The Scotsman reports that according to The Oxford Dictionary, neurodiversity is “the range of differences in individual brain function and behavioural traits, regarded as part of normal variation in the human population”.
Dyslexia is now believed to affect 10 per cent of the population and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), 3 per cent. Add these statistics to the numbers of those diagnosed with conditions including dyspraxia, dyscalculia and autistic spectrum disorder and there is an increasingly loud ‘voice’ to those under the neurodiverse ‘umbrella’.
Dyslexic pupils have lateral brains giving rise to the Balance Theory which suggests the condition is caused by unusual brain development in either the left or the right hemisphere, giving them the edge when it comes to creativity. Historically, those with special educational needs (SEN) were often thought to be below average intelligence. However, given that GCHQ employs 120 neurodiverse ‘spies’ and business magnates like Sir Richard Branson are dyslexic, this theory has long been abandoned.
Frequently, neurodiverse pupils develop survival mechanisms. This has the drawback of ‘masking’ underlying difficulties and, on making an ‘academic jump,’ previously effective strategies fail.
It’s vital then that secondary schools have robust screening tests for their new intake. Highlighted pupils should be removed from non-academic and non-examined lessons to allow them access to support. Teachers must be made aware of potential difficulties with evidence collected in preparation for an assessment. Ideally, specialist assessors need to be employed to oversee the school’s screening and access arrangement process.
SEN departments have a large number of resources and a varied battery of psychometric tests to help identify difficulties in pupils that could potentially impact on their long-term learning and performance under timed conditions. A full psychometric assessment takes two hours as all areas of a pupil’s underlying abilities are investigated. Cognitive tests such as CTOPP or TOMAL-2 assess processing speed, reading tests eg GORT-5, can help identify difficulties with text level comprehension, reading speed and accuracy. Most importantly the tests used should be reliable, up to date and appropriate for the age range.
Many neurodiverse pupils come with low self-esteem, anxiety and poor personal expectations. Hard work by teaching staff helps build confidence and strategies that these pupils can utilise far beyond their years at school.
In general are SEN children getting enough support? Is your school using up to date testing at an early enough stage for its’ potential SEN pupils? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~Tamsin
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