Special Educational Needs: What are they about?

DR ESSI D’ALMEIDA

 
Special Educational Needs or SEN for short refers to a person who is considered disabled because they have an impairment which has an effect on their normal day to day activities. An impairment means the state of being damaged, weakened or diminished. An impairment can be physical or mental. Another word for impairment is disability. The effect of an impairment can be rated in 3 main ways:

  1. Substantial (when the effect of the impairment is significant)
  2. Long-term (when the effect lasts for more than 1 year)
  3. Adverse (when the effect is unfortunate, unfavourable or disadvantageous)

 
Physical or mental impairments include:

  1. Sensory impairments – this means a person’s senses are no longer functioning properly.
  2. Hidden impairments – such as diabetes, dyslexia, learning difficulties etc.
  3. Mental illness – identifiable or clinically diagnosed.

Society used to think that intelligence was permanent and unchangeable; that some people could never learn anything, or that some people were not capable of learning much. This opinion has now changed. We now know that different people learn in different manner and at different speed. We also understand that people of any age can have special educational needs.

Young people with special educational needs will struggle to manage at school. They will always need extra help with learning tasks and activities. Teachers need to include all pupils, including those with special educational needs in learning activities in order to enable them to develop and to flourish.
How is that Possible?

One of the strategies to achieve it is known as differentiation. This describes an attempt to make education more meaningful for all pupils, from high achieving and talented pupils to those who struggle with any academic work. Differentiation enables pupils at the top end of the ability range to be pushed by the teacher to do even better when, at the same time, the teacher enables pupils at the lower end of the ability range to attempt suitable work which is still challenging for them and which can enable them to reach their potential.

Some Examples of Differentiation:

Differentiation by Content

This is achieved when the content of a learning unit or activity is reduced or extended to suit the abilities of the pupils in the classroom. Content refers to the knowledge or information that the pupils will learn.

Differentiation by Task

This takes place when pupils perform different tasks on the same unit to satisfy their particular needs. For example, during tasks where answers are needed from the pupils, particularly if these answers are single words, some pupils could write the answers while others could say them or tick the correct answers from a list.

Differentiation by Outcome

This is illustrated by allowing all pupils to perform roughly the same task and then assess each pupil’s response according to their ability. For example if all pupils are working on the same activity from a textbook, the outcome is differentiated by allowing for varying degrees of perfection through each pupil’s response.

Differentiation by Strategy

This involves the teacher allowing pupils who may need it, extra time to work on certain tasks or activities. The teacher could also use a cue card as a prompt to help pupils who struggle. By understanding the impairments and needs of each pupil, the teacher will be able to design and deliver inclusive lessons effectively. This will enable every pupil to develop their skills as they will each have an equal prospect of access and achievement in the classroom.

By understanding the impairments and needs of each pupil, the teacher will be able to design and deliver inclusive lessons effectively. This will enable every pupil to develop their skills as they will each have an equal prospect of access and achievement in the classroom.
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DR. ESSI DALMEIDA

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