Working in Partnership: Q&As

Questions professionals have asked

The questions below are questions that members of the Working Group have been asked. There may not be one single answer, but these are the answers that were agreed by the group. The working group has organised the questions under headings but there is considerable overlap between headings.

1. Who should give support?

Q. Often we find with learners that are dyslexic or that might be, there are behavioural problems. Many staff are unsympathetic to the dyslexia because of the extreme behaviour which disrupts classes and prevents others from learning. Who should be dealing with this as many teachers don’t see these youngsters as their responsibility?

A. We firstly need to get a full picture of the young person and their needs. It is important to work with the family – that is, parents and carers – even though they may be living apart. Both parents or carers will be important to the child, and may be able to help considerably. If parents are apart, the child may be playing one off against the other, so just by agreeing a joint approach, this can help. Consider the school setting. Are there problems with some teachers but not with others? Are there problems in some subjects and not in others? What seems to be causing the problems in specific subjects? Is the youngster simply not coping?

We also need to look at how the child or young person is behaving in the community. Are there problems outside of school? Is the young person offending in the community or are the behaviours only exhibiting themselves in school? All of these questions are important and can offer explanations as to why the young person is not able to cope within the classroom.

If the problems are wider than the school, then it is important that other services involved work with the school before things escalate out of control. The principles of GIRFEC and the recommended procedures should come in so that the young person is put at the centre, and there is no ‘out of sight, out of mind’ philosophy.

Getting back to the original question, these children are everyone’s responsibility and their safety and progress is dependent on their difficulties being discussed and procedures being put in place to ensure that they have some strategy in place for when they feel they are about to ‘kick off’. Policies are in place in most schools to ensure that the young people don’t end up out of school and on the streets, but every so often things go awry. All schools and staff need to be aware of the procedures that are in place for dealing with students who have behavioural difficulties, with or without dyslexia.

Q. Michelle, a Primary 5 learner, has dyslexia. She also has auditory processing difficulties. Our Hearing Impairment service don’t feel this girl has anything to do with them as she doesn’t have a hearing impairment. Who else is likely to be able to help?

A. We would begin with assessment or if this has been done then give the previous assessment detailed examination to see if there is anything else that can be done. How is Michelle’s phonic knowledge? If she has difficulty with auditory processing then she may have missed out on a lot of learning about phonics and phonology. When the gaps are identified, then very highly structured multisensory teaching of phonics might now work if it is done in the ‘right’ way – not by repetition of what has already failed for her. What about her concentration? Does she have difficulty with that? Again if she has difficulty with auditory processing, then she may ‘switch off’ from time to time, and strategies to keep Michelle on task will help. Assessment and the building of a profile of Michelle’s learning and the gaps that have emerged should guide the next stage.

There is some recent evidence that the magnification of sound for children with Michelle’s type of difficulty might help, and so this should be considered. Assistive listening devices (classroom FM systems) may reduce auditory processing variability by enhancing acoustic clarity and attention. The service for Hearing Impairment should be able to advise though it is appreciated that their priority as far as teaching is concerned will be for the children who do have hearing impairment.

2. Who pays?

Q. James in S2 of our school would benefit from the use of a laptop for word processing. I’ve phoned the authority who say this is standard equipment nowadays and the school should supply this. I’m told the school budget hasn’t got enough to pay for this. Is this the case?

A. Does your authority have an IT service or an assistive technology service? They may be able to help out with a short term loan. This would at least give you time, and would reassure everyone that this equipment is needed. We suggest that your school should plan on building up a bank of computers. Not too many, as computers do go out of date, and you need to ensure they are going to be used. It might be an idea too to suggest to your school cluster that there should be a bank of computers that the schools could share. The schools would of course have to agree on what would be a realistic sum to put into this. However computers are standard equipment and there is likely to be a demand for appropriate hard and software so building a bank of such equipment would be a sensible measure.

3. Organising assessment

Q. One of our children has some specific difficulties, but we don’t believe it to be dyslexia. The child is quite slow, and doesn’t read well, but the class teacher who is very experienced thinks the child is just not very bright. Parents have recently come to the school, and said they are taking the child for private assessment. I’m not sure that the school should accept this.

A. On occasions parents may approach the school and wish an assessment to be carried out. If school staff are aware of difficulties then these should previously have been discussed with parents (and the child if at an age and stage when s/he can understand). The child should have been put onto a staged (or stepped) process of intervention.

Paperwork should be in place, and this can be discussed with parents. If parents are not happy with the school’s process of assessment and planning this may result in them having their child assessed privately. This should not be necessary, and parents do have a right to insist on a full assessment of their child’s needs within the school and local authority system, and the school must comply if this is the case.

On occasions, parents may have their child assessed without prior discussion in school. Some schools feel they should not accept an assessment that they have not agreed to. This is unhelpful, and could result in parents (and the child) feeling alienated, additional workload being incurred by the school and local authority and needless stress on all sides. In reality, if the child has been assessed by an appropriately qualified individual, then school staff should accept the findings of the assessment and these should be considered alongside any assessment that has already been gathered. The school should be prepared to work with parents and the child in the circumstances, thus ensuring the learners’ needs are met.