An American scheme to use "social stories" - describing situations which children with autism find difficult - worked very well with a pupil in a Kent school who had trouble getting through lunch with other children. Carol Rowe, a specialist teacher, found that a specially written story changed his behaviour after only one reading. He commented "now I'll know what to do", and afterward said "I've had a happy lunchtime". Repeating the story reinforced the message, and soon he no longer needed it.
British Journal of Special EducationVol 26 no 1, March 1999
Down's done down
Parents of Down's syndrome children still face opposition when choosing a mainstream school, according to a survey for the Down's Syndrome Association. A quarter of the 319 parents in the study had problems getting a mainstream primary placement for their young children. Parents of older children reported the greatest difficulties.
The survey also found big variations in the level of support offered to pupils. More than a quarter of younger children were not receiving sppech therapy - even though at least half of this group have a specific language problem. Provision of learning support assistants ranged from 1.5 hours to 37 hours a week, with up to half of assistants lacking any relevant training or qualifications.
No telling what works
There is no convincing evidence that smaller teaching groups, learning support assistants, or any other interventions are effective ways of providing for children with moderate learning difficulties, according to a report by Newcastle University researchers for the Department for Education and Employment. More research into effective practice is needed.
There is wide variation both in what different schools and education authorities provide and in how much they spend on pupils with similar needs. The researchers found no link between programmes, spending, and how well pupils do academically or socially. Costs for children with mild learning difficulties ranged from pound;1,700 to pound;9,700 per year, and for children with more severe problems from pound;2,300 to pound;10,000. Overall, it is cheaper to educate children with moderate learning difficulties in mainstream than special schools, and they tend to do marginally better in mainstream.
Costs and Outcomes for Pupils with MLD, Research Report 89, from DfEE Publications ( 08456 022260).
Aberdeen's strong policy on inclusion, and development of bases within mainstream schools for children with special needs, has been endorsed by an independent evaluation by Barnados. The bases were well resourced, and were better than special schools at meeting pupils' social needs. But the bases were only successful where there was whole-school commitment and training.
With bases in their schools, pupils with special needs in mainstream schools had higher quality support than previously and parents and pupils were almost 100 per cent satisfied with the provision. The number of children with Records of Need had not decreased, and special schools have a clear role to play in inclusion. Details from Aberdeen City Council, 01224 346030