SEND Focus: 'We need to think about what children can do, not what they can't do'

5th January 2016 at 12:31

There is an excellent resource that should be guiding the practice of teachers of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), but very few probably know about it: the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). 

This sets out what disabled people require to secure "full and effective participation and inclusion in society". We are all duty bound to ensure that the nation's obligations under the CRPD are fulfilled. If we fail to do so then the UN can hold the government to account.

The convention has the potential to improve the ways in which we think about and educate pupils with SEND. One of my favourite regulations is article 3, because it mandates us all to have "respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities".

The first element makes me think about the ways in which we assess the learning and other skills of pupils with SEND. So often we focus our attention on identifying what our children cannot do and which developmental targets they haven't reached. How much more positive it feels instead to concentrate on building up a detailed account of who pupils really are as people: what they like to do, how long for, with whom, where and how.

Enabling disabled children to preserve their identities doesn't mean not developing them as learners. But what we need to learn is how to become the best that we can be, not what others feel we ought to be: some mythical "normal" child that simply isn't us.

So let's make 2016 a year of celebration of who our pupils with SEND really are and let's find out who they want to become. 

Nick Hodge (pictured) is professor of inclusive practice at the Autism Centre, Sheffield Hallam University. He tweets at @Goodchap62

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