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Don't listen to the labels about SEN. You need to get a broader idea of how Special Educational Needs impact on your child.

Support for children with special educational needs.


The more I learn about Dyslexia and other Special Educational Needs, the more I realise how much I dislike labels.

Don't get me wrong!  In the field of Special Educational Needs, labels such as dyslexic, autistic, dyspraxic and many more, provide a language through which parents, teachers, SEND specialists, students, employers and products and services can communicate in order to provide help or support that enables an individual to meet their potential.
Indeed it is through the labels of dyslexia and ADHD that both my daughters were able to tap into the Disabled Students Allowance and get the support that they needed to help them be successful with their attainment on their degree courses.
For my youngest daughter the 'dyslexic' label meant that we could get her secondary school to understand some of her educational needs and provide the use of a laptop and extra time in exams.

So labels are not all bad, but here is what my problem with labels are in this context.  They are misleading and often puts those people with those SEND challenges in a box of equal disability or stereotype.

Come on, you must have experienced the type of conversation which ends with a phrase similar to 'Oh! He's dyslexic!' which often comes with a patronising or knowing look.  As if just by using the word 'dyslexic' an individual's needs are completely understood.
I would imagine if you as a reader looked at the following words, you will have a different grasp of the meanings of these words than that of other readers.

Dyslexic - Autistic - Dyspraxic - Aspergic - Hyperactive and so on!

This is the reason I don't like labels in this context.  These labels don't actually tell you what a child's educational needs are.  They may give a sense or an idea but they are not accurate as to the challenges that come with having one of these conditions. They are different from one person to the next.  These challenges are somewhat akin to a spectrum of challenges with each individual experiencing intense or less intense levels of challenge with reading, writing, concentration, processing, attention or motor movement.

Added to the confusion is that when someone is diagnosed as dyslexic their needs are also likely to be affected by other conditions too but not to the same extent.  For example, it is common for someone with dyslexia (which is a language processing disorder) to also have some challenges with attention or fine motor movement which are more related to ADHD or Dyspraxia.
The reality is that a lot of these conditions (from which comes the labels) share similar traits because they are co-occurring or co-morbid (this is the technical term).

The diagram below illustrates this really well.

Neurodiversity and Special Educational Needs


You can see from Mary Colley's diagram how all these SEN conditions overlap in terms of experience and challenge.
So just by labelling someone as 'dyslexic' you may actually be misleading people when a child or adult is experiencing multiple challenges in education which are mental and physical in nature.

If you are responsible for the care of a child in education (parent or teacher) then it is important that your approach to supporting your child is informed from a needs perspective and not from a label perspective.

To do this you are going to need to gain more information about the needs that arise from the other 'co-occurring' conditions.  To get that information, I am really pleased to say that increasingly there are more and more resources becoming available that explain what is happening when a child or adult receives a diagnosis and what their own specific challenges or needs are.

I believe that we all have a responsibility to become increasingly aware of how SEN affects our kids and to do that we should search out resources.  It is certainly my own aim to share the information that I find out with you on this blog.

In fact, a very practical way, I have been one of the organisers of The SEN Jigsaw Conference, a meeting of parents and teachers who come together to learn more about SEN and how it affects their children as they pass through the education system.  This is our fourth year of organising this small and friendly conference that has specific talks on SEN (this year Dyscalculia and Pathological Demand Avoidance) as well as specialist workshops on dyslexia, speech and language, auditory processing disorder, and autism.  The one-day event also has a small exhibition of products and services that all provide a value to our delegates.

I would personally like to invite you to join us and if you can't join us please do share this post or tell people about the conference, it would help me and my co-organiser, Georgina Smith, to be able to help many parents and teachers build up their understanding of the needs that affect a child rather than relying upon labels.

Check out the video below to see what happened last year and see how the SEN Jigsaw Conference 2019 could benefit you.



Book your ticket at http://bit.ly/SENJigsaw2019

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