Category Archives: Learning Support

Do you keep losing your spelling list?

Being able to refer to a list of high frequency words (sight words) while editing writing is a  good way for children to improve the quality of their written work. Unfortunately word lists can be a bit cumbersome and may add an extra layer of difficulty for children with attention or executive function issues.

One way to ensure that the words are always available is to stick them in the child’s book. But you still have the problem of having to turn a page to look at the word list and then return to the writing or editing.

Spelling words stuck in an exercise book
The spelling words list folds out from the inside cover of the book – allowing the words to be read while the child is writing on any page

One way to overcome this problem by using another piece of paper to make a ‘gatefold’ sleeve ( like you sometimes got on an old vinyl record sleeve). The genius of this is that when the flap is folded out, the spelling words can be seen, and either page of the book can be written on. In this case the words are on the left hand side (inside the front cover) because the child is right-handed. For a left-handed child the list would fold out from the inside of the back cover.

Exercise Book
A list is folded inside the cover and stuck in





What is autism?

Children on the autism spectrum in mainstream schools

Our understanding of the autism spectrum has changed rapidly in recent years and this is likely to continue. There have been great advances in knowledge through medical and sociological research and, in teaching, through reflective practitioners. We are also able to learn through listening to the voices of people on the autism spectrum.

The publication of DSM 5 ( the 5th and most current edition of  the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013) will have a significant impact in schools, particularly ones with an international and transient population as it redefines how ‘autism spectrum disorders’ or ASD are diagnosed. For a diagnosis of ASD – my preferred term is ‘autism spectrum condition’ – there must be evidence of a significant impairment in the domain of social communication and social interaction, and restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities. Significant difficulties must exist in both domains.

DSM 5 also recognises that there may additionally be sensory processing issues when individuals interact with their environment. These sensitivities can be either ‘hyper’ (too much) or ‘hypo’ (too little) and may not be apparent until such time as the individual is overwhelmed by the demands of the environment (Lawson, 2013). There may be further ‘specifiers’ accompanying the diagnosis, which are particular to the individual. For example, a child may be diagnosed with ADHD alongside autism spectrum disorder.

Asperger’s Syndrome has disappeared from DSM 5. This form of ‘high functioning’ autism is now part of the ‘spectrum’ of autism. Of course, if somebody has been diagnosed as having Asperger’s Syndrome in the past it will remain as their ‘label’, until they get a new diagnosis. It is worth noting that in some cases high functioning autistic people may still have areas of weakness that are not immediately apparent.

There are many children on the autism spectrum in mainstream schools. These children are very likely to need support in learning how to interact with others socially  or they may need modifications to the sensory environment, or they may have unusual behaviours – that their peers and teachers will need to be taught to accept.

In common with many children with learning differences, it is essential to bear in mind that children on the autism spectrum will have individual and unique sets of needs and that any steps taken by teachers or carers will need to reflect that fact. Furthermore, it is worth emphasising that the nature of the autism spectrum will presuppose that children will have very differing profiles of needs and that they will require unique adaptations.

Teachers need to ensure that they are sensitive to the individual’s characteristics, and follow the advice contained in the child’s learning plan. It may be that the child on the autism spectrum will not be able to adapt to ‘fit in’ with the norms and expectations of the school and that steps will need to be taken to change the wider school environment, not the child.

  • Did you know that 1 in 100 children is likely to be on the autism spectrum?
  • Boys are much more likely to be diagnosed than girls – particularly among higher functioning individuals.
  • It has been suggested that girls are under diagnosed.

There is plenty more information about the autism spectrum on the website of the Autism Education Trust:

– Adapted from part of a paper submitted to the University of Birmingham – please contact Mr Bob for more information.
Reference: Lawson, W. (2013, March 1). Autism spectrum conditions: the pathophysiological basis for inattention and the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. OA Autism


SENIA 2014

SENIA or the Special Education Network In Asia held its annual conference at UWCSEA East in Singapore.

Mr Bob was pleased to attend


  • Mathematics
  • Language
  • Restorative practice


  • ADHD how to integrate it at school.
  • Design Thinking: Nurturing diverse talents for the future
  • Digital solutions
  • Executive Function Learning how to learn: identifying and enabling students with executive functioning difficulties in the school environment.
  • DSM5 What is it, what is new about it and what about it is relevant in international schools

Workshop: Executive Function

Executive Function Workshop
Executive Function Workshop

The Elementary Learning Support Team put together a workshop for our colleagues to explore how executive function skills could impact learning. We wanted to help teacher’s to build knowledge about Executive Functioning (EF) Skills and enhance our repertoire of key EF strategies to strengthen differentiated practice in all classes.

Executive Function Workshop
Executive Function Workshop – Discussion

We concentrated on the following areas of Executive Function:

  • Planning/Organization/ Time Management
  • Task Initiation
  • Response Inhibition
  • Sustained Attention
  • Cognitive Flexibility
  • Working Memory

These skills are critical for all learners. The first four areas above are areas that are often noticed by teachers and brought to the attention of learning support teachers. There a number of factors that determine an individual’s EF efficiency. These include genetics, traumatic brain injury and environmental factors. Teachers can affect the environment through their teaching style and through the physical environment of the learning space. They can help children to gain and improve EF skills by differentiated teaching and appropriate scaffolds.

Children diagnosed as on the autism spectrum or with attention deficit disorders (ADHD or ADD) may have challenges related to Executive Function.


Executive Function Workshop -
Executive Function Workshop – Group

At the end of the session teachers had a number of ‘tools in their toolbox’ to help them provide support for children within their teaching area through:

  • Environmental level modifications – such as classroom or teaching modifications
  • Student level modifications–  explicitly teaching strategies and skills to students (at home/school/and in the community)

We found helpful resources at :

Follow NIST Learning Support on Facebook:


A ‘LoTech’ Teacher’s Support Kit

Many children (and adults) have difficulty organizing themselves. Below are some items that teachers can use to help. It may seem obvious but having an eraser on the end of the pencil that you are using can save a lot of time hunting for an eraser! Lined paper that has highlighted lines, or even raised or embossed lines can help children who are having difficulty writing neatly. A reading stand can help in all kinds of situations such as providing a place to put a list of vocabulary and holding notes that are being typed up. Highlighters and sticky notes can be used to emphasis words or parts of words. Words, phrases and notes on sticky notes can help to organize a narrative. Different colours can be used for the beginning, middle and end for example.

Laminated ‘help sheets’ such as spelling words, topic vocabulary or a ‘hundred chart’ can be invaluable. If laminated they can be reused after marks are made on them using whiteboard markers.

What other LoTech items are invaluable to our students?