Friday, March 23, 2018

Difference, Difficulty or Preference... The Power to Decide (SENCo Workshop)

As part of my SENCo role, I felt it is important for me to learn more about working with students with specific learning differences and how to be able to identify these students more accurately. 

Raising Achievement in at risk students and setting them up for success:

Although there are many success stories, 'good outcomes' does not always happen for kids with 'problems'. Unfortunately, teachers are not trained to look for learning difficulties. Traditional teaching is auditory which does not help, these kids need kinesthetic learning.

Assessment [for at risk students] shows the following:
- Adequate intelligence
- Literacy underachievement
- A range of undiagnosed learning difficulties / disabilities
- Unaddressed barriers to learning
- Learning styles are not readily catered for in our mainstream education system

In any given classroom there are different groups of learners...

1st Wave Learners: These are the students that learn easily and who hardly need a teacher. Our job is to put opportunities and resources in front of them and they are off.

2nd Wave Learners: The majority of our students lays here. The may be a bit above average, intelligent or they may be achieving even 6 - 18 months below their chronological age. Given all the good things we do in education, they will achieve quite nicely with the programmes, resources and teacher capability we have and they will reach their chronological age quite easily.

3rd Wave Learners: Students with things like dyslexia, dyspraxia, children who are on the autistic spectrum (Asperger's are part of the autistic spectrum) and ADHD. Not that ADHD is regarded as a learning disability, but often children with ADHD also have a learning difficulty and remediation for ADHD is similar to the other groups. The other ones to consider here are the auditory and visual processing disorders.
Underpinning Cognitive weaknesses (how brain process things - visual processing issues), Auditory (hearing fine, but how brain process) - hear things in the wrong order and write in the wrong order. Say words wrong. Phonological is the part what these kids struggle with.
Working memory important (kids who did not have this will have trouble in literacy and numeracy) - cognitive testing - processing in the head takes much longer.

4th Wave Learners: These are students with perhaps major auditory / visual type problems, major physical difficulties, intellectual difficulties and we also have our behavioural initiative in here. They are looked after Special Education teams, MOE and Special Education.  

Looking at the role of a SENCo:

Reading is a very difficult task for these students. We participated in a 'simulated' reading task... (note: put the two lines together and try to read it... you have to think if letters are p, b, d, etc). This is how a dyslexic student might see reading...

Currently the best means for identification of dyslexia type difficulties are tests of Phonological Processing. (Tunmer & Chapman 2005)

Something to think about:
50% of people with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) might also have dyslexia. There are 3 types of ADHD 
- inattentive type: getting distracted, having poor concentration and organizational skills
- hyperactive-impulsive type: never seeming to slow down, talking and fidgeting, difficulties staying on task; interrupting, taking risks
 - combination type (when student behave one day and another not - chemical imbalance)

- Print on pastel colours when making copies for dyslexic students - white page is not desirable. 
- See the ability, not the need... (show students photos of famous people with dyslexia)
Dyslexia... Disability? Difficulty? Difference? or Preference? "STOP" before we label! Understand dyslexia as a learning preference.

Strengths of Dyslexic learners:
- Often imaginative, creative, lateral thinkers who develop original solutions to problems.
- Have an ability to think in pictures, sometimes with strong artistic talent and often with a strong visual preference for information acquisition and processing.
- Many are socially and verbally able and may enjoy drama and sport

Limitations / Difficulties of Dyslexic learners:
- Unexpected problems - literacy / numeracy (e.g. can't transfer skill from adding to subtraction)
- Require special ways of teaching to minimise problems and maximise potential
- Vulnerable as learners when reading and spelling is allowed to detract from information processing, core thinking skills and knowledge acquisition.
- Thinking ability is good or better than peers.
- Writing is the ptoblem

No dyslexic case is the same and there is no cure for it. Dyslexia can be improved by teaching students skills and strategies to use, when putting accommodations in place. Make students aware of what they get distracted with.
Accommodations can include:
- Create and model a supportive classroom environment that recognises and accepts difficulties
- Invite students to read, but allow them to pass in a group or class situation
- Set up paired reading activities (Buddy Reading / Tuakana-Teina)
- Use I.T.
- Give information auditorally as well and not just on paper

Developing Best Policy and Practise:
Recognising Dyslexia Type:
- Family history
- Early to walk, may not crawl
- Dressing skills
- Performance inconsistency
- Quick thinker, but not necessarily when given instructions
- Possible enhanced creativity
- Aptitude for construction / technical toys
- Appears bright, but is an enigma

Multisensory is important and we need to look at it from all perspectives: Kinesthetic (37%), Auditory (34%), Visual (29%). These have to be in place for 3rd Wave Learners. We know now that it is not true when people say "I learn better visually", as learning is not just 'in a box'.

Dyslexic students' - not brain compatible and some times need up to 49x repetition -> look at different learning styles. Should train T/A's to do the repetition, use computer programmes to back up what's been taught, using peers. Based on diagnostic evidence - important to know what the gaps are.

Reading Strategies:
- 1-1 tutor reading programmes
- Provide parent training and reading support at home
-  Give 1-1 reading opportunities as often as possible

Spelling and Writing Accommodations:
- Organise a scribe
- Set up shared writing
- Encourage mind maps, story boards, flow charts
- Mark for content and ideas

Metacognitive Strategies Writing:
- Scaffolding
- Moving from dependence to independence

Minimise fears of how to start:
- Give paragraph starters
- Offer to act as a scribe
- Give sentence starters and key words
- Accept work in different form

My Next Steps:
- Learn more / Upskill myself
- Give more opportunities to work with strengths. Set them up for success and focus on what they are doing right.
- Get T/A's trained to help raise achievement
- Look at integrated reading, writing and spelling programme 'Alpha to Omega' (can be used up to age 15 years). This a a programme that can be used in a class with all children. It fits all the criteria for 3rd Wave programmes. At the beginning of the book is an assessment where you can assess where children are with spelling and phonemic awareness and identifying any learning gaps there might be, which will give you a starting place to work from. This is a fantastic resource to use as it teaches you step by step as many teachers have not been trained in specifically development stages of learning or even knowing which areas comes first.
- Setting students up for success - look in to HPP programme and JOST

- It is important to keep in mind that it is not just 'mainstream' students we are working with... some students have underpinning cognitive weaknesses that need addressing before academic learning can take place.
4D New Zealand model: "Get it right for dyslexia and we get it right for all"

~ "Learning is NOT the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners." - John Holt ~

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