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Strategies that ease difficulties

Spotlight on Special Educational Needs series: HEARING IMPAIRMENT. By Linda Watson. SPEECH AND LANGUAGE DIFFICULTIES IN EDUCATION By Bob Daines, Pam Fleming and Carol Miller.

SPECIFIC LEARNING DIFFICULTIES. By Dorothy Smith. NASEN. Pounds 6 each (less 10 per cent to NASEN members) available from NASEN Enterprises, 4 Amber Business Village, Amber Close, Tamworth B77 4RP

Gary Thomas welcomes a series which gives down-to-earth advice on teaching pupils with special needs

These three little books enhance the National Association for Special Educational Needs' reputation for producing accessible, useful guides for teachers. The easy-to-read trio are part of the association's Spotlight on Special Educational Needs series which includes titles on physical disabilities, visual impairment and emotional and behavioural difficulties.Each provides the basic essentials in 60 to 80 pages.

As children with more serious hearing loss enter mainstream classrooms, Linda Watson's excellent book on hearing impairment will be especially welcomed by teachers.

The technical side of hearing impairment - with talk of audiology, hearing aids and loops - can be daunting for those with little experience of special needs and Watson covers the area clearly and succinctly. She discusses the cause of hearing loss and its effects, as well as the assessment of hearing. She also gives details of how different kinds and degrees of hearing impairment might fit into the Code of Practice stages. Guidelines are provided on incorporating information on hearing impairment into school policies.

The authors of Speech and Language Difficulties tackle another technical area with great clarity. They outline theoretical approaches, distinguishing between medical, biological, psycholinguistic and cognitive perspectives on speech and language difficulties, before providing lavish advice on how to teach children with difficulties in these areas.

The pages bulge with practical suggestions which go further than a mere hint as to what you might do in the classroom to help these children. Full details are given of curricular activities and games. The book is written by a partnership of a teacher, an educational psychologist and a speech and language therapist so the suggestions they provide cover confidently, and in depth, a range of approaches and difficulties.

Specific learning difficulties is a contentious area and Dorothy Smith's book on the subject sensibly concentrates on practical strategies to help children in class. Identification and assessment are also given in-depth treatment.

However, emphasis is on classroom and school strategies to help children with particular difficulties. Ten years ago it would have been far more child-centred - far more oriented to finding out about supposed deficits within the child and then remedying them. Research has fairly conclusively knocked on the head the idea that deficits can be diagnosed and then prescribed for, and it is good to see that research lessons are reflected in this practical manual.

Each book provides lists of further reading, useful contacts and addresses. NASEN is to be congratulated on commissioning and publishing this well-conceived series, which will be of use not only to classroom teachers, but also to special educational needs co-ordinators, classroom assistants, parents and school governors in understanding how children with particular difficulties can be taught effectively in mainstream classes.

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

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