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Bullet Point Issue 6 now available featuring topics such as development during pre-school years, visual impairment and other disabilities, click here to find out more.

Education: The Great Equaliser!

Hello and welcome,
The following points have been expanded in the books available via my web site. They contain much more about accessing learning and the development of valuable skills.

Rgds Clive.

If You Don’t Do It Who Will?


Various disabilities, their characteristics and special educational needs


Following, are characteristics of several disabilities. Importantly though, don’t forget that a learner with more than one disability must manage the effects simultaneously as each disability is not a separate and individual entity. Note also, that each disability can present with similar functional characteristics …

Issues effecting diagnosis and assessment more generally may include,

  • Age of the learner

  • Communication skills of the child or young


Signs of a Visual Impairment

Does your child or young person,

  • Keep blinking or rubbing his or her eyes?


Does s/he,

  • Frown, squint or peer at work?


Physically, does s/he,

  • Appear clumsy?


Does s/he,

  • Find it difficult copying from the blackboard?



  • Complain that worksheets are too faint?


Also, does s/he,

  • Work slower than her or his peers?

  • Have a short attention span?



Cognitive difficulty is used here to describe those children and young people with an IQ below 70. Often, as a result, a child or young person’s all round development might be delayed ...

Case Study

Following are characteristics of cognitive difficulties highlighted from a case study.

L, a 10 year old, presented with the following prior to being diagnosed with cognitive difficulties,

  • Slowness picking up new ideas


He also showed an inability to remember new skills without constant reinforcement and repetition.

At School

At school it was noted he had,

  • A short attention span


At Home

His mother pointed out that he,

  • Responded best when information was presented in a practical way



Individuals with dyslexia may present with a spiky profile of learning. That is, an uneven pattern of strengths and weaknesses …

Case Studies

Following are characteristics of dyslexia highlighted in case studies involving R and T, two 12 year old males.

At School

Characteristics displayed included,

  • Confusing similar letters and words when spoken or written


The two children also had,

  • Difficulty remembering familiar words


They confused,

  • Letter or word order and reversed certain numbers


At Home

Their parents noted R and T in differing degrees had,

  • Difficulty sequencing events; for example, days of the week


Both were also clumsy; for example, constantly tripping or falling.

When Young

When younger their mothers noted they had difficulty dressing and undressing, with T in particular putting the wrong shoe on the wrong foot ...

Looking Back

Having been recently assessed with dyslexia and looking back, two 14 year olds said they,

  • Substituted words for words that sound the same; for example, lamppost for lampshade


One of the two characteristically,

  • Reversed the sequence of letters within words; for example, was for saw and out for not


All four above displayed,

  • Erratic hand writing skills


Defining Factors

Not all individuals with dyslexia present with all of the problems listed. Many will also have these difficulties but are not dyslexic. The defining factors are often,

  • The severity of the trait

  • There is a family history of dyslexia



Those with ASDs have a developmental disorder which affects social and communication skills and impairs the ability to relate well to others …

ASDs Are On a Continuum

Autistic Spectrum Disorders lie on a continuum where children and young people are affected to different degrees …

Isolated Areas of Ability

In some cases those with ASDs will have isolated areas of ability. Also, many may develop obsessions …

Following are four key areas which characterise ASDs …


There is likely to be a delay in processing information and problems with verbal and non-verbal communication …

Social Interaction

With difficulties in social interaction there are likely to be difficulties in managing or structuring free time …

Poor Flexibility of Thinking (Imagination)

Poor flexibility of thinking or imagination presents when the child or young person is not aware of what might occur if a plan doesn’t happen …

Sensory Difficulties

Sensory difficulties present when an individual reacts disproportionately to sound, sight, touch, smell or taste. S/he may also have difficulty in managing fine and gross motor skills …

Case Studies

To highlight characteristics of ASDs the following case studies have be used.

Using Words

J, a 9 year old, characteristically:

  • Used limited and repetitive language along with pedantic speech

  • Talked obsessively about one topic: his collection of Lego building bricks

He further,

  • Echoed the speech of others rather than responding appropriately


Generally speaking, his verbal skills disguised a lack of comprehension.

Behaviour and Actions

The second case study belongs to A, a 13 year old. He displayed,

  • Bizarre behaviour and mannerisms

  • Poor eye contact


He also,

  • Lacked awareness of common dangers; for example, deep water at his local swimming pool or a glowing piece of wood that had fallen from a bonfire


Read more here...


Dual sensory impairment is a combination of both visual impairment and hearing impairment. It does not mean that the individual has no hearing or sight. The impact is not uniform and the educational needs of the child or young person must be delivered on an individual basis.

The dual impaired child or young person will find it difficult, if not impossible, to fully benefit from the support usually given to visual or hearing impaired children or young person. A dual impairment approach is therefore needed.

Case Study

The following case study highlights the characteristic difficulties of a dual sensory impaired child. M, a 13 year old, had difficulties in developing communication skills along with mobility and orientation.

She often required,

  • Adapted or augmented forms of communication


Through requiring the integration of information received through other senses she needed individual activity based programmes differentiated to meet specific needs.

Curriculum, Strategies and Specialist Programmes

Individual need cannot be assumed or generalised …

Based on assessment, an individual curriculum is required to include specific age appropriate intervention in,

  • Communication skills

  • Mobility and orientation

  • Social skills

  • Independent living skills

Awareness training in dual sensory impairment was and is necessary for all staff and peers coming into contact with M …

The Built Environment

An environmental audit should be carried out to ensure that your child or young person’s individual needs are met …


The communication needs of your child or young person will be highly individual. Communication may be necessary via several pathways. These might involve:

  • Voice

  • Objects of reference


Communication may also be necessary via,

  • Finger spelling or deaf-blind manual

  • Visual sign language such as British Sign Language (BSL) or hands on signing


Intervener and 1-1 Support

An intervener is often necessary so that your child or young person is able to access the curriculum. Time is also needed for someone to modify and adapt learning resources ...

Coordinating Support

Delivery needs coordinating to ensure that everyone involved is aware of individual need.

A list of specialists involved might include,

  • Qualified Teacher of the Visually Impaired, Qualified Teacher of the Hearing Impaired, Multi-Sensory Impairment Teacher


Time will be needed for someone to set, monitor, deliver and coordinate specialist programmes …

Specialist Resources

A wide range of specialist resources may be required to include:

  • Braille, Moon and large print texts


Social Needs

Dual sensory impairment is isolating ...

Constant Assessment

Constant consideration is required in the following areas,

  • Communication


The Acoustic Environment

A suitable acoustic environment is always important. Sound has meaning …

For a hearing impaired child or young person with an additional visual impairment like M, the problems are even greater as she is less able to use visual clues to supplement auditory information.


Many dual impaired children like M need amplification to give them any chance of responding to sounds in the environment …

Selective Listening

A person with standard hearing learns to selectively listen within a noisy background. A hearing impaired person may have to develop this skill …

The acoustic environment should therefore be altered to,

  • Enhance the quality of sound

  • Contribute to sound levels


The Learning Environment

Hearing aids do not cure hearing loss. They amplify all sounds in the environment and may present a mass of noise which the child or young person must make sense of. It is essential, therefore, to keep background noise to a minimum and to present the child or young person with as clear a signal as possible …

Quiet Area

Ideally, carpet tiles to floors and acoustic tiles to walls and ceilings, along with curtains to windows will be fitted throughout the whole learning environment. However, this may not be financially possible. Other methods may be necessary …


When making a quiet room or area try using:

  • An off-cut piece of carpet to cover the floor

  • A blanket or thick cardboard to cover the wall


The area must be suitably lit …

How Might a Non-Specialist School or College Address these Issues?

If not already being done the following might be suggested,

  • External noises from a busy road, factories next door or even a flight path are not under a school’s or college’s control. However, classrooms can be allocated in a quieter part of the school or college to reduce the impact of external noise



Some children or young people with physical disabilities will be easily identifiable whilst others are not …


Some physical disabilities are connected to medical conditions requiring regular medication which needs to be taken during the school or college day …

Missed Learning

Some physical conditions mean that a child or young person spends a lot of time out of school and this will inevitably impact on learning. Whilst home tuition can help, it is not the same or as effective as attending school …


If your child or young person has a physical disability or medical condition there are a number of things you may wish to pass on to school or college. It should not be assumed that the necessary information will automatically reach those who need to know; for example,

  • Is your child or young person on medication? If so, do the drugs affect a capacity to learn?



Cerebral palsy results from injury to the brain before or after birth. It is permanent but not progressive. It affects the child or young person’s ability to control movements. It can effect,

  • Vision

  • Hearing


Epilepsy is sometimes present too.

How well a child or young person succeeds in education or training will depend on the condition’s severity and whether other learning difficulties are present.

A child or young person may have to attend regular therapy ...


Learning difficulties are often a part of Down’s syndrome. It is caused by additional chromosomes which alter the usual patterns of development in both the brain and body. The effects of the condition are very individual and can impact causing,

  • Visual Impairment

  • Hearing impairment



To provide accurate guidance for everyone working with your child or young person it is recommended that an assessment is carried out by someone experienced in assessing a child or young person with limited communication skills and learning difficulties …


The term Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties is used in relation to children or young people who have difficulties in controlling their behaviour and emotions. Their ability to learn is affected and they may also find it hard to operate socially …

Many children or young people will go through periods when they are anxious, moody or difficult …

The following points are designed to inform and support, not blame.


A child or young person may,

  • Under-react to situations and be overly quiet and passive


Aggressive Children or Young People

These children or young people can be a problem to others and themselves.

They may find it difficult to fit within socially accepted norms of behaviour making them difficult to control at home or college.

They may have,

  • Come to believe that their own needs are more important than anyone else’s


A Withdrawn Child or Young Person

S/he may be,

  • Expressionless


An Aggressive Child or Young Person

S/he may be,

  • Noisy and demanding; for example, wants his or her own way and immediate attention


S/he may,

  • Under achieve


A Disaffected Child or Young Person

The term disaffected is used to describe older children or young people who reject school or college and see it as irrelevant to them.

S/he may be,

  • Uninterested in school or college work

  • Unmotivated

S/he may,

  • Fail to complete homework regularly or on time

  • Ignore school or college rules; for example, where they relate to dress or appearance

  • Lack consideration for others

  • Truant


Children or young people with ADD or ADHD lack concentration. Their short attention span often results in extremely disruptive behaviour at home, school or college.


Research shows that these conditions are caused by the frontal lobes of the brain being under-stimulated. Drugs, for example Ritalin, act as a stimulant and enable the child or young person to focus attention.

Research looking at the effects of fatty acids in a child’s and young person’s diet indicates that a change of diet can also alter behaviour in some children and young people…

Following are characteristics of children or young people with ADD and ADHD.

  • Poor concentration span


Children or young people may also display difficulty when,

  • Staying on task and finishing work


They are often,

  • Impulsive



  • Intolerant



Of course, being bilingual or multilingual is not a disability. However, having for example English as a second language can lead to the misdiagnosis of a disability with a knock on effect in education or training.

Linguistic diversity is the norm in many communities …

The term bilingual does not give us an understanding of the degree by which the child or young person is proficient in more than one language.

There are children or young people who,

  • Function well in more than one language but are not necessarily completely fluent when speaking, reading or writing in more than one language

  • Have only a basic understanding of a second language and this perhaps applies to the majority of bilingual children and young people in the UK

  • Have parents born and educated in the UK who have English as a preferred language although one or more language is spoken in the family home

Knowledge and Experience but from a Different Starting Point

There are children or young people who have knowledge and experience in using English but start from a different point of understanding.

Inevitably, there are bilingual children or young people with special educational needs. These children or young people have specific requirements with regard to language along with the same rights as monolingual learners.

You might expect therefore, where the difficulty is severe and undermining performance, your child or young person will require special help in developing English language skills.

If your child or young person is not skilled enough in English this will inevitably impact on attainment targets in English. A low level of performance may therefore be taken as an indication of learning difficulties including, for example, cognitive difficulties.


A blurred understanding may have occurred if your child or young person:

  • Fails to grasp basic concepts within a subject

  • Under achieves in literacy



An assumption often made by many is that the bilingual child or young person suffers through having to work in two languages …

However, others conversely argue that competence in one language enhances the development in another …

Also, maintaining both languages equally is in fact intellectually enriching and can positively affect performance.

Whilst there will be children or young people whose progress gives cause for concern, the issue is in fact separating difficulties in learning the language from learning difficulties. Perhaps, therefore, the real problem lies with inadequate assessment tools.


Be aware of two potential errors,

  • Diagnosing a learning difficulty when there isn’t one. Labelling the child or young person may have a detrimental effect by altering teaching methods or even placing the child or young person in an unsuitable school or college

  • Failing to diagnose a learning difficulty and not providing appropriate support


  • A full bilingual language assessment should be carried out to determine language proficiency

  • Assessment cannot be culturally free …

  • Non-verbal tests should be used where possible

  • Consider carefully the use of assessment items which require verbal recognition

The first language of a child or young person should be seen as a valuable asset for supporting and developing learning.


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