SENCO Week discusses low incidence special educational needs — those with significant difficulties and/or disablities which affect only a small number of children

The majority of low incidence children will attend special schools where their needs can be met by specialist staff and resources. Increasingly, however, many of these pupils are included in mainstream schools, sometimes on a part-time basis, and SENCOs are tasked with ensuring that staff understand and cater for their learning needs.

Support for SENCOs
Syndromes and conditions which were rare, even unheard of, ten years ago are now more widely diagnosed and talked about. Autism is perhaps the best example of this. Those of us who taught ‘pre-Warnock’ had hardly heard of the term, let alone met children on the autistic spectrum. Nowadays, ASD, ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia are commonplace and most teachers have a good idea of how to support children in their classrooms who have behaviours associated with these terms (at least those with mild/moderate difficulties).

Occasionally though, there will be a pupil who has severe difficulties and/or disabilities, these may be physical/sensory in nature: cerebral palsy; visual impairment; deafness; or a combination of these. Other children may have severe medical conditions or be diagnosed with a less familiar syndrome such as Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) Rett Syndrome or Williams Syndrome. There is comprehensive information available on all lesser-known conditions on two excellent websites: OAASIS and Contact a Family.

As SENCO, you will know however, that each child is individual and so talking to parents and other professionals involved with the child is essential. As soon as you have notice of a child with low-incidence needs being admitted to school, try to meet with the parents – perhaps visit the home, and get in touch with the appropriate therapist, GP or educational psychologist. Talking to the ‘team around the child’ (TAC) can save you a lot of time and help to ensure that you make good provision for him/her. Remember the child him/herself as well; communication may be difficult but every effort should be made to include the child in discussions about his/her placement. You will need to plan for any or all of the following:

  • mobility issues and physical access to all areas of school
  • transport
  • medical/medication needs
  • personal care needs
  • communication strategies.
  • curriculum access.

The last item on this list – curriculum access – is often the one to give most cause for concern. Too often in the past, children have been ‘wheeled in’ to a mainstream classroom in the name of inclusion, but have in fact gained very little from the experience in terms of enjoyment or achievement.

The QCA has recently produced very useful guidance however, on how to shape a curriculum for pupils with learning difficulties. If you haven’t already got this in school, you should set about getting it as soon as possible. ‘Planning, Teaching and Assessing the Curriculum for Pupils with Learning Difficulties’ is a set of booklets for all those who work with children expected to achieve level 2 or below, by KS4. It provides general guidance on skills development as well as subject specific guidance – with lots of practical examples of how children with significant difficulties/disabilities can learn alongside their peers. The entire set can be found on the QCA website.

Printed booklets can be ordered from the website below at £4.00 per booklet.

Alongside these resources, a set of DVDs on using the P scales offers valuable guidance for teachers in making judgements about pupils’ attainments below Level 1 of the National Curriculum. ‘Using the P scales; Assessing, Moderating and Reporting Pupil Attainment at Levels P1 to P8’ QCA Tel: 08700 606015

If you have pupils beginning a dual placement, visit the partner school and observe them there as well as talking to teachers and support staff. If a TA is to accompany a child into your school, make sure that appropriate preparations are put into place so that the supporting adult knows what will be expected of him/her and feel confident in the new situation.

Of course, ‘inclusion’ has benefits for all pupils, not only those with SEN. Learning about diversity and how to get along with and support people with different needs is an important lesson in life. So ensure that fellow classmates are well prepared for new arrivals and understand how to extend a welcome. (Next week, we’ll consider how an assembly or circle time session can be used for this purpose.)

This e-bulletin issue was first published in May 2009

About the author: Linda Evans is the author of SENCO Week. She was a teacher/SENCO/adviser/inspector, before joining the publishing world. She now works as a freelance writer, editor and part-time college tutor.