SEN in UK – A Case of Over-Labelling

This is an interesting article about what has happened in the UK as a result of a system that has, for a variety of reasons, caused teachers and school Heads to be overly ready to place a ‘Special Needs’ label on children – with all the implications that carries:

Telegraph Article on SEN Misdiagnosis

As I reflected on the piece it crossed my mind that whilst the identification of a special need in a particular child can be enormously liberating, in terms of providing both an explanation for what’s happening with the child and providing access to special support and resources to work to address the learning issues, it also carries with it an element of risk for the individual child as all lower their expectations of what that child can do or become. The child themselves will have a different perception when learning becomes tough, challenging or even just boring. Parents and educators can also unconsciously downgrade their expectations of what the child has the potential to achieve.

I can’t help thinking that somewhere as educators and parents we need methods to ensure that we separate the real from the imagined limitations on a child with special needs. Different doesn’t always s have to equate to less or diminished expectations, stretch or potential.

Overall, of course, in India our problems for the vast majority of children is quite the reverse, with massive under-diagnosis, even of children in the private education system. This is largely driven by inadequate training for educators in identifying the warning signs that can lead to an assessment and diagnosis. This also gets overlaid by some degree of academic cowardice when educators expect initial hostility from parents.

When it comes to parents, greater knowledge and awareness in society is, slowly, leading to improved attitudes and perspectives on special needs. Parents are becoming at least a little less prone to overreacting, seeing a SEN issue in a negative light, resorting to secrecy or denial. However, we still have a long way to go to ensure that the greatest possible numbers of these children get the specialist help and inputs needed.

Last week we had a fascinating meeting with the Delhi Education Secretary and some of his colleagues to share our approaches to SEN and inclusion. As a part of their response to the Right to Education Act Delhi is looking to appoint around 900 special educators so that they can deploy at least one in each school across the city. This is a massive challenge as these individuals require very specific training and preparation. However, it’s vital that a start is made and we believe we are duty bound to do all that we can to support this project.


3 Responses

  1. I am delighted to hear that The Shri Ram School is engaging with the Delhi Government school system to share its expertise in Special Needs Education. I strongly believe that such partnerships can transform the public education sector. I hope very much that the Government will also very soon tap Shri Ram expertise in Early Childhood Education so that the structures that exist in the name of ECCE can be infused with meaningful content that truly contributes to school readiness.

  2. Can we teachers,too have some kind of workshop to help us identify [primarily] and help children with special needs so that an early intervention can be facilitated?

  3. It is indeed ‘liberating’ to label a child as having ‘ special learning needs’. We must ensure a system which is not in a haste to label to the child and above all it does not stop at lebelling or identfying the challenges a child has in learning. It is important to orient parents, teachers, community to what those specific needs are and how they can be managed. There are organisations which conduct orientations for teachers and parents to identify as well as understand the implications of ‘special learning needs’ and they guide them to resources for the same. TSRS is definitely doing a great job in making inclusion possible. Best wishes.

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