The SENIA – Special Education Network in Asia -Conference 2015 took place in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia from March 26 to 28, 2015. This year the SENIA conference combined with the EARCOS Teacher Conference.
The conference took place in a smart resort with views out over the bay that would fit most people’s idea of a tropical island paradise, and yes, there were opportunities for sundowners by the pool with the waves lapping on the beach! However, there was much work to be done during the day!
I was privileged to be at a Pre- Conference ‘Brain frames: Graphic Tools for Language, Literacy, Teaching and Learning’ with Dr Bonnie Singer. This whole day session allowed us to benefit from Bonnie’s immense experience both as a practitioner and researcher. This was made even more enjoyable as she has a relaxed and professional presentation style. Once we came to the rest of the conference her sessions were first on my list! Needless to say, I cannot begin to go into the details of ‘Brain Frames’TM but suffice to say that I am already trying out some of the six basic graphic organisers with the children who I support at school.
For more information on Brain Frames visit http://www.architectsforlearning.com
It was during a further session that Dr Singer made the argument that I considered to be the biggest ‘take-away’ of the conference, the importance of ‘spacial’ memory in language comprehension. The ability to ‘see’ or visualise content is so important to comprehension as it allows us to recognise and understand why and how different text structures look different. It allows us to sort out what are main ideas, and what are details. I work with children who have difficulties with executive function and with visual working memory, and I see them struggle with comprehension every day. Hopefully using some of these visual and graphical tools will allow them to build up their ability to ‘visualise’.
One of the great advantages of SENIA for a special needs or learning support teacher is the sheer number of sessions that are directly relevant to that field. It was fantastic to hear Lori Bol and Stephen Shore talking about Autism from their experiences as well as their studies. Dr Shore is an adult on the autism spectrum and Lori Bol has a son who is on the autism spectrum. As we strive towards making the most of the strengths of people on the autism spectrum there is so much we can learn from those who experience autism everyday of their lives.
If you are a learning support teacher in Asia, you should try to get to the annual SENIA conference as part of your professional development. I hope to see you in Kuala Lumpur next year!
More information about SENIA is available on the website http://www.senia.asia/