and young people with learning difficulties. The discussions about the needs of SEN children and the barriers to participation and learning they face were fascinating.  We identified lots of practical ways to help overcome them, and make provision for schools and families inclusive. There were some very exciting plans in pace by the end of the day.

Multi-sensory approaches make learning accessible to SEN children, things to see of course – artefacts, photos and films – but also things to touch, hear, taste and smell. I’m sure the cabin that smells of vomit on ss Great Britain is very effective! Handling collections are a big aid to understanding.

Museum of CuriosityThis photo is of Strathnaver Museum’s fantastic Portable Museum of Curiosity, the work of artist Joanne B Kaar, currently touring local schools. With the help of an outreach worker, pupils will use it as a springboard for creating a play on the history and heritage of the area, to be staged as part of Museums Galleries Scotland Festival of Museums in May.

Drama is wonderful for SEN children. Dressing up and role play bring learning alive. These are excellent ideas for everyone, not just SEN children, as the Strathnaver example illustrates. Story-telling is great too. Important to remember that while differentiation can be by activity or task, it can also be by outcome or by level of support.

Queues, crowds and lots of noise make visits during normal opening times very frightening for some children. I am very impressed by the autism-friendly events and opening times now in place on lots of museums. This series of blog posts by Tincture of Museum is very useful on autism-friendly practice.

With welcoming staff and provision geared to their needs, museums can be truly magical places for SEN children.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Special educational needs – training and ideas

curisoity kitOf all the training I do, the courses and inset I give on supporting children and young people with special educational needs are probably the most rewarding. I am always very moved by the tales that are told and the imaginative strategies that are shared.

I’ve illustrated this piece with a curiosity kit (thank you Lowton St Mary’s School in Wigan) because these sets of books, artefacts and activities are great for developing SEN – and all – children’s reading, learning and enjoyment. I’m a fan of Bag Books too for children with profound learning difficulties. Multi-sensory approaches and opportunities to engage and interact make learning much more accessible for children with special needs. Role-play and drama can be immensely beneficial.

I love delivering training on promoting reading to SEN children. It’s not just delegates who pick up new ideas. I’ve learnt so much from inspired teachers, TAs and librarians – creative ways to engage children who struggle with reading. It’s a privilege to be able to pass on great practice. I’m giving a course on this in Wiltshire tomorrow and have several open courses coming up.

I have started getting requests for courses specifically for special schools on supporting reading, and it has been fascinating to design and deliver this new area of training. The discussions at a course last week for schools in Northern Ireland were amazing, and I am looking forward to more in Surrey next month.

In fact I can’t remember a time when so much of my training has been on SEN related themes. I really enjoy providing courses on supporting children with learning difficulties in museums, so I’m delighted to be running one on ss Great Britain next week. We’ll be discussing lots of wonderful inclusive ideas. And I’m very excited to be going to Qatar in March to give three days of training for library, museum and archive staff, one of them on working with SEN children. It is always a treat to give training for school and public library staff on special needs. Libraries offer so much for children who find learning difficult.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Literacy interventions for students who struggle with reading

This term and next I am giving lots of courses and inset on reading difficulties and ways  to support children who struggle with reading. I have been investigating literacy interventions. These are some useful resources. Greg Brooks’ report is particularly helpful for anyone looking for an analysis of available schemes.

Many thanks to Redbridge Library Service for the photo.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Making reading attractive to children and young people with special educational needs

I got in a taxi the other day and the driver asked why I was in Norwich. When I explained that I was giving a course on making reading attractive to children and young people with special educational needs, he told me about his literacy difficulties. Despite not getting on at all well at school, he managed to teach himself to read with Winnie the Pooh. His family got so sick of reading it to him time after time, he set to work to do it himself. He had the book on loan from the library for a year, but he got there. He still has a very soft spot for Winnnie the Pooh. Writing and spelling were another matter. It wasn’t until he was 42 that he was diagnosed with dyslexia. He was a very inspiring man, determined not to let his problems get in the way of what he wanted to achieve.

It was interesting in this context that so many of the discussions on the course focused on finding the individual approach that works for each child. With a mix of KS2 and 3 teachers, TAs and librarians from both mainstream and special schols masses of good practice was shared. We talked about discovering what most fascinates each child, and producing reading materials to suit. Reading buddies who empathise with and support them can make a huge difference. Several delegates shared successful strategies involving visual aids: videos, photos, puppets and artefacts can really help comprehension and enjoyment. Audio books in guided reading have been very effective in one school, giving children with reading problems access to books they cannot yet read for themselves. Assistive technologies are tremendously useful, whether it’s something as simple as the right coloured overlay, or e-books, which have made reading enjoyable for the first time for so many children. There were lots of ideas for making the library more SEN-friendly, and very useful methods for involving parents and carers and the wider family. I especially like the idea of home/school reading challenges which value all sorts of reading: cereal packets, maps, recipes, magazines and lots more. It was good too to talk about appropriate ways to spend pupil premium funds. There was avid debate as small groups explored piles of books and discussed their suitability and their potential uses. The one pictured here emerged as a particular hit.

Training on this topic has become the most popular of all my courses. This was a return visit on the subject for Norfolk Schools Library Service, and they’ve already got a waiting list for next time round.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Supporting SEN children’s reading

I love giving courses and inset on supporting SEN children’s reading and it’s been a treat recently to run training on this at Heath Books and Mayflower High School. There were excellent discussions both times about the barriers to reading and ways to overcome them. These factors make a big difference:

  • enthusing about reading
  • reading role models
  • making reading interesting, relevant and attractive
  • valuing the reading SEN children are doing
  • reading aloud
  • a focus on literacy across the whole curriculum
  • authentic contexts for reading and authentic reading materials (recipes, newspapers, manuals, catalogues etc)
  • assistive technologies
  • lots of support for comprehension as well as decoding
  • multi-sensory approaches
  • paired reading
  • support for independent learning and reading
  • libraries that are well-stocked with appropriate reading materials and well laid out and guided
  • guidance and support to meet individual interests and needs
  • support for parents and carers
  • easily accessible online and printed reading materials
  • text that is simple to read without being patronising
  • books with clear layout and good illustrations
  • plenty of non-fiction on subjects of individual interest
  • HILO books (high interest level; low reading age)
  • fiction books with gripping starts, short chapters and plots and characters readers can identify with

My post on special needs and libraries (and HILO books) has more details on some of these issues. Incidentally, the Heath Books course was heavily over-subscribed, so it’s being repeated on 18 June.

The photo is of a family friend with special needs. Once he and I found books that grabbed him he was absorbed for a very long time.