Three essential components to SEND education.
Special education is a fantastic career option. I am always urging NQTs to consider SEND education as an option for their careers. It is different from mainstream education in a number of key ways. However, that intrinsic desire to provide the best outcomes for the children you teach is front and centre. Their wellbeing is paramount. Think of this as the ABC of Inclusion and Inclusive Practice.
ABC: The Essentials of SEND Teaching
A: Access – I need to make sure my students can access the curriculum, the class, community. Everything, and often things that others take for granted. A walk around the block can be an adventure, full of anxiety, fear and exploration. Unpredictable dogs, sudden loud noises, motorbikes, car horns. It can also bring a huge feeling of success and independence. Many of our students rely on a constant adult presence to access different areas. Our aim is to reduce this reliance to a minimum. Often we cause over-reliance on adult support by our fears.
B: Balance – This links a little but with both A & C, we need to get the balance right between support and hindering progress. I need to get the balance between challenge and high expectations and causing frustration and additional anxiety. I don’t think this can be taught. It is a case of knowing your students and constantly adapting tasks and support. An experienced and dedicated team around the child helps us get this balance right. It is also important to get a balance of attention and praise. A number of my students find it very difficult to receive praise, and ‘over the top’ praise will really unsettle them. Others react well and love a huge fuss being made. Again knowing your student is key.
C: Care – Looking after the student’s wellbeing is my highest priority. Many children with complex needs have faced many challenges in their life already. Without this caring element to their education academic progress is much harder. From numerous annual reviews it is the welfare and happiness of their child that they want to know about first and foremost. The interest in academic levels is minimal. Progress in behaviour and communication are definitely top of the list. Crafting a curriculum that places the child at the centre and promotes progress across all the skills we take for granted is essential.