Speech and language therapists do not normally come into mainstream schools. Their work is usually based in units attached to schools or in special schools or community health centres. Most children, whose language is severe enough to need therapy, also have other difficulties and will normally be placed in a special unit. However, speech and language therapists do accept referrals from teachers and are willing to give advice to any teacher phoning up for help. Parents should be consulted before making a referral as very often these children have already been identified but for some reason have not made the school aware of the problem.
Once a child has been referred he or she should be seen within twelve weeks but will then be placed on a waiting list for help.
Any child who has a statement for communication difficulties will attend the community health centres where he/she will be given exercises and therapy to help with the problem.
In some areas, projects have been underway where speech therapists will work with teachers to deliver language improvement plans and talks have been given to SENCOs.
The role of the resource teacher is to assist the class teacher and to provide additional one to one support for children with moderate learning difficulties.
When a child is assessed to be at Stage 3 of the Three Stage Model, he/she is usually given extra help from the resource teacher. This is intended to be given on a one-to-one basis where children with special needs are withdrawn for lessons. In bigger schools children can be educated in a special class along with others with similar needs, taught by resource teachers.
The resource teacher will consider ways in which the curriculum can be differentiated in the classroom, together with suitable materials and possible teaching and learning strategies. She/he will set specific, time-related targets for each child in agreement with the class teacher.
He/she will be responsible for monitoring and assessing and recording the progress of the child alongside the classroom teacher.
When an individual education plan is made for a child he/she will often be the key worker. This entails working with others to plan learning objectives and teaching strategies.
He/she will be responsible for meeting and advising the parents, often with the class teacher.
He/she will meet with other relevant professionals in relation to the child.
Learning support teachers are employed to ensure that pupils will mild learning difficulties achieve maximum proficiency in literacy and numeracy before leaving primary school. It is likely that one learning support teacher will be shared between 2 or more schools. The learning support teacher provides help for pupils who have fallen behind the majority of their class. These children are expected only to need extra help for a short period of time. The pupils are withdrawn from mainstream classes and work is done on areas of specific learning difficulties in skill areas of reading, writing, spelling, language and Mathematics.
Individual education plans will be drawn up for these children and their progress will be monitored by the learning support teacher weekly.
These pupils will not be expected to progress to stage 3 of the Three Step Model, nor to need the services of the resource teacher.
Following the report from the Task Group on Dyslexia, the government believes that pupils with dyslexia should be taught, not by the Resource Teacher, but by the Learning Support Teacher.
The Senior Management Team/Board of Governors should have drawn up a discipline policy and/or a behaviour policy. It should have details of:
- Codes of conduct, rules and routines
- Rewards, sanctions and pastoral care for pupils
- The governors role in supporting the school.
- How the school with work with parents.
- How the staff will be supported, appraised and how they will use outside agencies.
- How behaviour will be managed in the class and in other situations by teachers and other adults.
The physiotherapist is concerned with the gross motor skills and mobility of a child. In cases where there has been an obvious physical difficulty the child will have been receiving support well before starting school.
The physiotherapist is often involved with children who have dyspraxia, are blind or have cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, congenital syndromes, such as Downs Syndrome, spina bifida, and progressive muscular conditions such as muscular dystrophy. He/she may also be involved post-operatively where a child has a temporary physical difficulty, e.g. after an accident.
Although physiotherapists are happy to give advice to teachers, referrals must be done through the child’s medical practitioner and it is advisable to discuss concerns with parents first.
As part of the multidisciplinary team the physiotherapist is also asked to write a report as part of the statutory assessment which then will be used to draw up the child’s Statement of Special Educational Needs if the child has any physical problems which impact on his/her access to the curriculum.
In school the physiotherapist will advise the teacher and classroom assistant on the kinds of activities which will be helpful, e.g. exercise routines and games which could be done during P.E. lessons.
It is vital for all concerned that parents play an active role in the education of their child. They know their child best and can explain what difficulties their child has. They will be a great source of information in helping you to decide how best to work with the child. They have very many rights in relation to the type of education provided for the child. They need to be kept informed and consulted on what is best. If you have any concerns about a child you should discuss it with the parents first.
You need to be aware though, of the difficulties many parents have in relation to their child who has educational difficulties. They may feel guilty and blame themselves for the problem; they may be reluctant to accept the fact that the child has a problem or they may appear as over-anxious because they want the best that can be done.
For discussion: Scenarios
Helpful Hints for Communicating with Parents (pdf)
What is it like to be a parent of a child with special needs?
SEN a guide for parents and carers.
The Perplexed Parent’s Guide to SEN (This guide costs £5)
There are a number of useful downloads on the PCSP website specifically for parents to help with Learning Support. These include ideas on how parents can support schools and how they can help in maths and reading. http://www.pcsp.ie/html/ls_worki.php
Parents’ Education as Autism Therapists by Mickey Keenan, Ken Kerr and Karola Dillenburger
The term paediatrician can mean different things; as consultants for children’s problems in a hospital, a child may see a community paediatrician as a young child in a development centre, prior to beginning school, or a child may see a school doctor as part of a program of children’s health screening.
Every school has a school doctor. His/her job includes helping with health related school policies and overseeing the work of nurses, e.g. when they are carrying out various tests for hearing/sight problems.
If a child with a known health problem is starting school, it is the job of the school doctor to inform the teachers and other staff of any particular health requirements and to train classroom assistants if injections or other medical procedures are required. Children with conditions such as asthma, are usually treated in the community rather than in school.
When a child has an annual statement review, or is undergoing the statementing procedure, their health needs are assessed also and the school doctor is part of this team.
If a teacher suspects a pupil may have a problem, it is always important to discuss it with the parents first. They should ask for advice from their GP. If a teacher suspects a child may need the services of other professionals, e.g. an occupational therapist, then he/she should consult the school doctor who can begin the referral procedure.
As part of the multidisciplinary team the occupational therapist receives referrals from medical staff, psychologists and from schools in relation to children. Although children at Stage 3 onwards can be seen and treated it is only a statutory requirement if part of a statement at Stage 5. Occupational Therapists may be called in for children with learning disabilities, physical disabilities or behavioural problems. Occupational therapists will visit children both at home and at school depending on where the area of need is considered to be and parental permission is required to treat a child, except in cases where children are in care or under social service protection.
In school the occupational therapist will undertake a complete assessment of a child. He or she can then advise on different aspects of treatment alongside the teacher and usually a six week programme is designed. This will normally involve activities which can be undertaken by the whole class and not just the special needs child. He or she will give advice on accommodation within school, equipment and teaching strategies.
At present Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) are appointed on the advice of a psychologist only when a child has been assessed at stage 3 of the Three Step Model. However, the recent circular 24/03 suggests that special needs assistants should only be appropriate where a pupil has a significant medical need or where there behaviour is a danger to themselves or other people.
The Special Needs Assistant will be in school at the same time as the child so if the child is in infant class and leaves at 2 p.m. then so will the SNA. In practice most SNAs work around 12 and a half hours per week.
Special Needs Assistants are allocated to particular children and should normally move with the child from class to class and year to year. It is possible that the assistant may move onto secondary school also with the child.
There is no uniform set of tasks for a Special Needs Assistant – they are to be managed as a school resource, though primarily for the needs of the child to whom they were allocated. Special Needs Assistants are not to be allocated to teaching duties. The latest circular suggests that where special needs assistants are employed to help with toileting and feeding, that the amount of care should diminish as the pupil gets older.
If a teacher is unsure of how best to use the Special Needs Assistant he/she should speak to the psychologist attached to the school.
For discussion: Case Studies
The Role of Special Needs Assistants
Classroom assistants are appointed on the advice of a psychologist almost always when a child has a statement.
Occasionally if a child without a statement is in danger of expulsion, a classroom assistant can be appointed if it will allow the child to remain in school.
Classroom assistants are allocated to particular children and should normally move with the child from class to class and year to year. In addition when a child is changing from primary to post-primary school, the classroom assistant will be given the opportunity to move too.
There are no uniform set of tasks for a classroom assistant – they are to be managed as a school resource, though primarily for the needs of the child to whom they were allocated.
The number of hours allocated to each particular child is determined by need and there is a table of disability categories with banding from mild to profound, to help the education advisor apply this.
If a teacher is unsure of how best to use the classroom assistant he/she should speak to the psychologist attached to the school.
In post-primary school there is a less-structured approach as there are more practical subjects where smaller class numbers apply. In this case negotiation takes place between the advisor and the principal.