Government announces funding for support of parents with additional needs children

The Minister for Children and Early Years Adam Ingram has announced the Scottish Government funding for advocacy services for parents of children with additional support needs (ASN).   The two main voluntary services that support and represent parents in Scotland challenging their child’s ASN educational provision are to receive £110,000 to assist them with this work over this financial year, following one of the groups, the Independent Special Education Advice (ISEA) Scotland, main grant funder, the Big Lottery Fund, not renewing its grant this year.  Ingram said: “The Scottish Government wants all our children to receive an education that maximises learning and encourages development. This is particularly relevant when a child has additional support needs to be considered.

ICT and Communication

Last term I was privileged to visit a special school in Glasgow, Croftcroighn. The work which was being done on literacy and communication was innovative and inspiring and I left with my head absolutely buzzing and so much to think about. A couple of weeks later Croftcroighn’s HMIe report was published – wow!

Since then I’ve worked with Elizabeth Cowan our ICT curriculum Officer and a speech therapist to develop and implement some of the innovative practice I observed.

We’ve created a Communication Book (using BoardMaker V6) for one wee lass who has no spoken language but has lots to say, we’ve invested in some new software to trial, bought some funky stationery and Talking Photo albums (A5 and A3 size), a new digital camera and I still have a wish list! Creating the Communication Book has certainly stretched (and greatly enhanced) my Boardmaker skills! Now I keep thinking of more and more applications for the software.

The software is Communicate:In Print 2 by Widget. Every word which is typed has a symbol which appears above the word – even ‘the’ and ‘a’ have symbols. This supports the child who finds it difficult to recognise abstract symbols (writing) and the added visual symbols can open up a whole new world. The symbols an be switched off or only used for specific words and images can be uploaded. You may choose to upload images of ORT characters for example or photos so if you type a name you get an actual picture of that place or person. At Croftcroighn some of the children were now reading and these youngsters had severe and complex difficulties – it was wonderful! Additional specific symbols can be purchased – Shakespeare for example. So far I’ve written a social story and had a go at a couple of other things so I’m looking forward to experimenting a bit more.

We’ve been using Talking Photo albums for quite a while in schools but the A3 ‘Big Book’ size was new to me. It’s now in a P5 classroom and the class will use it to record their ES topic – the Seashore – artwork, photos, text – whatever the children choose to record. This will give a voice to a pupil who has no spoken language enabling her to share in the work of her class and to express her views.

I’d be interested to know how teachers in East Lothian are using technology to give kids a voice.

Unblock thinking to learn more

Traditional remedial classes could soon be replaced by an ‘instrumental enrichment’ programme. Elizabeth Buie reports A thinking skills programme in the Borders has improved the attainment of youngsters with learning problems and won praise from teachers and senior management.  An evaluation of the Scottish Borders Council’s “instrumental enrichment” programme by a team from Strathclyde University’s Quality in Education Centre suggests it could be more successful in the long term than traditional remedial classes.  However, to be truly effective, the programme, based on the work of the Israeli educationist Reuven Feuerstein, had to be prolonged and comprehensive. The backing of senior school management and resources from the local authority were also seen as essential.  There were indications that pupils who had taken part in the Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment (FIE) programme became more active classroom participants, more inclined to listen to others, more likely to defend their opinions based on logical evidence, better able to articulate how they solved problems, more likely to read spontaneously and follow written instructions, and better able to handle several sources of information simultaneously. One reason for this progress could be that the teachers involved were found to have significantly changed their attitudes towards learning and learners.


Rich conversations about learning recorded by infants


My-E (My Education) is a prototype online visual environment that can support very young students to explore and express their own personal learning experiences, interests and aims.

The software application allows young children (aged 5 and 6) to construct stories about their learning experiences and preferences through multi-layered representations (such as shapes, icons and sounds), which teachers, adults and parents/carers help them to develop. The aim of this is to encourage children, parents/carers and teachers/adults to be more involved in rich conversations about learning that can help foster greater links between homes and schools and support a more personalised educational approach.

Wouldn’t it be good if it were suitable for older learners with literacy / communication difficulties?

Scottish-US study to help deaf and hard of hearing children with maths

Scientists in Scotland and the US will undertake a study to investigate why children who are deaf or hard of hearing experience problems with

Researchers in Scotland and the US will now spend four years investigating the problem after being awarded £800,000 in funding from the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development in America.

The study will examine a number of areas including memory and attention skills, parental and child attitudes to maths and basic number skills.