Learning Support Links

Learning Support Guidance

Prader-Willi Syndrome
Suggestions for helping with these: 

​Plenty of practise beforehand and encouragement to just get as much down as possible

The use of a combination of a watch/clock and a visual display to say how far through the exercise or exam they should be by a certain time, with instructions to move on if they have not finished

The use of word-processors, or human helpers in exams

Teaching relaxation techniques, e.g. deep breathing

Placing the youngster near the front of the class, and away from the windows

English/Literacy Skills:

While it is generally the case that people with PWS have better literacy skills, English can still be difficult for those with PWS, with reading ages varying between two to six years below chronological age. Reading may be fluent, but comprehension may be lacking, requiring extra support to ensure that what is read has been correctly understood. Additionally, errors can be made in reading and comprehension because of a disregard of punctuation. Sometimes too literal interpretations will be made of the text. Many will continue to find handwriting difficult, and may produce better work using a word processor. Handwriting may be too small or too large, with an extremely erratic use of punctuation.

Sometimes the obsessive need to check and re-check work hinders progress. One suggestion to help youngsters is to ask them just to write down every thought as it comes into their head, with the rule of ‘no rubbing out’, then later to go through it with the teacher or classroom assistant looking for errors and writing it correctly.

Weekly graded spelling lists drawn from class work can provide valuable revision of work and vocabulary extension. Reading books should reflect the youngster’s own interests, but there should also be the opportunity to read imaginative works with figurative language. Support will be needed to work on the latter, as the youngster will probably find it difficult to understand unless some one is working closely with them to explain non-factual concepts and metaphors.

Essay writing may consist of long lists of food or other items, which the person is obsessive about. Some youngsters seem to particularly enjoy soaps or television, and also police- based stories and murder mysteries. Work could reflect these interests, e.g. discussing an episode of a soap shown the previous night, or asking youngsters to suggest what might happen next to the characters.

Many youngsters show great ability with word search type puzzles. This may reflect the ability to concentrate and focus on detail. Two teenage girls With PWS known to the author spent a car journey lasting three hours competing with one another to complete word searches first, accompanied with much hilarity. These can be used to improve vocabulary and spelling and can be extended to ask pupils to use each word they find in word search in a sentence they have constructed themselves.

Mathematics/Numeracy Skills:

This can often present the greatest area of difficulty, although this is by no means the rule. Some youngsters with PWS may still have problems counting to by secondary school age., while others are able to cope with most types of calculations as well as graphs etc. Life skills such as shopping can be used to help with time and money, as can number games, simple puzzles and using concrete objects to aid understanding. Geometry- based work can also prove difficult. 3D spatial awareness may be limited; tracing over shapes may help. Methods learned one day may be forgotten the next, so that repetitive work is essential. Quizzes, small steps and practical work are usually the best methods.

The difference between fractions, decimals and whole numbers may be a particularly difficult concept for the more able pupil with PWS to grasp. All problems should be kept as concrete as possible to aid understanding in this area.

Other Areas Of The Curriculum:

Because of the basic difficulties that exist in numeracy and literacy, other areas of the curriculum are likely to prove problematic. Humanities, especially if project –based, can produce good work, but those who have poor literacy skills will struggle to keep up.

In science, there may be a basic lack of understanding of why something is being done, and difficulty in reporting back experiments and drawing conclusions from them. Experiments may need to be repeated more than once, so that the youngster can begin to understand the nature of cause and effect.

Difficulties can also be experienced in understanding. For instance, although a word like ‘volume’ may be used to indicate a quantity of liquid, to the youngster it may only mean ‘sound’ – especially as they will be familiar with it from TV and radio controls. As has been shown, rigid thinking can provoke anxiety and confusion, so try to foresee where this kind of problem may rise, and work with the pupil on the meanings in advance.

Specific Safety Risks May Arise Around The Following Areas:

Clumsiness arising from dyspraxia, lack of co-ordination and balance, and lack of spatial awareness can create problems when working on experiments or with cooking, metalwork or wood work tools – close supervision may be required.

A propensity to put liquids and food into the mouth or to lick the fingers after handling liquids may mean that close supervision and visual warnings are appropriate.

Physical lack of awareness of heat and cold when cooking or working on experiments can result in relatively severe burns, which because of their high pain threshold, the person may not be aware of.

Fascination with fire in some individuals can be a hazard.

Giles De La Tourette's Syndrome
Mark is 10 years old, and he gets noticed a lot – but not for his cool skateboard or new sneakers. Mark gets second looks from people because he twitches, shrugs, jerks his shoulders, and flexes his jaw. He can stop doing these things, but not for long. “One time,” Mark says, “some kid asked me why I was moving like that. Before I could answer, another kid said, ‘Because he’s weird.’ ”

But Mark isn’t weird. He has a condition called Tourette’s Syndrome.

What Is Tourette’s Syndrome? 

Tourette’s Syndrome affects the central nervous system and causes tics. Tics are movements or sounds that are repeated over and over. People with Tourette’s Syndrome have very little control over the unwanted twitches, movements, or noises that they make.

If you are having trouble imagining what tics are like, they’re kind of like hiccups. You don’t plan them and you don’t want them. You can try tricks to make the hiccups stop, like drinking water upside down, but you can’t just decide to stop hiccupping. Hiccups that last too long can even start to hurt and feel uncomfortable. Tics can be like that, too.

Tics are also a little like “scratching an itch.” You don’t really want to scratch the itch, but you just can’t help it.

Who Gets Tourette’s Syndrome?  

Tourette’s Syndrome is more common than doctors once thought: It affects one in 1,000 to 2,000 people and maybe more. It is believed that 100,000 Americans have Tourette’s Syndrome. And as many as one in 200 may have some lesser form, which can include facial tics.

Tourette syndrome is more common in boys than in girls. It almost always starts before age 18 – usually between ages 2 and 15 and most often around age 7. Even though children with Tourette’s Syndrome can get better as they get older, many will always have it, but perhaps to a smaller degree. The good news is that it won’t make them sick or shorten their lives.

Why Do People Get Tourette’s Syndrome? 

Tourette’s Syndrome is probably, in part, an inherited genetic condition, which means that a person inherits it from his or her parents. Tourette’s Syndrome is not contagious. You cannot catch it from someone who has it.

Doctors and scientists don’t know the exact cause, but some research points to a problem with how nerves communicate in the brain. Neurotransmitters – chemicals in the brain that carry nerve signals from cell to cell – may play a role.


People with Tourette’s Syndrome have motor tics and vocal tics. Motor tics are unwanted or involuntary movements of the muscles, like blinking, head shaking, jerking of the arms, and shrugging. When a person with Tourette’s Syndrome suddenly begins shrugging, he or she may not be doing it on purpose. This may be a motor tic.

Vocal tics are sounds that a person with Tourette’s Syndrome might make with his or her voice. Throat clearing, grunting, and humming are all common vocal tics. A person with Tourette syndrome will sometimes have more than one tic happening at once. Tics can happen throughout the day, although they often occur less, or go away completely, when a person is concentrating (like working on a computer) or relaxing (like listening to music).

The type of tic often changes over time. The frequency of the tic usually also changes. Tics are usually worse when a person is under stress, like when he or she is studying for a big test. Tics are often also worse when a person is excited or very energized about something (like at a birthday party or a sports activity).

People with Tourette’s Syndrome can usually keep their tics from happening for a few minutes or even a few hours, but this often takes considerable effort. In addition, the tics will always return and may be worse right afterward. Tics can occur when a person first falls asleep but usually diminish dramatically and disappear completely during the deeper stages of sleep.

At any one time, a person with Tourette’s Syndrome may have just one simple tic (like eyelid blinking or shoulder shrugging). More commonly, he or she may have a few or many tics during any given time period. Some of these tics may be complex, such as licking objects or carrying out a series of movements in an organized fashion.

A simple tic usually involves a single sound or only one muscle group. People with a complex tic usually make more elaborate motions and sounds, like repeating their own words or repeating other people’s words or phrases. In some cases, a person with Tourette’s Syndrome may even use swear words or say other unkind things without intending any harm or being angry.

All pupils who have Tourette’s Syndrome have tics, but a person can have tics without having Tourette’s Syndrome. Some health conditions and medicines, for instance, can cause tics. And many children have tics that disappear on their own in a few months or a year.

A Few Classroom Tips:  

  1. Dealing with TS in the classroom – In some cases the movements and noises can be annoying and disruptive in the class. Please do not react with anger or annoyance – it is important to remember that the tics are involuntary and that the child may be trying his or her hardest to hold the tics in. This may require patience on your part, but reprimanding a TS child for his or her tics is like scolding a child with cerebral palsy for being clumsy. Teachers are usually the closet link to adults outside of the family, scolding may not only result in a fear of school but in general hostility toward any adults. It cannot be overemphasised that teachers are the role models for how the rest of the class will accept the TS child, and how the TS child envisages society’s understanding of the condition.
  1. Letting off steam – Allowing a child with TS to leave the class to let out the tics and any internal emotion that has accumulated, whilst the child has been suppressing the symptoms in the classroom has been known to have very positive results. The provision of a quiet room and a one to one tutor for those occasions when the child is momentarily going through a bad spell is an extremely good option used in many schools.
  1. Tests/Exams – Allowing the child with TS to take tests in a private room, often enhances performance as the child is not wasting energy on suppressing the tics in the silent room. Question sheets can be made less confusing to the TS child by encouraging the use of a piece of card which only allows the child to view one question at a time.

Computer scored multiple choice tests can be made simpler to complete by allowing the TS child to write answers on the test booklets. The visual motor integration problems that many TS children suffer can present particular problems in maths tests. This can be circumvented by giving the TS child paper, which has been marked with large boxes in which to solve each problem in turn.

  1. Note – Copying down work can present problems for a pupil with a visual-motor problem particularly if arm and hand tics interfere with the clarity of quickly written notes. The teacher may overcome this by requesting (in private if need be) that another pupil acts as a ‘note-taking buddy’ and makes a simultaneous copy by means of supplied carbon paper.
  2. Written Assessment – Visual motor problems can also seriously impair the completion time and neatness of written work. There could be times when the TS child appears lazy and not studious this however, could well be due to the immense effort that the child has to make to complete the work.
Hearing Impairment
What can you do to help? 

  • Get the child’s attention before speaking
  • Look directly at the child. Don’t walk around the classroom whilst talking as this can make lip reading difficult.
  • Face the light
  • Cut out the background noise
  • Don’t obstruct your face with your hands
  • Speak clearly, don’t mumble
  • Don’t shout
  • Write things down or use visual clues
  • Use plain language
  • Repeat if not understood or phrase in a different way
  • Use gestures e.g. pointing
  • Check if understood e.g. asks a question to which the answer is not yes or no!
  • Let a pupil know it is OK to make a mistake – every one does!
  • Build confidence – give praise for success

Plan ahead; for example what visual aids would help to explain a lesson

English as an Additional Language
School /class ethos:

  • Recognize the child’s heritage language; this doesn’t mean they have ‘no’ language, they have a different language or languages.
  • Classrooms need to be socially and intellectually inclusive, valuing cultural differences and fostering a range of individual identities;
  • Boost the pupils’ self-esteem – remember, they have the potential to become bilingual adults;
  • It takes time to become fluent in an additional language, with a good command of the range of language needed for academic success;
  • Literacy in a home or community language can support English literacy – there are cultural, social and technical variations in literacy in different contexts.

Identifying pupils’ strengths:

  • Pupils from other language backgrounds have a wide variety of cultural, linguistic and educational experiences;
  • See the cultural differences brought by the pupil to the class as a bonus and use this in your teaching.


  • Have high expectations – expect pupils to contribute and to give you more than one-word answers;
  • Most bilingual pupils are capable of high achievement, even when they are beginners in English;
  • The literacy goals in English are the same for all pupils; many bilingual pupils will also become literate in one or more other languages;
  • The process of becoming literate in either a first or an additional language has both similarities and differences – knowledge of the particular features of the child’s heritage language can help.

Teaching and learning strategies:

  • Ensure that EAL pupils are set appropriate and challenging learning objectives;
  • Recognize that EAL pupils need more time to process answers;
  • Talking about language and literacy with peers and adults is essential – it helps pupils to use their home language when talking about literacy, even when their goal is literacy in English;
  • Do not allow any racist comments or jokes to pass – these should be reported using the school’s policy for handling racist incidents;
  • Allow pupils to use their heritage language to explore concepts;
  • Give newly arrived young children time to absorb English (there is a recognised ‘silent period’ when children understand much more English than they use – this will pass if their self-confidence is maintained);
  • Group children – to ensure that EAL pupils hear good models of English, wherever possible, they should be grouped with higher-attaining children when oral work is being undertaken;
  • Bilingual support from either fellow professionals or from volunteers (such as parents) is invaluable in supporting pupils learning EAL, to ensure that they understand the concepts and vocabulary;
  • Use collaborative learning techniques – encourage children to work together in pairs and small groups, to discuss their work and possibly produce a joint piece of work or report for the class; this is a valuable strategy for promoting learning for EAL pupils. It is beneficial to allow EAL pupils to work together, so that they can discuss their work in their heritage language before using English.
Blindness/Visual Impairment
There is a wide range of types and degree of visual impairment from short-sightedness, correctable with glasses to people who have virtually no useful sight – those registered blind. There is also the problem of colour blindness which can occur in up to 10% of boys.

Sometimes it is not the eye itself which causes the problem, but it is the pathway from the eye to the brain which is damaged. i.e. what the eye perceives has to be translated and made sense of by the brain.

Most people who are considered ‘blind’ have some sight. The degree to which each person is affected varies greatly. Some people can see to read but have difficulties getting around (tunnel vision); others vice versa.

Abstract concepts are difficult for those who cannot see as they have limited exploration to develop relationships. There can also be problems with movement, behaviour and responses as they do not pick up incidental information as easily as fully-sighted people.

What to look for: For children who have not been identified their eyes may turn or squint; they may screw up their eyes to look. They may be rather clumsy when moving around; they may have difficulty copying from the board; their handwriting may be large and spidery. They may tire quickly and may rub their eyes a lot. The child may be seen to have unusual habits, eg. rocking or rubbing fingers etc. This may indicate that they don’t know what is happening around them.

Top Tips For Pupils With A Visual Impairment:

  • Encourage pupils to wear their glasses, look through the lenses and keep them clean.
  • Consider strategies to give best possible contrast, and ensure that the font size is large enough.
  • Allow pupils extra time to look at equipment, artefacts and print.
  • Don’t ask the pupil to share books, worksheets or computer monitors.
  • Keep the environment clear of unexpected obstacles particularly in dimly lit or very bright areas.
  • Avoid glare from shiny or polished surfaces.
  • Choose a teaching position so that you are not silhouetted against the light.
  • Say the pupils name to attract their attention before addressing them.
  • Make instructions clear and specific, don’t rely on gesture alone.

Make sure information displayed on walls is available as a desk copy.

Dyslexia - A Specific Learning Difficulty
Did you know?

  • Three times as many males as females are affected by dyslexia.
  • There are three types of dyslexia; motor, visual and auditory.

Dyslexia is usually diagnosed by a psychologist based on data gathered by teachers and parents. In order to decide whether a child has SPLD/dyslexia a picture of the whole child needs to be developed. It is likely that there will be marked deficits in their achievements despite being of average or above ability.

SPLD causes significant problems with reading writing and spelling, and sometime maths. Short-term memory, concentration, personal organization and sequencing can also be affected. In other respects many people with SPLD are very creative.

Things to look out for: problems with phonics, poor short term memory and problems with distinguishing right and left. The child might seem bright in some ways but with a ‘block’ in others. The child may have difficulty with carrying out a sequence of three or more instructions. He/she may write letters and numbers the wrong way round, e.g. 17 for 71, 9 for 6, b for d etc. He/she may write a word in several ways without recognizing the correct version. There can be confusion with left and right and he/she may have a poor sense of rhythm. Learning about time and tense can also cause problems.

In older children he/she may make unexpected errors reading aloud, have difficulty copying and taking notes and spelling. He/she may have problems planning and writing essays and with mental arithmetic. It might take him/her a very long time to read a book with understanding. A lack of self-esteem is often apparent.

Teaching Pupils With SPLD (Dyslexia): 

  • Focus on what is done well and give praise and encouragement.
  • When marking tick the correct work – don’t highlight all the mistakes.
  • With older children a dot in the margin is a good way to indicate mistakes rather than using lots of red pen.
  • Give written instructions for homework and in class, try to write instructions on board.
  • Don’t give out too much work at one time.
  • If possible, consider other ways of recording work, e.g. tape recorders, diagrams, computer etc.
  • Encourage the child to think what he/she has to do before starting and perhaps verbalise it to you.
  • Display key words/subject vocabulary on walls; provide word banks.
  • Provide photocopied notes; highlight or underline key phrases etc.
  • Provide support in form of frameworks for writing.

Sometimes pupils with dyslexia find it hard to concentrate. Using a visual timetable/list of things which have to be done may help, e.g. date, title etc. when completing a piece of writing.

Meares - Irlen Syndrome
Meares – Irlen Syndrome is a visual perceptual dysfunction affecting mainly reading and writing based activities. A person will experience difficulty with general reading, writing and behavioural characteristics of which some might be similar to the learning difficulties that people with dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, attention deficit disorder and/or hyperactivity experience. The syndrome is often confused with dyslexia, but Ms. Irlen argues that it is really a separate “layer” to the problem. For our purposes we will only concentrate on reading difficulties in this document. With Meares-Irlen Syndrome, the reading of the person is hampered by distortions of print, which become less when the text has a particular colour. This, however, differs from individual to individual.

Reading problems that a person with Meares-Irlen Syndrome may encounter:

Meares-Irlen Syndrome, in itself, is not considered a specific learning disability, but it is recognised in most countries as a basis for learning difficulties and frustration. Certain individuals have difficulty with the glare from the page and the way in which this glare can be reduced by coloured filters placed over the page. These people find reading black lettering on white paper very difficult. The white seems to distract their attention from the black, making reading a very difficult task. Such readers mostly prefer grey, or some other colour of paper to white.

People with this syndrome generally encounter the following problems, but they may differ from person to person:

  • Words Appear To “Move”, “Jumble” Or “Fall Off The Page”
  • The Page Appears Too Bright Or The Words Are Too Close Together
  • They May Skip Words Or Lines When Reading
  • They May Develop “Eyestrain” Or Headaches After Reading
  • They May Have Difficulty Looking At A Computer Screen
  • They Cannot Read Continuously
  • They Only Read In Dim Lighting
  • Their Reading Is Hesitant And Slow
  • Their Reading Deteriorates
  • They Misread Words
  • Their Reading Rate Is Slow They Avoid Reading

Available Aids:  

Because each individual with Meares-Irlen Syndrome is different, the use of the Intuitive Colorimeter can establish which colour is suitable to make the distortions disappear, to make the text stable, and to make it comfortable to see. This device makes it possible for an individual to see a page of text lit uniformly with light of a particular colour. One control can change the colour, another can change the depth of the colour and a third control changes the brightness.

Results with experiments and tests with the use of Irlen-Filters (coloured lenses) have shown improvement in reading, a reduction in headaches, an increase in sustained attention, improved self-confidence, and improved academic performance. These filters are spectrally modified filters that are beneficial to poor readers, and that may reduce the symptoms of people experiencing eyestrain such as headache and red or watery eyes. Different colour combinations and an intensive diagnostic interview can determine the most suitable filter for each individual. The filters do not teach someone to read but may help in rectifying a particular situation, which prevented reading to progress. The effects of colour depend critically on typography – colour has its greatest benefit with text that is closely spread and small. The effects on reading speed with conventional texts take time to appear and do so only when the reader begins to tire.

Coloured plastic can be placed upon a page to colour the text beneath without interfering with its clarity. Coloured overlays can be used rather than lenses. Some studies by investigators associated with Irlen Centres have shown improvements in reading in selected individuals. In some, the reading slowed down when reading without coloured overlays and they complained of eyestrain. Others did not show any benefit from the use of the overlays. A high proportion did, however, report improvements in the appearance of the text when using an overlay.

A proportion of children beginning school will have been born with deficits that could impact on their ability to deal with all or part of the national curriculum. It is believed that 4% of children are severely dyslexic and a further 6% are affected at the mild-moderate level in literacy. It is also believed that about 40% of these will experience significant difficulty with maths. We are therefore concerned with a large number of the population who have considerable difficulties with the processing of mathematics to a level which may well affect life skills as well as academic achievement.

While dyslexia is now widely recognised in the area of literacy, in the area of numeracy it is most definitely not. Furthermore there appears to be a second congenital condition that has not even been discussed. This is dyscalculia: its effects on the learning of numerical skills can be very profound. The current best estimates (from England and elsewhere) indicate a prevalence of between 3% and 6% of the population. These estimates are derived from the proportion of children who have specific difficulty with maths despite good performance in other curriculum areas.

Of course, there are many reasons for being bad at maths, but few studies have attempted to separate out the differing needs of these two groups from other causes of underachievement. There will be other children with special needs, such as those with specific language impairment, who may encounter difficulty with the verbal content of the numeracy, but who would not show up in studies, which are based on discrepancies between maths and other abilities. The DfES defines dyscalculia in terms of “A condition that affects the ability to acquire arithmetical skills. Dyscalculic learners may have difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers, and have problems learning number facts and procedures. Even if they produce a correct answer or use a correct method, they may do so mechanically and without confidence.” (DfES, Guidance to support pupils with dyslexia and dyscalculia, 0512/2001) Preliminary evidence suggests that there may be a specific dyscalculia genotype – that is, a genetic anomaly that may result in a specific deficit in the learning of numerical skills.

Research at UCL suggests that dyscalculic children are troubled by even the simplest numerical tasks: selecting the larger of two numbers, counting the number of objects in a display, and activating the meanings of numerals.

These findings are the basis of a new test for diagnosing dyscalculia that depends very little on the educational experiences of the child, apart from learning the number terms to ten, and very little on other cognitive skills such as reading, language or short-term memory. It makes it possible to assess the child’s numerical potential independently of their abilities and opportunities in other competencies. A critical feature of the test is the time it takes the child to answer each question in comparison with mean for the age-group: even children of four or five will get most of the questions right. This has the advantage of making the same test usable for all age groups. The test battery using this approach for screening for dyscalculia is available now. More information is available via the link below.

GL Assessment Website

A recent report from the Basic Skills Agency found that poor numeracy is more of a handicap in gaining and retaining a job than poor literacy. In its most severe forms, children cannot learn to tell the time, know the date, shop competently, nor do even very simple arithmetic. We have anecdotal evidence of a link between failure at mathematics, frustration and deviant behaviour for some of these children. Recently we were told by an inmate at Pentonville Prison that he was so embarrassed by the inability to calculate his money that it had been “easier to nick it than to ruin his street cred” by admitting his weakness. He went on to say that no-one had ever tried to teach him in a way that he could learn, but had always yelled at him for his inability to do the simplest things.


Recognising dyscalculic problems:  

Numbers and the number system: dyscalculic children seem to have an impaired sense of number size. This may affect tasks involving estimating numbers in a collection and comparing numbers.

Dyscalculic children can usually learn the sequence of counting words, but may have difficulty navigating back and forth, especially in twos, threes or more.They may also find it especially difficult to translate between number words, where powers of ten are expressed by new names (ten, hundred, thousand) and numerals (where powers of ten are expressed by the same numerals but in terms of place value).Reading and writing numbers may nevertheless be competent, though some Dyscalculic children may find numbers over 1,000 cause problems, even for Year 6 children.


Dyscalculic children find learning and recalling number facts difficult. They often lack confidence even when they produce the correct answer. They also fail to use rules and procedures to build on known facts. For example, they may know that 5+3=8, but not realise that, therefore, 3+5=8 or that 5+4=9.

Lack of an intuitive grasp of number magnitudes makes checking calculations especially difficult.

Solving problems:

Dyscalculic children often don’t understand which type of arithmetical operation is asked for.


They may have trouble, even with money. There may be exaggerated difficulties with intensive numbers – i.e. those involving x per y, either explicitly or implicitly – such as speed (miles per hour), temperature (energy per unit of mass), averages and proportional measures. Some will have spatial problems, which affects understanding of position and direction.

Handling data:

This will be handicapped by all of the above problems.

Classroom management:

Being unable to do what their classmates can do with ease, can lead to anxiety and, from there to avoidance. Avoidance of number work will, of course, make things worse, and the children will fall farther and farther behind. Dyscalculic children may be particularly vulnerable where teachers follow an interactive whole class method of teaching. Pupils are expected to play an active part by answering questions, contributing points to discussions, and explaining/demonstrating their methods to the class. Asking dyscalculic children to answer maths question in public, so difficult for them, but easy for the rest of the class, will inevitably lead to embarrassment and frustration.Dyscalculia is a special need, and children will require diagnosis and appropriate counselling, as well as support away from whole class teaching.


Compared with dyslexia, very little research has focussed on the problems of dyscalculic children’s difficulties and how to overcome them. We are not sure whether there is just one form of dyscalculia or several, and therefore whether different approaches may be needed. It is likely that dyscalculic children will need one-to-one teaching to support what they learn in the classroom.

Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Autistic spectrum disorder is a relatively new term which recognises that there are a number of sub-groups within the spectrum of autism.

Pupils with autistic spectrum disorder find it difficult to:

  • Understand and use non-verbal and verbal communication
  • Understand social behaviour — which affects their ability to interact with children and adults
  • Think and behave flexibly – which may be shown in restricted, obsessional or repetitive activities.

Pupils with ASD cover the full range of ability and the severity of their impairment varies widely. Some pupils also have learning disabilities or other difficulties, making diagnosis difficult.

Pupils with autistic spectrum disorders may have a difficulty in understanding the communication of others and in developing effective communication themselves. Many are delayed in learning to speak and some never develop meaningful speech.

Pupils find it difficult to understand the social behaviour of others. They are literal thinkers and fail to understand the social context. They can experience high levels of stress and anxiety in settings that don’t meet their needs or when routines are changed. This can lead to inappropriate behaviour.

Some pupils with autistic spectrum disorders have a different perception of sounds, sights, smell, touch and taste and this affects their response to these sensations. They may have unusual sleep and behaviour patterns.

Young pupils may not play with toys in a conventional and imaginative way but instead use toys rigidly or repetitively e.g. watching moving parts of machinery for long periods with intense concentration. They find it hard to generalise skills and have difficulty adapting to new situations and often prefer routine.

Pupils with Asperger’s syndrome should be recorded in this category. These pupils share the same triad of impairments but have higher intellectual abilities and their language development is different from the majority of pupils with autism.

These characteristics have implications for teaching approaches and styles of learning.

Effects on learning may be caused by:

  • Poor attention skills and distractibility
  • Difficulties in understanding many aspects of language use and comprehension
  • Problems with recall of instructions
  • Difficulties in organisation and sequencing tasks
  • Resistance to change in activity and routine

Different sources of stress and anxiety.

Downs Syndrome
Downs Syndrome is associated with a number of characteristics, physical and cognitive:

  • Hypertonia
  • Sensory deficits: hearing and vision
  • Short term auditory memory difficulties
  • Cognitive delay
  • Difficulties with consolidation and retention of learning
  • Generalisation, thinking and reasoning difficulties
  • Inability to use and learn sign, gesture, visual support and the written word

Children with Downs Syndrome generally take longer to learn and consolidate new skills. Often what seems to be learnt one day is unlearned the next. Perseverance and patience are the keys to successful learning.

Strategies To Support Learning:

  • Use praise consistently and lavishly
  • Give clear, simple instructions. Reinforce speech with facial expressions and gesture
  • Establish clear rules and limits. Keep to established routines
  • Include the child in discussions and encourage other pupils to speak directly to the child
  • Allow sufficient time for the child to process and understand what is said and prepare a response
  • Accept that a child with Downs Syndrome will not be able to absorb a lengthy discussion

All work will need to be adapted or modified to ensure the child understands and achieves

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Can you imagine what it would be like to hear people talk to you this way every single day? If you can imagine it, or if it sounds just like what you’re used to hearing, then you know what it’s like to have ADHD. Those letters stand for a condition called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Pupils who have ADHD are not bad, lazy, or stupid. They have a disorder that means they may have problems paying attention or sitting still in their seats. They can also act on impulse – this means doing things without thinking about them first. Pupils with ADHD may spend a lot of time in the Head’s office. Sometimes they do things that cause them to get hurt. They might change their friends a lot.

Who Gets ADHD?   

On average, five out of 100 Pupils have ADHD. That means that if your school has 500 Pupils, 25 may have ADHD – that’s like one whole class! Pupils who have ADHD usually start having problems in preschool. Boys have ADHD more often than girls, but no one knows why.

A Pupil might have a greater chance of developing ADHD if one of his or her relatives already has ADHD or another type of behaviour problem. But no one is sure why anyone has ADHD, although scientists and doctors think that it probably has to do with differences in the way people’s brains work. No one gets ADHD on purpose, so it isn’t ever anyone’s fault.

What Are the Signs of ADHD?   

ADHD can cause pupils to act in different ways, depending on who has it. Most Pupils with ADHD have problems concentrating and paying attention. Some Pupils with ADHD might also have trouble sitting still in class and waiting for their turn. They might yell out the answers before other pupils have a chance to raise their hands.

Sometimes they can be disorganized, distracted, or forgetful. They might lose things and have trouble finishing assignments. They may wriggle around in their seats, move around a lot, talk too much, or interrupt other people’s conversations.

It’s important to remember that everybody does these things once in a while. It doesn’t mean you have ADHD.

Checking It Out:  

When parents and teachers suspect that a child has ADHD, the first step is to visit the doctor. He or she may then refer the pupil to a specialist like a psychologist, psychiatrist or neurologist who knows about children who have ADHD and other kinds of behaviour problems. Part of the doctor’s job is to check for other illnesses that look like ADHD but need different kinds of treatment.

What Happens When a Pupil Is Diagnosed With ADHD?  

Once the doctor decides that a pupil has ADHD, then the doctor, parents, and teachers begin to work together to find out the best way to help. Often this means starting one of the medicines used to treat ADHD, deciding how much medicine is needed, and when to give it. Children with ADHD usually only have to take their medicine once before school, but some may have to go to the nurse in the middle of the school day for medicine.

But children who have ADHD need more than just medicine. They also need help learning how to change the way they act. Some pupils with ADHD can learn to do this by using relaxation therapy or behavioural therapy. In relaxation therapy, counselors teach Pupils how to relax and stay calm by doing deep-breathing exercises and relaxing different muscle groups.

Behavioural therapy helps Pupils with ADHD by teaching them to set goals for themselves and by using rewards to help them reach those goals. Teachers can give a kid with ADHD a reward for sitting still in class, for example. And parents can do the same thing at home, by rewarding their children for paying attention, completing their chores, or keeping track of their things. Pupils with ADHD may need extra help learning how to do things other Pupils find easy.

Pupils who have ADHD can become depressed or anxious. So for many Pupils with ADHD, the key to success is not only following the treatment plan from the doctor, but working to build good friendships with other Pupils, too. Many Pupils with ADHD find that their symptoms get better as they get older. Adults with ADHD can have happy lives, and they can be very successful in whatever they decide to do.

Strategies For ADHD:

  • Shouting at or aggressively confronting an ADHD child will not change behaviour it will only make the situation worse.
  • A main feature of ADHD is impulsiveness and lack of control. Inappropriate language just comes out, staff should be aware of this and that they must not take it personally.
  • Just as the curriculum is differentiated for individual children and different teaching strategies are used, a range of teaching strategies need to be used to support the ADHD child with behavioural difficulties.
  • The ADHD child is very vulnerable to name calling, teasing and bullying because they overreact to it (impulsiveness and lack of control). Self-esteem is often very low.

Key elements of management are:

  • Staff should manage the situations not the pupil
  • Avoid confrontations; there will be no winners. Always leave an escape route for both you and the pupil, take control i.e. “I’ve got to do this now, meet me in my room in 10 minutes please.” Or make that request in the first place “ We need to sort this out. Please meet me in my room in 10 minutes.” If the pupil does not comply you can then choose when and where to deal with the situation away from public view.
  • At the time of the incident, avoid reasoning and lengthy debates. Use a firm monotonous voice and speak in simple sentences. Avoid emotional statements and criticism.
  • The pupils need to be reminded that they are responsible for their behaviour. If they choose to behave in a particular way, they should be reminded of what the consequences will be. This needs to be done in a non–emotive, calm way

Consequences should be pre-determined, consistent and ‘fit the crime’. They should be worked out beforehand so they are seen to be fair and reasonable.

Developmental Dyspraxia
This condition is a lack of development in planning of physical movement and organization. The affected motor problems result in difficulties in academic learning and also in daily life skills. This may be seen in delayed crawling, walking etc. They often have difficulty coping with multi-sensory stimuli and can feel pain from too much sound or visual stimuli. Children with dyspraxia often appear to be above average verbally and this can lead teachers to believe they are more competent than they actually are.

What to look for:  

  • In school the child will usually have difficulties in handwriting, in physical education, in tying shoelaces etc. He/she may knock over or drop things easily.
  • Getting all the items he/she needs out of his schoolbag can require a great deal of effort.
  • The child can be of high/satisfactory ability in verbal skills but writing/gross motor skills can be very poor.
  • This child can appear to be lacking in concentration and motivation and ‘lazy’.

Teaching Pupils With Dyspraxia:

  • Try to ensure that the child is sitting in an upright position with both feet flat on the floor.
  • If possible try to give him/her a sloping surface to write on.
  • The child should be seated away from doors and windows where there might be distractions.
  • He/she should be close enough to hear and see instructions given by the teacher.
  • Use sheets with spaces for answers to reduce the amount of writing required.
  • Use lined paper and if possible, attach it to the desk so that the child doesn’t have to hold it in place while writing.
  • Tasks should be broken down into small components
  • Repeat verbal instructions several times and keep them simple. If possible, tape record them.
  • Use different coloured pens for each line when writing on board.
  • Avoid use of ‘right’ and ‘left’ and when giving directions try to name visually distinctive landmarks.
  • Try to indicate when lesson is nearing completion.
  • Indicate to the pupil that you will answer his/her questions but at an appropriate time, e.g. when the others have started; he/she needs to learn not to interrupt constantly.


  • Encourage use of lists and diaries to help pupil get organized.
  • Try to offer alternatives to team games so that pupil isn’t put in a position where he/she might ‘let the team down’.
  • Help child to remember where he/she are meant to be, i.e. use of written reminders or by encouraging a ‘buddy’ to partner him/her between classes etc.
  • Ensure that instructions are clear and precise. Pupils with Dyspraxia don’t always understand irony or sarcasm.
  • Pupils can often be late because of difficulties remembering where they are supposed to be; praise punctuality but don’t challenge lateness, just find out why.

Teach mnemonics to help short term memory – this is a good exam technique for all pupils!

Receptive Language Disorder
Receptive language disorder means the child has difficulties with understanding what is said to them. The symptoms vary between individuals but, generally, problems with language comprehension usually begin before the age of four years.

Children need to understand language before they can use language effectively. In most cases, the child with a receptive language problem also has an expressive language disorder, which means they have trouble using spoken language.

It is estimated that between three and five per cent of children have a receptive or expressive language disorder, or a mixture of both. Other names for receptive language disorder include central auditory processing disorder and comprehension deficit. Treatment options include speech–language therapy.


There is no standard set of symptoms that indicates receptive language disorder, since it varies from one child to the next. However, symptoms may include:

  • Not seeming to listen when they are spoken to
  • Lack of interest when story books are read to them
  • Inability to understand complicated sentences
  • Inability to follow verbal instructions
  • Parroting words or phrases (echolalia)
  • Language skills below the expected level for their age

The cause is unexplained in most cases: 

The cause of receptive language disorder is often unknown, but is thought to consist of a number of factors working in combination, such as the child’s genetic susceptibility, the child’s exposure to language, and their general developmental and cognitive (thought and understanding) abilities.

Receptive language disorder is often associated with developmental disorders such as autism. In other cases, receptive language disorder is caused by brain injury such as trauma, tumour or disease.

The process of understanding spoken language:  

Understanding spoken language is a complicated process. The child may have problems with one or more of the following skills:

  • Hearing – a hearing loss can be the cause of language problems.
  • Vision – understanding language involves visual cues, such as facial expression and gestures. A child with vision loss won’t have these additional cues, and may experience language problems.
  • Attention – the child’s ability to pay attention and concentrate on what’s being said may be impaired.
  • Speech sounds – there may be problems distinguishing between similar speech sounds.
  • Memory – the brain has to remember all the words in a sentence in order to make sense of what has been said. The child may have difficulties with remembering the string of sounds that make up a sentence.
  • Word and grammar knowledge – the child may not understand the meaning of words or sentence structure.
  • Word processing – the child may have problems with processing or understanding what has been said to them.

Diagnosis methods: 

Assessment needs to pinpoint the child’s particular areas of difficulty, especially when they do not respond to spoken language. Diagnosis may include:

  • Hearing tests by an audiologist to make sure the language problems aren’t caused by hearing loss and to establish whether or not the child is able to pay attention to sound and language (auditory processing assessment).
  • Testing the child’s comprehension (by a speech pathologist) and comparing the results to the expected skill level for the child’s age. If the child is from a non-English speaking home, assessment of comprehension should be performed in their first language as well as in English, using culturally appropriate materials.
  • Close observation of the child in a variety of different settings while they interact with a range of people.
  • Assessment by a neuropsychologist to help identify any associated cognitive problems.
  • Vision tests to check for vision loss.

Treatment options:

The child’s progress depends on a range of individual factors, such as whether or not brain injury is present. Treatment options can include:

  • Speech-language therapy
  • One-on-one therapy as well as group therapy, depending on the needs of the child
  • Special education classes at school
  • Integration support at preschool or school in cases of severe difficulty
  • Referral to a mental health service for treatment (if there are also significant behavioural problems).

Symptoms of expressive language disorder:

A child with receptive language disorder may also have expressive language disorder, which means they have difficulties with using spoken language. Symptoms differ from one child to the next, but can include:

  • Frequently grasping for the right word
  • Using the wrong words in speech
  • Making grammatical mistakes
  • Relying on short, simple sentence construction
  • Relying on stock standard phrases
  • Inability to ‘come to the point’ of what they’re trying to say
  • Problems with retelling a story or relaying information

Inability to start or hold a conversation.

Useful Websites:

The web is a useful source of information on many aspects of SEN.

The following sites may be useful to anyone with an interest in Specific Learning Difficulties, in particular dyslexia.

Dyslexia Action

Information about dyslexia services, training, teaching and publications. Useful links to a wide variety of relevant sites.

The British Dyslexia Association

Information and practical support aimed at encouraging a dyslexia friendly society.

National Literacy Association

Encouraging the development of literacy for all. Some useful resources.

Achieve Ability

Useful website for students with SpLDs (dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia) intending to go into Higher Education. A national programme of support including information on course choices, allowances etc.

BBC Skillwise

Factsheets, worksheets, quizzes and games to help improve reading, writing and number skills. Aimed at adults but could be useful for students also.