Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Early warnings

When identifying special needs for the first time, you might find the questions on page 16 helpful to ask.Talk to the parents  or carers and  assess the child in your setting in order to arrive at some answers. These answers provide the main part of your assessment of whether or not to proceed  as if the child had SEN.

Talking with  parents  and carers can  be difficult for both parties.
Carers sometimes do not know how to deal with the statements  made by teaching professionals. For example, if they are told that their child has a 'behaviour problem' or is 'a bit slow', does it mean that their child is flawed in some way or that they have failed in their duties as carers? Understandably, they may quickly become defensive. The key lies in working hard on communication and partnership with all carers (see Chapter 7, page 41) and sharing positive information from the start.

This provides a much better position for sharing any concerns later. Adopting the attitude of 'We don't want to worry carers unless we are sure' is rarely helpful in the end.
When  monitoring  a child, always ask, 'What helps?' along with 'Are there any difficulties?' This provides you with  information  about the approaches that you can try. If you find that you need to target and monitor a child  particularly  closely in order for them to gain access to the early yea rs curriculum, then this is tantamount,  in the current terminology, to saying that the child  'has special educational  needs'. The 'label' or 'condition' cannot be separated from the action that the practitioner  needs to take - both these things together provide you with information  about whether or not a child has SEN.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Does a child have SEN?

In the other scenario, you will be wondering whether a child has SEN which need to be addressed. Allow the child time to settle with you (usually for at least a term) so that you can be sure that their needs are 'special' in some way. During this time you will be observing and recording the child's progress and trying various approaches to  help them, whether it is to concentrate better, learn new ways of playing and behaving, or to communicate more clearly. These approaches are, of course, what you would  do anyway for a child who is new to your kind of teaching and learning and who needs support to settle and to begin to make progress.

When you have tried all your usual approaches and the child is still not  making  the expected  progress  in  their  learning  or behaviour (see the definitions of 'special educational  need' and 'learning difficulty'  in this blog you may need more advice and support to structure your
approaches more carefully. At this stage, you would turn to the setting's SENCO and the child's parents or carers, and  begin to plan what 'Early Years Action' you are going to take together.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Gathering information

A joint planning meeting held in the setting and involving outside professionals and parents or carers can be a useful start. Otherwise, talk to the carers and, if possible, arrange a home visit to meet the child. As a starting-point for the discussions, you will need to know what the child's SEN are and then consider what the implications will be for your setting. Parents and carers are inevitably experts on their own children but it is up to professionals to use the information they have to create a structure that makes practical  sense to the group and the  teaching.
Parents and carers welcome the chance to talk about what their child can do as well as where the difficulties lie. Professionals need to choose their language carefully and to ask unbiased and interested  questions.

Information  is best collected  before the child actually starts in the group, when the staff do not actually know the child. At this stage, parents and carers will expect questions and will not be offended that you need to ask them. They will be able to say freely what they feel their child's needs are, as well as what they believe are the implications for the group.

Sensitive questioning  is important. For example, direct questions such as, 'Is she toilet-trained yet?' can suggest to a parent that perhaps she ought to be. However, questions phrased  in terms of help - for example, 'How much  help does she need when going to the toilet?' - lead equally into whatever answer. This leaves the parent free to proudly claim that their child is now independent,  or to talk openly about the level of help required. This sort of open questioning can be used for many situations that the child  is likely to meet in the new setting. Moreover, it supplies unbiased  and  practical  information that will give much  clearer 'evidence' for additional support or resources than those first impressions or concerns gathered from the paper documentation alone. Think through a typical day and frame questions that will provide all the information that is needed to help the child during the first few days.

Getting to know the child

It will be helpful to consider two scenarios in this chapter. Either you are welcoming  into your group a child who has already been identified as having SEN by another setting or professional,or you are identifying a child's SEN for the first time. In either case, it makes sense to get to know the child well during their early days in your setting.

If a child is already known to have SEN,then gather as much information as you can before they join you. Many very young children who have significant and long-term needs or disabilities will already have had these identified through their local Child Development Centre or Child and Family Service. 

Thursday, 14 May 2015

The importance of early identification

Researchers have shown that early intervention can make an enormous difference to the future progress of young children who are vulnerable to SEN.
Early intervention typically has the following main goals:
•    to help families to provide the right kind of support to encourage their children's development
•    to encourage children's development through the early years curriculum and their opportunities for early learning
•    to help children to cope better
•    to prevent future problems developing.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

You need support too

If you are going to meet each child's needs inclusively,there will be times when you will require the support and advice of outside professionals. Try to see this outside involvement as a partnership rather than as a 'take-over' .

The special needs policy

How inclusive is your setting's special needs policy? 

To answer this question, consider the following:

•    Does the policy make it clear that your setting is inclusive and that it welcomes all children, whatever their individual needs? Is this clearly stated in any parents' handbook?