5. A Secondary 1 Young Person Experiencing Dyslexic DifficultiesBackground
A pupil diagnosed with dyslexia emerged with ever increasing needs during the early course of his secondary schooling. Difficulties in spelling were assessed to be the root cause of his academic problems, but staff in the Pupil Support department were reluctant to adopt too narrow a focus in providing a package of support measures and identified a broad range of needs amongst which were chronic low self-esteem and poor organisational skills (eg of homework, PE kits etc). The pupil also had weak study skills (eg knowing how to plan answers,
revise terminology), high levels of inattention and distractibility, low mood and depression. He also suffered significant social isolation. The pupil was ‘caseloaded’ to a member of the department who had a special interest in dyslexic difficulties and her role involved developing an
oversight of all aspects of his learning in school, including his emotional wellbeing and welfare. This is in line with the GIRFEC concept of Lead person.
Solution Focused Approach
A key focus even at an early stage in the Support Plan was to identify long term targets that were relevant to, and had a resonance with, the pupil himself. For this reason they had to be ambitious but realistic. So despite his considerable difficulties he was experiencing in achieving the standards that he and others expected, entry into university was set as a
benchmark for success. Alongside this goal, the Pupil Support department took measures to:
• enhance his self-esteem;
• build resilience in his approach to learning;
• improve his study skills and help him to become more independent
• employ technology to support his learning and reduce barriers to learning.
Without these, entry into university would be a contrived success because he would not manage to complete a degree and meet course requirements.
The support package was founded upon the development of a strong, trusting relationship between the pupil and his caseload teacher/lead person, who provided a very high level of guidance during the early phase of the pupil’s school career. The usual range of dyslexia specific support measures were put in place, including Touch, Type, Read, Spell (TTRS) Successmaker
However, the case load teacher/lead person placed considerable emphasis on addressing his low self-esteem through counselling, consultation with his parents and in supporting him to achieve success in the classroom. The latter, proved to be a powerful force in re-orienting him towards a more positive and less self-critical perspective, and helped reduce the impact of his learning difficulties on the learning process.This lead teacher was also instrumental in helping him to address ongoing bullying issues both within and outwith school, and in so doing, helped him to develop meaningful relationships with his peer group and thus enhanced his enjoyment of his latter years in secondary.With considerable assistance, he learnt how to use an Alphasmart keyboard
and later a laptop to support his learning, not only in the production of extended writing tasks, but in the planning of assignments. Voice recognition software was also used (with marginal success) and in individualising the support, the pupil was encouraged to take increasing responsibility for his own learning.
Key success factors included:
• strong supportive role of caseload teacher/lead person;
• parental involvement in planning and decision-making;
• learning difficulties addressed through holistic package of support;
• heavy emphasis placed on emotional wellbeing and self-esteem of pupil;
• long-term development of resilience and independent learning;
• effective transition programme;
• dyslexia supported with targeted programmes to improve spelling accuracy, but also with study support and help in addressing organisational difficulties;
• support for Learning department helped pupil to understand the complexity of his own difficulties and the range of strategies that he could put in place to mitigate problems;
• a recognition that forgetfulness and poor organisation are not indicative of a lack of interest, willingness or intelligence.
Range of Strategies to Promote Positive Behaviour and Improve Learning
The school recognised that dyslexia often involves a wide range of complex, inter-related learning difficulties that impact not only on academic attainment but on mental health and emotional wellbeing. For this reason, those involved in supporting the pupil, especially the caseload teacher/lead person, adopted a broad approach which placed an emphasis on building self-esteem upon areas of strength rather than on direct interventions to improve spelling accuracy. The school also placed a high priority on developing resilience and independent learning at an early stage. Engagement with learning depended on a collaborative relationship with home, and on the parents and pupil taking a constructive role in developing the Individualised Educational Programme.
Individualised Planning and a Flexible Curriculum in Line with Curriculum for Excellence
This pupil attended mainstream classes but received support outwith the timetable during registration (for TTRS), and during class time for the development of study skills. Although this pupil had needs and
required a high level of support in order to fulfil his potential, he was also a very effective contributor to the school community and played an important role as a school prefect. Success was achieved primarily because this pupil’s learning difficulties were not allowed to become barriers to learning, and because the pupil adopted the belief that he could achieve his personal goals despite, and possibly because, he had dyslexia.
The caseload teacher/lead person developed strong working relationships with his subject teachers in order to identify areas where support was necessary and also to help explain his difficulties and so gain their understanding . Because this process was successful, he experienced a very sympathetic level of support in class and teaching staff went to considerable lengths to ensure that appropriate arrangements were in place for all assessments.The parents took a role in supporting the caseload teacher/lead person by providing a study structure at home, encouraging him to develop ICT skills, and supporting his involvement in local drama. They attended all review meetings and were heavily involved in decision-making during the transition process which led to such successful outcomes.
Successful Outcomes included:
- successful academic attainment at Higher Grade;
- pupil gained entry to university of choice;
- pupil became heavily involved in drama in school and then within local area, which led to participation at a national level;
- increasing confidence and self-esteem allowed pupil to defer university entry for a GAP year involved in performing arts;
- pupil took a leading role in a disability awareness programme for S 1 pupils in school and spoke about his own difficulties.