This is the second part of the SEN conference review in Newbury, leading, logically enough from ... Part One
Former Head Teacher, Charlie Mead is a consultant Child and Educational Psychologist, advising schools, the NAS and health and prison services about working effectively with young people with complex needs. He has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the field of helping children with special needs and makes the analogy of how the system is like an egg timer - with all the resources at the top not being able to filter down to those who need them at the bottom - ie, children. He spoke of how he had introduced nurture groups to a school in Birmingham where children with special needs were taught, mainly in the same classroom without the need to move around the schoo0l. They were given the help they needed and this had greatly improved their outcomes and allowed them to participate and be included within the mainstream of education. This is a fascinating idea that, with a some effort and will, could be adopted by every school in the country. It deserves greater public attention than it so far seems to have had.
One form of 'hidden disability' I have not dealt with before is that of acquired brain injury - that is, an injury not present at birth that occurs by illness or accident during childhood. Often these injuries present in a similar manner to developmental disorders. Every year it is estimated that at least 50,000 children and young people acquire a brain injury. Often, it is not until some time after the injury that a connection is made between a behavioural or learning deficit in the young person and the injury or illness that previously occurred. Research shows that 50% of those in custody have some kind of ABI. Louise Wilkinson, Training Manager of the Child Brain Injury Trust spoke at the conference of the issues faces by people with ABI. Her charity has been working to educate teachers on how to deal with such children. The charity is holding a conference in 2012 on the issue.
Finally, conflict resolution & NLP coach, Ian Ross and Lynne Kerry of Vievolve held a session about how to approach and deal with conflict and negotiations. They explained how to negotiate on 'interests' rather than 'positions' and how to maintain your cool when involved in a difficult discussion. One of the pieces of advice was to put yourself in your 'opponent's' shoes and think what they are thinking. This was exciting to me as it was exactly how I approached applying for my sons' statements. I considered the arguments that the LEA might come up with for not giving the statement and in my application, I ensured that I had a convincing answer for every possible reason to deny me what I wanted to achieve. The company offers NLP coaching to businesses and individuals and has a number of courses at its South Oxfordshire venue coming up.
All in all there was great concern over what the future for special needs might bring. It is clear that the green paper is far from perfect and that changes will need to be made. But it is heartening that there are plenty of people who are concerned with SEN that do not forget that the child is at the heart of everything. It is impossible to ignore the fact that money is always an issue, especially in these times, but our priority must surely be with the most vulnerable and childrenwith special needs are undeniably that.
The site for the conference, where the transcript of the presentations will soon be posted it here: http://www.towardsapositivefuture.wordpress.com. Another event is being scheduled for next April.
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