KS3 Sam: Freeing the inner
When I was asked to do an assessment for thirteen year old Sam, his SENCo explained that they were very puzzled about him: He was very good at Maths and Science and wanted to be an inventor but even with extra help, he was really struggling with literacy. He was also constantly in detention for forgetting his books and equipment.
'I don't know if it's because of poor concentration, low verbal ability, or a lack of interest but although his reading and writing is fine, his English is very weak and he forgets everything. Also, more worryingly, he had an angry outburst in class a few weeks ago and seems to be increasingly isolated from his friends.'
When I met Sam he was quiet and eager to please: he focussed hard on all his tests, relishing the testing process until we came to reading comprehension. As we worked through the passages he became visibly tired and was clearly struggling.
Sam is typical of a certain type of dyslexic with a strong visual memory who appears to read and write fluently but whose decoding is weak. Coupled with a weak verbal memory, English was difficult for him. When he found out the reasons for his difficulties, his relief was palpable: He has responded very well to a structured, multi-sensory phonics programme, support with study skills and memory training. His progress in English has taken off and he has joined the after school science club, now that he isn't constantly in detention.
KS4 Carla ' I just thought I was thick
Carla is a boisterous fifteen year old. Outspoken and challenging, many teachers found her difficult to teach. In class, it appeared that her reading was competent and she sometimes made extremely perceptive comments; however she always seemed to mess around when it came to written work and what she did finally produce was often disorganised and chaotic.
When the results of the Year 10 SpLD screening came through, it transpired that her phonological skills were extremely weak: Whilst her reading in context was within the average range, her single word reading and her handwriting speed were below average. She was awarded 25% extra time for exams and advised that she could access specialist 1:1 support within school and in class she could use a laptop with text to speech software and mind mapping software, to compensate for her weak decoding, poor spelling and weak sequencing skills.
When we discussed the results and recommendations with the school SENCo, her bravado fell away and I could see she was struggling to hold back tears.
Carla still talks in class but she is much more motivated to learn and she finds that the specialist support and use of a laptop with the appropriate software has helped her to get her ideas down more clearly. Her confidence has improved considerably and her future is now looking brighter.
'KS3: Peter's mother ' I feel so terrible for shouting at him'
When Peter's mother rang me, she sounded upset and anxious: Her son in Year 5 had been a happy and easy going child but over the last couple of years he had become increasingly moody and angry: She told me that homework was a battleground and he hated school. His older brother was achieving well and Peter felt completely demoralised
'The strange thing is, he makes such intelligent comments and observations when we're talking but he can't seem to remember the simplest of things.'
A SpLD assessment revealed that he had above average verbal ability and a very weak working memory, coupled with poor phonological skills. As we discussed the results she started crying. 'I feel so terrible for shouting at him'. I kept in touch and a few months later, Peter was still finding school difficult but he had a new found confidence. He is really enjoying being in the peer group reading scheme, his parents are supporting a home-school phonics programme and he has started reading adventure books for pleasure. ‘I can’t quite believe it’ his Mum said.