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Light on heavy-sounding syndromes

DYSPRAXIA: A Guide for Teachers and Parents. By Kate Ripley, Bob Daines and Jenny Barrett. David Fulton Pounds 13.99.

CHILDREN FIRST: A Guide to the Needs of Disabled Children in School. By Judith Male. Radar Pounds 10.50.

SOUND PRACTICE: Phonological Awareness in the Classroom. By Lyn Layton, Karen Deeney and Graham Upton. David Fulton Pounds 12.99.

PARENT-TEACHER PARTNERSHIP. By Mike Blamires, Chris Robertson and Joanna Blamires. David Fulton Pounds 12.99.

UNDERSTANDING DIFFERENTIATION. By Sylvia McNamara and Gill Moreton. David Fulton Pounds 13.99.

SPOTLIGHT ON SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS: Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties. By Jonathan Fogell and Rob Long. NASEN Pounds 12 (10 per cent discount for NASEN members).

LITERACY THROUGH SYMBOLS. By Tina Detheridge and Mike Detheridge. David Fulton Pounds 13.99.

Gary Thomas reviews a selection of books designed to boost teachers' confidence in coping with pupils of all abilities

All institutions are inclusive nowadays, even the Conservative Party, and schools are surely at the front of the line in striving to be inclusive. But if schools are to make inclusion more than mere rhetoric, their teachers have to be confident in accepting, managing and educating children from all kinds of backgrounds and with all kinds of abilities. This varied collection of practical guides for classroom teachers will help enhance that confidence.

Many teachers will recognise the picture of the child who can't stop falling off his chair (it's usually a he), can't dress himself and is always breaking his pencil. This is the picture the authors of Dyspraxia: A Guide for Teachers and Parents paint of the dyspraxic child.

We should be instinctively suspicious of "dys" words, which tend to impute children's difficulties to some mysterious neurological cause. But few will doubt that some children do have mild neurological impairments that cause a degree of clumsiness, and this book provides helpful advice for parents and teachers of such children.

For those of us who believe there has been too much specialisation in special needs education, Children First: A Guide to the Needs of Disabled Children in School comes as a nice surprise. It gives basic advice on a range of organisational changes that could make schools more congenial places for children with disabilities, and then it gives a couple of pages on each of 36 types of "disability", from arthritis and asthma through diabetes and Down's syndrome to spinal cord injuries and visual impairment.

It's an excellent resource. If I had to recommend one book to all schools that would help in the inclusion of children with disabilities, it would be this one. Its simple, down-to-earth advice for the educator will reduce anxiety about heavy-sounding syndromes. Many children with these illnesses and syndromes require only fairly straightforward extra help, and this book will make it clear that schools can accommodate them and educate them without too much difficulty.

Ever since Usha Goswami and Peter Bryant published the results of their work on phonological awareness, there has been great interest in its implications for the teaching of reading. Bryant's earlier book with Lynette Bradley on children's reading problems provided a model critical overview of research, showing that association is too often confused with caus-ation in research on reading.

I'm not convinced that the association of phonological awareness with reading ability doesn't suffer the same correlation-causation confusion, but the notion that it is important is certainly popular. If you want a clear rationale for the approach and ideas on how to make children more phonologically aware, Sound Practice: Phonological Awareness in the Classroom is the manual for you.

My own recent research on schools' SEN policies indicates that one of the areas many policies cover least effectively is communication with parents. In Parent-Teacher Partnership, the authors provide some excellent advice on how schools can improve relationships with parents. It's intelligently constructed and well-written and will be an invaluable resource for any school developing its links with parents.

Never having quite understood what "differentiation" is supposed to be, I came to Understanding Differentiation with great expectations and high hopes. I'm glad to say I wasn't wholly disappointed. This book suggests there are three approaches to differentiation - by paired task, by outcome and by organisation - and it gives advice on how to put them into practice. Sensitively varying the demands of the task according to the needs of the child is clearly extremely difficult, as much research has shown. One hopes this book will provide ideas and advice that make that task a little less difficult.

Newly-qualified teachers' greatest anxieties are often about classroom control. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties is an eclectic pot-pourri providing practical advice on the issue. Although its stated focus is emotional and behavioural difficulties, it sensibly puts the stress not on the supposed problems of the child, but rather on group and individual management strategies.

There are many symbol systems in operation for children with more serious difficulties with communication, and Literacy through Symbols provides much more than a glorified glossary of these. It gives a rationale for using different symbol systems and a valuable guide to their use in practice. Many a teacher and parent will attest to the extraordinary liberation a symbol system can effect and this book will help others enormously in their use of these.

An increasingly diverse population of children in mainstream schools demands sensitivity and knowledge on the part of teachers. These books will help in providing those essential ingredients to make schools more inclusive.

Gary Thomas is professor and reader in education at the University of the West of England, Bristol

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