Nine into one?

17th June 2005 at 01:00
The SEN series

Able, Gifted and Talented by Janet Bates and Sarah Munday

ADHD by Fintan O'Regan

Dyslexia by Gavin Read

Dyspraxia by Geoff Brookes

Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties by Ray Howarth and Pam Fisher

Language and Communication Difficulties by Dimitra Hartas

Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties by Corinna Cartwright and Sarah Wind-Condie

Surviving and Succeeding in Special Educational Needs by Fintan O'Regan

Visual Needs by Olga Miller and Adam Ockelford

Continuum pound;7.99 each

There were moments in this series when I was delighted with what I was reading and moments when I was exasperated. It has a great many strengths and weaknesses, in terms of both its collective and its individual attributes.

A particular strength is the range of teaching strategies on offer.

Especially useful in this regard are the books: Able, Gifted and Talented, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, and Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties. Not all the books offer this amount of support, however, and some have more of a medical focus (eg Visual Needs and Surviving and Succeeding in SEN), which seems of less importance to educational practitioners.

This inconsistency reflects the lack of a coherent editorial voice. This means that on occasion ideas and phrases are repeated, terms are sometimes introduced into the text without explanation, out-of-date terminology is used and, potentially most worrying, there is a possible contradiction between advice in Dyslexia and in Surviving and Succeeding in SEN about withdrawing pupils for specialist teaching.

This series has chosen not to question the social biases within the provision for special needs, nor to consider how we can best meet the needs of all. It divides people according to a series of popular labels that will be recognised by most professionals. This means that each book is able to offer discrete descriptions and advice that will make many practitioners feel more secure when faced with a child who has that label.

To work with all children with special needs therefore, the practitioner must read the whole series and then fill in the gaps, because there are plenty of gaps, some of them poorly filled by the brief sketches in Surviving and Succeeding in SEN.

Having just read the whole series, however, I am struck by the commonality of the approaches recommended in all the books. Contained within them is a huge amount of wisdom about behaviour, multisensory interaction, collaboration, communication, social learning, metacognition and more.

As many of the authors are at pains to point out, teaching the target group for their book is all about good teaching. I can't help but feel that if all this great information had been taken out of the nine books and put into one, then we really would have had a Surviving and Succeeding book for all teachers, and people could be a bit less hung up about the labels.

Jonathan Rix Jonathan Rix is lecturer in inclusive education, the Open University

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