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A dilemma over special needs

Discussion in 'Private tutors' started by Mathsteach2, Dec 11, 2010.

  1. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Established commenter

    I am not a trained special needs teacher, but I have two tutees, brothers aged 8 and 9, for mathematics and I am finding they are bordering (I think) SEN. Their primary school administers end-of-term tests, and they are consistently bottom of their classes. As far as I know they are not receiving any extra help at school.
    My dilemma is whether or not to bring my thoughts to the attention of their mother and father, and then whether or not they should approach their school? Or do I just accept what I have got, do my best with them in the one hour per week when I see them, and leave it at that?
    There are provisions for special needs in Barbados (there is one F/T special school), and there has been criticism in the press over the years that children who really need extra help beyond the normal classroom activities have not been getting it, resulting in near non-readers, for instance, leaving school at 16 years old. It has been stated many times that these children must be identified in their early years of schooling.
  2. It's not your job to make a diagnosis of SEN. The parents have recruited you to remedy the problem of low attainment and they will probably be expecting a miracle turn around (they always do). Identify where they are weakest academically and discuss that with the parents, don't throw around the SEN term, they won't thank you for it.
    Good luck!
  3. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Established commenter

    Many thanks for your advice, dc88, and it is the same as I get from my wife (a retired psychiatric nurse), and I appreciate parents not wanting their child labelled as special needs.
    However, I think your reference to miracles is very appropriate! Therefore how do I weigh my reputation against an impossible task? I can be frank and say that in one hour per week I cannot seriously address their low attainment, the children need far more than that - more tuition from me (meaning more remuneration for me of course!) or extra help at school.
    Another point is that I thought it was the responsibility of the classroom teacher to refer a pupil to a special needs teacher, at least for assessment. I quite agree with you that I am neither competent nor authorised to make a diagnosis, but if their own classroom teacher is doing nothing then for me to do nothing and just "do my best" seems to me that I might be neglecting my duty?
  4. I think it's a fair comment. Many parents naively expect that 1 hour a week with a private tutor will iron out all of their problems. Whilst this may well be a good observation for those children who we are simply bridging the gaps for, this is certainly not the case for children with significant gaps in knowledge. I have my own IEP form that I use with all the children I work with and I write down realistic targets and give parents a realistic timeframe for when the targets will be met. I make sure the parents know that this will depend on the child and there are no guarantees as each child is different.
    Your duty is to teach these children to the best of your ability, make your lessons enjoyable and keep mum and dad informed of their progress. If the parents had wanted their child to be assessed, they would have hired an Educational Psychologist.
    I understand where you are coming from, but if you do decide that you must get involved, be sensitive to how they will react and don't be surprised if it backfires and your reputation is completely ruined.
  5. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Established commenter

    Many thanks again for your quite long post and I want to come back to this, dc88, but will leave it for a while to see if anyone else cares to post.
    BTW, please excuse my ignorance but what is an IEP form? (I am retired in Barbados, and totally out-of-touch with things in the UK)!
  6. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Established commenter

    My apologies, dc88, I have just found IEP in Wicki! It is an Individual Education Plan in the UK, but again seems specifically related to students with identifiable disabilities.
  7. Hi Mathsteach, in the UK an IEP is so much more than what Wicki says it is. IEPs are used for many students, not just those with problems, but even for the gifted and talented. It gives a focus and allows you to monitor progress by assigning measurable targets. I use an IEP for every private pupil I work with, but I call it an 'Individual Tution Plan'. It gives parents proof that progress is being made and gives you a record of how far they have come and more importantly what resources / strategies have worked.
  8. hhhh

    hhhh Star commenter

    I would say menion your concerns-if you are wrong, nothing lost, but as SEN is a wide spectrum, it may be missed.
    I mentioned that I thought a gril was dyslexic; mum had her assessed; she received special help, passed her GCSE and has started a college course. Of far more importance is the fact that she is now happy.
    Put it another way. If an AN tought you may have a serious illness, wouldn't you prefer her to mention it so atht you could get it checked, even if it turned out she was wrong?
    Even nursery nurses look out for possible SEN problems; the inform the parents, but of course do not diagnose.
  9. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Established commenter

    Many thanks, hhhh, my inclination is, and always has been, along these lines. As you say, even nursery teachers look out for any problems and in a team situation should feel that it is quite appropriate for them to bring them to the attention of those concerned.
    However, I think dc88 has a point. You say that by mentioning it nothing is lost, but our concern is the reaction of the mother and father of these two boys. I guess it comes down to my relationship with them. How well do I know them, can I predict accurately how they might react?
    I am in contact with parents of other children in their classes, and can easily pick up information through gossip and hearsay. Perhaps the most professional route would be to ask the boys' parents if they would give me permission to approach their teachers, obtaining the school's assessments of them, without totally disclosing my concerns in the first instance. There might then be an opportunity to talk with their teachers at a professional level, before involving their parents?
  10. HI.. I am just adding my point of view as mother of a daughter who has dyscalculia. My daughter had to have private tutoring because she was so far behind at school as has a learning disability. What worked for her was some visual things. Rather then the teacher doing everything on paper. He used, bricks, shapes, liquid, bottle etc.. and many other ways to explain things to her. She improved in this manner rather then how she was being taught at school.
  11. I've mentioned it before to parents a couple of times in a, "you might want to get the school just to double check there's no X Y or Z issues in the background" kind of way before, obviously stressing that I can't diagnose this myself on the spot but the school has resources available it can access to see if there is an issue there. I'd be remiss not to mention if there's something niggling away I'm suspicious of really when the spidey sense that there's some need there is tingling.
    Last kid I mentioned this about, has now been assessed by the school and it's looking very likely it's heading towards a diagnosis of dyslexia - while in class I think his natural exuberance (not at all in a bad way - just a very bouncy chap) masks a lot of the stuff you see so much more markedly working one-to-one sometimes.
    I always pitch anything like this in a "worth getting this ruled out" kind of way rather than a "I think they may have..." way.

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