Special Needs Educators Ask: Are we Doing Enough? Conference Will Target Inclusion, Best Practice

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Some of London's most renowned professionals in the field of special needs believe we should be doing more to help children succeed. Psychologist Dirk Flower and Occupational Therapist Mel Randall, along with a host of high flying educators from London's top schools, believe there is much more that can be done to help children with special needs overcome their difficulties, both at school and in the wider world. The professionals will be talking about the latest thinking, research and best practice in the field of SEN at the first Special Perspectives Conference on February 5, organised by the Skola International Trust for Special Education in London/UK. The two are worried that we are not doing enough to educate our children into a healthy learning mindset, and failing to address sensory issues which often underlie a range of learning difficulties.

Some of London's most renowned professionals in the field of special needs believe we should be doing more to help children succeed. Psychologist Dirk Flower and Occupational Therapist Mel Randall, along with a host of high flying educators from London's top schools, believe there is much more that can be done to help children with special needs overcome their difficulties, both at school and in the wider world. The professionals will be talking about the latest thinking, research and best practice in the field of SEN at the first Special Perspectives Conference on February 5, organised by the Skola International Trust for Special Education in London/UK. The two are worried that we are not doing enough to educate our children into a healthy learning mindset, and failing to address sensory issues which often underlie a range of learning difficulties.

"We must actively change the mindset of vulnerable children to allow them to access learning, both in and out of school," says Flower, Director of Flower Associates, specialists in child and educational psychology. "We must recognise that for a host of reasons - previous academic failure, bereavement, bullying and more - children can sometimes develop a mindset which is akin to post traumatic stress. We need to change that, to help children develop resilience and coping skills, so that they can access learning. We call this developing a learning mindset, and it absolutely should be part of best practice in working with children with SEN."

In addition, recent reports have shown that schools are failing to effectively address the underlying problems of children with SEN. Very often, these problems can be sensory. Mel Randall, director of Maximum Potential, a paediatric Occupational and Physiotherapy practice, thinks that sensory issues are a contributor to many learning difficulties: "A child with sensory issues experiences the world in a different way, and this has an impact on their learning. They often present as having learning difficulties. Sensory issues can mean a range of things: tactile defensiveness, auditory defensiveness, vestibular issues, constantly seeking movement or avoidance of movement activities, difficulty with motor planning activities, as well as difficulty with gross and fine motor skills. By addressing these problems you can help children immeasurably in their everyday lives."

The subject of recent controversy in news reports, dyslexia, will also feature at the Special Perspectives Conference, with Nick Rees, Head of London private school Abingdon House, speaking on maximising opportunities for dyslexic children to succeed. "In my experience as an educator, dyslexia is a very real problem. As educators, the way forward is to take a considered approach to dyslexia in order to keep it from becoming a stumbling block in children's lives."

The Special Perspectives Conference, hosted by Shearman & Sterling L.L.P., will also feature presentations on dyslexia, individual learning plans and broadening the scope of SEN teaching through travel. There will be breakaway workshop sessions and an opportunity to mingle with other professionals in the field at a drinks reception concluding the event. The Special Perspectives Conference will take place on the 5th of February from 2 until 7:30 pm at the offices of Shearman & Sterling LLP, Broadgate West, 9 Appold Street, London EC2A 2AP, UK.

If you would like more information about the Special Perspectives Conference, please call Sonja Adam at the Skola International Trust for Special Education (SITSE) at +44 (0)7944 359822.

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Sonja Adam

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