Under-5s with mental health issues slipping through the net

Disturbing evidence that under-5s are not being monitored for mental well-being by statutory services has been highlighted by the Health and Sport Committee in its report published today. The committee’s inquiry into child and adolescent mental health and well-being evaluated mental-health services for these groups in Scotland. The committee was very concerned about the extent of problems provoked by recent changes to the health-visiting profession. For more information see the news release

Some more equal …

The Outreach Team had an interesting day recently looking at the new Curriculum for Excellence outcomes and experiences for Literacy and English and Health and Well Being.

One of the outcomes under the Responsible Citizens heading started a lively debate which raised the whole issue of inclusion and equality:

I can evaluate environmental, scientific and technological issues.

We discussed case studies of students with English as an additional language (including those who use British Sign Language) and wondered if such an evaluation carried out in English would be fair to them. Surely if it is their knowledge and understanding of, say Biology, that is being assessed, then a full answer in their native tongue would be a truer representation than one done in a second language.

If this does not happen, pupils who use English as an additional language are not fully included in Curriculum for Excellence until they are proficient in written English. We decided that their abilities in their own language must be acknowledged; just as learners with dyslexia are entitled to have poor spelling overlooked if the content is understood.

This of course raises enormous issues about availability of translators, apart from the more deep seated issue about a right to be included.

Thanks to Janet Storey for the fascinating lead on this discussion.

ICT and Inclusion 2009

Yesterday Neiria and I attended this event in Edinburgh.  It’s an annual event hosted by CALL Scotland – I’ve blogged about them before on this site. My head was in a complete birl when I got home having attended seminars by these developers;

  • Inclusive Technology – suppliers of software and hardware and communication aids. This includes touch monitors, using 2 switches for cause and effect skills as well as switch controleld MP3 player and ‘jelly beamer’ – a wireless switch.
  • Access Apps – award winning suite of free portable applications which can be run from a USB stick.  Access Apps contains a range of programmes which can help learners with additional support needs including literacy difficulties and visual difficulties.  We loved the on-screen ‘reading rulers’ which enabled learners to keep their place when reading text or even an excel spreadsheet.
  • Beyond PECS:Using Symbols and Clicker – Prospect Bank school classroom team introduced us to a wide range of strategies to promote communication: PECS, Signalong, voice output devices, chat books and chat boards as well as simple games and activities adapted from the usual classroom versions
  • 2 Simple – educational software for primary pupils developed by teachers for teachers. Ease of use and clear icons enable children to develop transferable ICT skills, work independently and to be motivated learners. All programmes are supported by teacher resources and short, support videos etc.  WE loved the fact that teachers can hide the ‘Print’ icon from the pupils!
  • Doorway Accessible Software – new software developed by Scottish borders Council, free of cost to internet users. The software is accessible and inclusive and can be accessed by keyboard, mouse or switch.  Activities are particularly suited to Interactive Whiteboards. It includes Doorway Speller, Doorway First Words, Doorway Cashing In and Doorway Text Type
  • Widgit – introduced new web based symbol technologies, downloadable resources for Communicate; In Print and Boardmaker as well as a demo of SymWriter.  I’m looking forward to playing with the demo materials.

We’ve come home with lots of catalogues, websites, demo CD roms and invitations to visit Propect Bank school.  We had to choose which seminars to attend and we were able to visit the stands of all exhibitors – we missed Smartbox Assistive Technology, QED, Microlink, Sight and Sound and Dolphin amongst others.

I wished I still had my camera with me when Neiria and I tried out a fantastic desk chair by Posturite – we loved it and I want one at home!!

Dyslexia Friendly Schools Pledge

Dyslexia Friendly Schools Video from teachers tv

(This is still not as well embedded as a YouTube video but try it.)

This session I have been working with 5 schools piloting our own Dyslexia Friendly Schools Pledge. I have worked with staff to audit extant provision and set targets, acting as consultant and verifier throughout the process. The aim is to encourage schools to promote excellent practice as it carries out its role of supporting and challenging learners with dyslexia to be successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors. An effective school (with strong leadership which values staff development and pays close attention to the quality of learning and teaching) is inevitably going to be dyslexia friendly.

A Dyslexia Friendly Schools Pledge is recognition of how a focus on dyslexia can lead to improved learning and teaching for many pupils. To be a Dyslexia Friendly School, the issue of dyslexia needs to be seen to have status. All staff need to commit to supporting learners with dyslexia across the whole curriculum. A whole school, and ultimately region-wide, approach is necessary to translate policy into practice. The Dyslexia Friendly Schools Pledge aims to support schools to:

• audit current practice,

• identify areas for development,

• ensure excellent provision for learners with dyslexia

• share best practice.

At the beginning of the session, senior management and support for learning staff and I, as the Outreach Teacher in the Dyslexia Support Service, examined provision for learners with dyslexia in the following areas: • identification of dyslexia

• intervention

• school ethos

• transitions

• training and awareness raising for staff and pupils

• practice within the classroom

• homework

• role of senior management and promoted staff

• information for parents/carers.

We collated our audit into 4 areas:

• Focusing:

• Developing: meeting the needs of dyslexic learners satisfactorily.

• Established: supporting and promoting good practice in all areas of the school.

• Enhanced: extending outstanding practice and sharing across the region.

5 primary schools have taken part in this year’s pilot. A report on the progress of each school and plan for more development in the next session will be presented to the department of Inclusion and Equality who will then decide whether to take the Pledge forward in other schools in the session 2009/10.

I am grateful to the BDA for its guidance on Dyslexia Friendly Schools and to Liz McKelvie of Stravaig E Consultants Ltd for advice.

All Alone?

I had been wondering if it was worth continuing with this blog as there have been so few comments. I don’t know how to access the stats. However at the weekend I met several educators from around Scotland and elsewhere who regularly look in. There seems to be a dearth of online presence of ASN professionals so this was welcomed.

I shall continue to post items of interest here – mainly gleaned I have to admit from the daily news service provided by LTS – and to make more detailed and idiosyncratic posts on my own personal blog (http://hileryjane.wordpress.com/) in the coming session.

It would be marvellous if others with interests in supporting learners in East Lothian (that’s all of us) would join in!

Happy holidays!

Special Needs Toy Library

Recently a colleague and I visited the Special Needs Toy Library at Fisherrow Centre, Musselburgh. We were impressed by the range of toys and resources available and the commitment of staff to provide a range of quality toys – from jigsaws to light ropes and larger items like child sized tables and chairs. The Special Needs Resource Base is supported by East Lothian Council Childcare Partnership and operated by Borders Scrap Store.  It’s open on Wednesday mornings, costs £10 for annual group membership and has an uplift and delivery service

The following information is from the website.

What it provides

The library aims to provide a range of toys, equipment and books for children who have special needs.

Often organisations do not have the money to buy a full range of equipment, nor do they have the facilities for storage.

The library allows members to borrow and try out some of the resources available.

Groups and individuals are able to borrow materials for up to one term.

Who can use the toy library

Groups and individuals who provide childcare and education for children with special needs can borrow equipment on payment of a small annual membership fee.

  • After school clubs
  • Childminders
  • Community groups
  • Daycarers
  • Early years centres
  • Families
  • Fostercarers
  • Nurseries
  • Playgroups
  • Playschemes
  • Private nurseries
  • Schools
  • Special Needs groups

Enquire Information packs

Recently I sourced a pack containing all the leaflets published by Enquire, the Scottish Service for Additional Support for Learning

Enquire publishes loads of free information for parents, pupils, professionals and teachers – all of a very high quality.  There are factsheets, Young peoples Guides, DVDs, booklets and leaflets on all sorts of subjects and alternative formats are available. 

  • Involving Children and Young people in Decisions about their Education
  • Round the Table: A Guides to Going to Meetings
  • Going to Secondary Schol and Getting Ready to Leave School
  • Nadias Story
  • Have your Say – teachers notes and film

These are just a few of the many titles and Enquire will send whatever you need and it arrives very quickly.  Everything is also downloadable however the lovely colours fairly eat printer ink!  So why reinvent that wheel when the information is already there.  I have order forms if you’s like one.


Software ‘gives children a voice’

The BBC reports that scientists claim to have developed the first technology of its kind to allow children with communication problems to converse better.
‘How was school today?’ is software to help children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy communicate faster.
The system is the result of a project between computing scientists from the Universities of Aberdeen and Dundee, and Capability Scotland.
Plans are in place to examine how it could be used to support children with different levels and types of impairments.
The project was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).