Posts Tagged ‘Learning Difficulties’

Teachers Addicted to Referring Their Students to Specialists

June 13, 2013

As a social experiment, wouldn’t it be wonderful if teachers decided not to refer their students for 12 months to an occupational therapist or speech pathologist? Wouldn’t it be interesting if they had to provide for the child and adjust their teaching to cater for the special needs of these children instead of relying on specialists to do that for them.

Just wait a minute! Aren’t teachers catering for children of special needs already?

Of course some are, but many aren’t. Here are some questions I have compiled for you to determine whether or not your child’s teacher is relying too heavily on a specialist:

1. Is there evidence that your child’s teacher is in regular contact with the specialist?

2. Is their evidence that your child’s teacher follows the recommendations based on the child’s assessment evaluation?

3. Does your child’s teacher blame a lack of progress solely on your child’s learning difficulty?

4. If you have ceased sending your child to a specialist has the teacher shown signs of giving up on your child and blaming a lack of progress on your decision?

This might seem harsh on teachers but believe me it happens all the time. Parents are put under pressure to have their child farmed off to a specialist with concerns over attention, comprehension, processing, integration, coordination etc. The parent then has to pay for a costly assessment. The assessment is not unlike a trip to the orthodontist. The orthodontist will almost always see a problem worth fixing – an imperfection that can always be adjusted with a stint on braces.

So too, a speech and occupational therapist will always see scope for therapy. There will always be a recommendation to fix this or manage that. Should the child not be eligible for Government funding, the parents would be pressured to pay for the services of a specialist. The going rate for an occupational therapist for a one hour weekly session is about $500 a month (from personal experience). If the parents refuse to pay, often the teacher will secretly accuse the parents of being selfish and putting money ahead of the interests of the child.

The truth is many specialists are called on, not because there is a major need for therapy, but for the teacher to defer responsibility. No teacher should be allowed to pressure a parent into such a move without first demonstrating a meaningful attempt at accommodating the child within the classroom.

It seems to be that this is a boom time for specialists. The scale for measuring learning difficulties has been expanding, new disorders are being invented overnight and more room is being reserved for this ever increasing ‘spectrum’. I once questioned a psychologist for pronouncing that a student of mine was on the spectrum when I didn’t feel it was warranted. His response – everyone can fit on the spectrum in some way or form. What does that mean? If everyone is on the spectrum, how is that fair to people with autism and low functioning Aspergers? Their condition will surely be undermined if they have to share a spectrum with you and I!

Be very mindful that teachers, like other professions, are prone to short cuts and self interest. It is in the best interest of teachers to outsource their students to specialists, because it means that any lack of progress can be blamed on a ‘disorder’ or processing issue rather than the teacher’s ability to cater for the student.

Of course not all teachers are like that and some students clearly require specialist intervention. There is no doubt about that. But this scenario does happen, and it does happen regularly.

Click on the link to read I am a Proud Defender of the Mixed-Ability Classroom

Click on the link to read The Difficulties of Parenting a Special Needs Child

Click on the link to read Schools Have to Wake Up to Confidence Issues Amongst Students

Click on the link to read If Only All Special Needs Students Were Treated this Way

Click on the link to read Labelling Children is Extremely Harmful

Click on the link to read The Insanity of Modern Educational Thinking


Facebook Leads to the Arrest of a 14-Year-Old Bully

March 15, 2013


The constant stories of special needs students being bullied is frightening.

A 14-year-old boy has been arrested after a video of an assault on another pupil who desperately tried to defend himself was posted online.

The Facebook clip appears to show a teenager from Winifred Holtby School in Hull, East Yorkshire, repeatedly hitting another boy, lashing out six times with his fists and headbutting him twice.

Pupils have condemned the 27-second video taken on a school bus, which has been shared more than 200 times, with nearly 700 Facebook users expressing their anger and sadness over the attack.

What I don’t like about the reaction from the school is their reliance on policies to avert any personal responsibility:

He added: ‘While we will not specifically discuss this case, we do not and we will not tolerate the behaviour shown. The school’s behaviour policy clearly states our expectations for our students.

‘We will do everything we can by using the school powers that are available to us to uphold not only the reputation of the school but our local community as well.’

Sue Yardley, senior education officer for behaviour and attendance at Hull City Council, said: ‘This behaviour is absolutely unacceptable.

‘Schools have the power to discipline actions such as this, even when it occurs outside of school, in accordance with their discipline policy.

Their in-depth policies may have saved them legally, but for this to occur, parents and anxious members of the public should raise the obvious question – Is a set of policies sufficient to stop bullying behavior?

To view the graphic video click on this link.

Click on the link to read School Official’s Solution to Harassed Teen: Get a Breast Reduction

Click on the link to read Self-Esteem Crisis Even More Serious than the Obesity Crisis

Too Many Struggling Students Lack Support

June 20, 2011

I read a disturbing article about a young boy who struggles with dyslexia, and the trauma his mother has gone through as his school makes little to no effort to assist him.  It is a difficult article for a teacher to read, but a very important one.  There are too many students that fall between the cracks.  Too many that don’t get the attention and support that they so desperately need.  As teachers, we must fight for the social, emotional and academic wellbeing of all our students, whilst ensuring that they are all, without exception, getting the care and attention they need.

Below is an excerpt of the article.  I truly recommend that you read the whole story,

David is an artistically gifted boy with a photographic memory. The 10-year-old’s dining-room table is full of intricately designed Lego battleships, his art displays such originality that his teacher calls him “the next Picasso”, and he has an extraordinary ability to recall facts from the History Channel documentaries he watches on TV.

“The other day,” his 41-year-old mother Margaret recalled, “we were driving along and he said, ‘mummy, you were born in the year the first man landed on the moon’.”

But there is one big problem with David that overshadows his life. He cannot read. He has been assessed as “severely dyslexic” and “having the reading age of a child aged four years and four months”. His schooling has been a disaster and according to educational psychologist reports seen by the Standard, he has progressed “just one month in five years”.

You might assume that David attends a failing, inner-city school, but you would be wrong. His south London state primary is rated “good” by Ofsted, attended almost exclusively by white British-born pupils, and is located in a street of £3million houses. He is also well behaved.

Yet David, his mother said, has been “catastrophically let down by everyone: by his teachers, by the school and by the council”, all of whom failed to give him the specialised help he needs.

Margaret said: “At school the other kids call him ‘odd’ and ‘weirdo’ and he often comes home crying. He is still reading flashcards and has not progressed beyond words like ‘cat’ and ‘dog’. He has no real friends – how can he? He doesn’t get their jokes or their games. To the other kids, he is a misfit who doesn’t understand anything that’s going on because he can’t read.”

“My son was nine and he still couldn’t read a word,” said Margaret. “What were they waiting for? Why didn’t they do something?” 

Finally the school arranged for David to have some specialist teaching – three hours a week at a nearby literacy centre at a cost to the school of £1,000 a term – as well as 15 hours a week one-on-one with the teacher assistant. For the first time he made a glimmer of progress, improving by “one month in a year”. Margaret says the teacher assistant and the literacy centre are not experts in teaching severely dyslexic children.

There is a growing tendency to allow students to pass the year, regardless of their level of skill or maturity.  The reason for this is quite sensible.  Holding a child back can have strong emotional repercussions.  But because such a system exists, not enough questions are asked of students who are languishing.

I am not suggesting for a second that young David should have been kept down.  I am simply suggesting that since teachers no longer have to explain why a child is ready to be promoted, there is less incentive to put the time and energy into children like David.

It is time that we looked into the issue of students being promoted without the basic skills, and ensure that teachers are made accountable for the progress of their students.  David was allowed to fall into the gaps and starved of the support he needed because there isn’t enough pressure on teachers to reach benchmarks.

The story of David breaks my heart because he is a victim to poor teaching, an inept education system and a misnomer that dyslexia renders one academically incapable.



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