There is not enough help offered in schools for those with Learning Difficulties

Usha Patel's picture
Dear Fiona Millar I follow you on twitter..... Here is my rant!

The problem - a therapist's point of view.
Some children go to school not having enough developmental skills in place. Those with minor problems are never picked up. Problems such as tracking and co-ordination. If that child is able to read (usually by sight only) then they are seen as progressing. The phonological skills required to decode are sometimes missed altogether at the expense of poor spelling.

A child with poor concentration yet good behaviour may be considered to be just 'lacking in attention skills.' The link between poor concentration and inability to comprehend sentences, long passages or understand maths is never addressed as possibly having working memory deficit.

Whilst children with minor problems fall through the net. On the other hand a lot of children with bigger problems spend years waiting to get the extra help by means of getting a statement.

The numbers of children with major problems are growing, those with minor problems will never get a look in as funding is always an issue. Teachers are not able to identify the problems (as there are so many) they need to get through the curriculum. They, teachers, are not trained to understand the link between dyspraxic 'symptoms' and poor sequencing much so the logical process of understanding maths is nil.

Without the needed developmental skills the affect on literacy and maths is huge. If a child's tracking is not addressed processing information in sequence is affected as their eyes dart around instead of moving smoothly from left right.

What is needed -
The right type of exercise to help improve tracking skills, improve bilateral integration, improve auditory connections and better motor coordination. We can do this by increasing play time activities. Getting children playing more! Skipping, hop scotch, pick up sticks, all the old school playground games required to build the required co-ordination skills.

We owe our children to provide cheap effective help which compensate for the hours these children spend in doors when they should be out fishing with make shift rods. Children, in my opinion are failed due to lack of play and forcing them to study before they are developmentally ready.

My research.
There are many products and solutions on the market. These solutions are inflicted on children but they are not as fun or addictive as play ground activities of thirty years ago. A solution needs to be inexpensive to implement, easy to schedule be implemented in the classroom and most of all enjoyable. The enjoyment factor needs to be considered at length. Once an activity is considered enjoyable we have buy in from children of all ages.

I have looked at a number of solutions suited to a school environment: Learning Breakthrough, exercises by Dr Portwood, Brain Gym and recently Bal-A-Vis-X.

I went to train in Bal-A-Vis -X ( Balance, Auditory, Vision Exercises) as I it ticked all the boxes. It addresses all the key issues that under pin cognitive development. Most of all children think it is fun.

This is a protest to how schools are dealing with the problems and an opportunity to open the discussion at to what may work ….we need to do something.
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Alan's picture
Fri, 08/04/2011 - 14:56

Hello, Usha - welcome to the forum. I agree with what you are saying in terms of a need for proper identification of difficulties. As a dyslexic I know how frustrating it can be when there’s a disparity between decoding skills and intellect. From experience, I think the terms “disability” and “learning difference” can be misconstrued depending on where you end up (e.g. an entrepreneur vs on the dole or worse). In other words, I think the chosen definition depends on how a difficulty affects one’s life and how it makes one feel. That’s why I think it's extremely important to get things right in school – raise self-esteem and the rest will hopefully follow.

Francis – I’m pleased that you noted the Glasgow study of ex-premature children and as a teacher you have accepted that there can be difficulties around middle childhood. I am extremely grateful for this - I have campaigned since 2007 for educationalists to take notice. It’s been some time since I read the Glasgow study but I believe sequelae can exist in children born just a couple of weeks early, which may bring into question the ethics of elective caesarean.

There is a prevalence of hidden disabilities in extremely premature children (< 26 weeks) and also in very premature children (< 29 weeks). However, there is much less data on the latter cohort so you need to be vigilant.

From personal experience, the Coalition government are right to question the continuation of statements of special educational needs and school action. There needs to be more emphasis on joined-up working between health and education so that details of difficult birth circumstances and their possible effects are known across the board to enable early identification. I really hope that the proposed multiagency care plan gets the go ahead and we can save families the wild goose chase of special educational needs.

For anyone interested, the EPICure studies look at outcomes of ex-premature children up to the age of 11 ( ) and the following article underscores what the teacher needs to know ( ).

Francis Gilbert's picture
Fri, 08/04/2011 - 18:04

I suppose what I was trying to say in my Telegraph article was that providing clearer "labels" might help; I think terms like "dyslexia" can be very misleading, they mean very different things to different people. If teachers like me had clear descriptions and targets, instead of jargon, this would help. For example, saying that a pupil has level reading skills but difficulty with writing is more helpful than the phrase "dyslexia", which can also mean someone has great difficulty reading.

Yes, Alan, it would be helpful if teachers were aware of the "premature" issue. Some systematic RCT testing needs to be done in this area and a calm, rational debate needs to be had.

Thanks to Andrew for highlighting my article in this context.

Alan's picture
Fri, 08/04/2011 - 19:38

Francis - I don’t fully understand what dyslexia is so can fully understand your frustration over descriptions and targets. Things have moved on in terms of neuroscience, most areas of the brain are now known to be involved with language so I guess it will take some time to find a solution.

It’s a strange condition. Some days my language is fluent but on other days I struggle with syntax to such a degree that I cannot see a simple sentence. My organisation, time management, sequencing and attention is poor, so would tend to go along with a continuum of difficulties for a definition. My strengths: convergent thinker, easy to see devil in the detail, extremely analytical and critical.

I had a light sensitivity test recently. I have strong night vision but this makes black text on white paper tiring - a dark overlay has made much difference. So i think children who are having reading problems should have a sight test asap.

I agree that there is no substitute for hard graft; the more I try to read the easier it becomes. I make sure my daughters read much more often than I did as a child – my eldest is 7.7 Y9 literacy and will make sure her sister will be similar. Both are learning Latin to understand the origin and construction of words on the Cambridge Latin Course - I have also found this useful. Not leaving anything to chance
(^top^home )

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