Call an expert

23rd November 2007 at 00:00
That extra insight makes all the difference, says Sara Bubb.Teaching children with special needs, whether they have reading problems or profound and multiple disabilities, is hard.

Labels such as dyslexic, partially-sighted or autistic can be helpful, but you need to find out more.

What exactly can and can't individual children do? What are the barriers to their learning and how can they be surmounted? This is where special needs co-ordinators (Sencos) come in. They should be able to tell you more about each child, and the history of what's worked. Look at the paperwork. If a statement says that a child requires 20 hours of one-to-one support, that is what they're entitled to. You might need to fight the child's corner if the person doing the supporting is being spread around the whole class or school.

Get help from people with expertise, such as Advanced Skills Teachers. A new teacher I spoke to, Heather Garrett, got fantastic insights into how autistic children see the world from James Allen, an Advanced Skills Teacher from Watergate School in Lewisham, south London. She re-thought her handling of an austistic child. "I've implemented some strategies such as using a timer to help him structure his work," she told me.

Watch Teachers TV programmes such as Me! Me! Me! and ADHD. Strategies such as Circle of Friends can help many children. The Inclusion Development Programme is a new pound;2 million government project aimed at staff teaching pupils with special needs. Information can be obtained from the National Strategies from December.

Ask the Senco to observe a lesson so you can get specific feedback and support. Think through individual education plans (IEPs) with the Senco, the child and the parents or carers. Write targets in pupil-speak so that they know what to improve and how. When kids make progress, it's magical.

Sara Bubb is an educational consultant specialising in induction. She regularly answers questions at

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