1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Hi Guest, welcome to the TES Community!

    Connect with like-minded education professionals and have your say on the issues that matter to you.

    Don't forget to look at the how to guide.

    Dismiss Notice

Do we need to identify SEND before adjustments?

Discussion in 'Special educational needs' started by JulesDaulby, Jun 12, 2017.

  1. JulesDaulby

    JulesDaulby Occasional commenter

    Oh dear I'm at it again.

    Sorry to Tom Bennett as I have previously reacted to his articles.


    The reason I feel compelled to respond however is because Bennett has the voice of government and consequently policy. I feel obliged to pick up on Tom's arguments because I don't want government policy to give the message to teachers that nothing should be done to accommodate students with learning differences.

    What is it this time?

    Tom reacted to this poster:


    I'm not keen on the analogy either but one of his comments I fundamentally disagree with. Bennett wrote this:

    "If a student finds focussing hard, unless they have a diagnosed SEN, they usually primarily need help to practise the habit of focussing"

    It is the claim that only when a particular SEND has been identified then it is OK to differentiate. But we don't need the label to begin adjusting our teaching.

    To put this in context. I once supported a family whose son was being sent to the PRU unit against their wishes. All behaviours pointed to autism and he was going through the core diagnostic team to confirm this. The head however refused to make any adjustments until the label was official. Even telling me he'd welcome staff training from me once the diagnosis had come through.

    There are many students showing traits of a SEN and the diagnosis should not be the starting point to allow a student success in school. Teaching is responsive and with knowledge of SEND, small adjustments can make a huge difference. If teachers won't do this until an SEN is identified, we are waiting for our SEND learners to fail. I've written about behaviour strategies before on this.


    The poster is based on universal design for learning (UDL). To be clear, I think UDL is tricky to implement in mainstream classes of 30 plus. However the spirit of UDL is doable - a recognition that within the homogeneity of a classroom, learners have differences is vital. Just by having this understanding means the student feels included and nothing much may need to be changed. More often however, a reflection by a teacher into how a student who can't read as an example, can access the curriculum, will allow that student to float rather than sink.

    If a student fidgets she needs strategies to concentrate but the argument that if a child struggles with writing they need to do it more might be flawed. At what cost? And why, if speech recognition does the job? More practice in a student's difficulties appears to make sense doesn't it? But for a learner with dyslexia, they may need to be in a classroom with assistive technology alongside 1:1 phonic sessions which don't require them to miss lessons. Such spiky profiles, are often misunderstood with the promise of 'if you practise more and work hard you'll get there.' Being enabled to flourish in a subject despite not being able to do the secondary skill (in this case literacy) is possible albeit controversial.

    It's central to the debate around universal design and I invite Tom Bennet to discuss this with me. We can then inform teachers responsibly without creating the myth that responsive teaching requires an identified SEND but perhaps of equal importance, that differentiation does not require 30 different worksheets.
    CurriculumForAutism likes this.
  2. clear_air

    clear_air New commenter

    Hi Jules,
    I completely agree. And, what is more, I would challenge any teacher who says that they 'treat all children the same'. None of us do - because children are all different.

    A couple of things bothered me about the twitter debate - and possibly about the image too - the first one being the claim that making adjustments represents, somehow, a dilution, either of learning or of expectations and the second being the constant claim that teaching is comparable with being a doctor. While I would agree that there are some times when an analogy is useful, in this case it is totally not.

    Teaching is a hard job. Including children with special needs adds a layer of complexity to an already challenging situation. I honestly think if teachers were clearer about this (the challenges), life would be a lot easier.

    JulesDaulby likes this.
  3. JulesDaulby

    JulesDaulby Occasional commenter

    Completely agree - it is clarity of challenges and how to respond which is most pressing I think
    clear_air likes this.
  4. Flanks

    Flanks Senior commenter

    More often than not, teaching adjustments made for a student with a difficulty actually benefit all students in that class. They remove barriers to learning, they do not reduce the learning.
  5. Dodros

    Dodros Star commenter

    Differentiation doesn't just work in favour of those experiencing learning difficulties. It is also essential if the able, gifted and talented are going to be challenged to prevent the spread of boredom and frustration among them. Some students will have what the Americans call a "dual exceptionality", e.g. a high degree of intelligence coupled with literacy issues, which can be a toxic combination.

    Some students will receive their "SEN label" of SpLD, ASD, SLCN etc. once they have been referred to, and seen by, an external agency such as an Educational Psychologist or a Speech and Language Therapist, but that will take time. In the meantime, all teachers need to show judgement when it comes to students' learning potential and challenge them while taking account of their strengths as well as their weaknesses. When my SEN department polled students in difficulty, we found out that they prized the teacher's ability to explain hard concepts much higher than their ability to entertain the class.

    At secondary level, there's always one teacher who can "get through" to a difficult student experiencing frustration. That teacher needs to share their expertise with their colleagues in other subjects for the sake of the student, who only realistically has once chance of a decent education. Teamwork and open channels of communication between teachers, students, parents and outside agencies are our sole guarantee that additional, or indeed everybody's, needs will be met in all classrooms.
    CurriculumForAutism likes this.
  6. JulesDaulby

    JulesDaulby Occasional commenter

    Yes exactly
  7. flapfish

    flapfish New commenter

    Tom's response suggests that there is an SEN and a non-SEN way to help students learn how to focus. I would argue that for anyone, the key thing is to identify the barrier and then work with the individual to remove it or find a way round it. This will vary depending on the person and regardless of what label they do or don't have. Surely that's just good teaching?

Share This Page