Monday 27 February 2012

Pillars of Support

We come to point number two in this mini series. This one is not so much to do with children’s vision or eyesight, as it is to do with the way they feel about themselves, their self-esteem or self-image. Along with this it is to do with the way we as teachers treat them, which can have a big impact on the way they feel about themselves. Every teacher carries a heavy responsibility because our actions and our words can have such a powerful impact on the child’s thinking. We are all a product of so many things and one of the most influential things is what significant people say about us or to us. With this in mind please consider the following point, which I believe is such an important aspect of our role in looking after the children in our care.    

Pillar 2. Have a Policy of Non Discrimination

Treat the child as you would the rest of the class as much as you possibly can. Do not single them out. Do not make an example of them. Do nothing that might make them feel socially awkward. Unless absolutely necessary do not make them use special equipment that no others need to use. Punish them just as you would any other child. Give them detentions if necessary. Speak harshly to them if you must. Do not feel sorry for them or allow them to get away with anything that any other child would.  Keep your distance. 

The only rider I would add to this is that there need to be subtle changes in a teacher’s behaviour, which might be called ‘positive discrimination’. By this I mean that a teacher needs to subtly modify her or his behavior in class so that the child has the best access to the curriculum. For example take the case of a visually impaired child who cannot see the teacher’s face or hand gestures; the teacher needs to use the child’s name a little more than normal to ensure the child is aware that they are noticed and to include them.

Deliberately asking a visually impaired child to answer a few more questions in class sessions is not to single them out but it is to include them and make them feel part of the group. It is also a way of testing out if they are engaged and can see what is going on. By thinking of this child when making materials is again not singling them out, it is rather a way of making inclusion work. For example if the child needs point size 14 in Arial font why not give all the class the same modified materials. 

What is done for the SEN child always benefits everyone and all the children's learning materials are as a result clear and easy to read.  There are many children who may not have a visual impairment but who find it hard to read words close together on a page because of crowding or clutter. This will no doubt help them. Positive discrimination could also be giving that bit of extra description of pictures or board materials and as always this helps everyone.  There is also equipment that benefits all in class. A sound field system is designed for hearing impaired children but research shows that it has a beneficial effect on all children, including the partially sighted. It raises the attentional levels of all children not just those with hearing loss. A Visualiser (electronic enlarger) used in classes now instead of the old overhead projector captures the imagination of all children. I hope this has given you pause to think...

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