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Special needs can be emotional ones

Your article on primary exclusions (TES, November 25) highlights an important gap in the current educational system.

Children who behave badly in school are perceived only as children who behave badly. More often than not, their behaviour is merely the outward manifestation of other, undiagnosed difficulties.

These difficulties may fall into the category of an emotional, or affective disorder: but they are often due to underlying learning problems such as specific learning difficulties, receptive language difficulties, borderline communication difficulties, or even undiagnosed sensory impairment.

While schools and education authorities continue to consider exclusions procedures separately from special education needs (SEN) policies, the gap will remain.

The concept of a "continuum" of need is recognised in all other areas of SEN: hearing impairment, general learning difficulties, dyslexia and so on. Why can we not recognise a continuum of need in the emotionally and behaviourally disturbed category? All too often, children with emotional andor behavioural difficulties are seen as a problem first and a child second: instead, schools must be prepared to recognise children's emotional and behavioural difficulties as a special educational need, requiring strategies at Code of Practice stages 1, 2 and 3. LEAs must also provide advisory teaching services and specialised support tutors to help schools in their management of this particular special need.

For too long, a child with special needs has been seen as "the one who is falling behind" instead of "the one who has difficulty coping at school". It's time for an attitude and resource shift.

EILEEN GASCOIGNE

Action for Special Educational Needs Dunsley Orchard

London Road, Tring

Herts

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