Tag Archives: learning support

Are international schools suitable for all children?

Within an international school community people are always on the move. Globally mobile families with children may stay in one place for a number of years or may need to move after a couple of years. People working for international businesses and the self employed may find that they have to move as market conditions dictate.  And these moves can be sudden. Diplomats, military and NGO employees may have a fixed term posting. Teachers in international schools typically work on renewable contracts of one or two years and have to decide early in the school year if they want to renew them. As families move they need to find a new school for their children. These highly mobile people are sometimes called ‘global nomads’ and their children are sometimes called ‘third culture kids’ or TCKs.

There are many advantages for children as they move from one international school to another, or in and out of a national education system. They get to experience different cultures and may be exposed to an international perspective that may be lacking at ‘home’. They are likely to have friends from many countries, and get to visit amazing places. For many children it is also an opportunity to add another language to their mother tongue, with some children becoming proficient in two or more languages. These children often become resilient and independent as they adapt to new circumstances and make new friends.

But not all children are the same and some may find this flexible lifestyle does not suit them.  Some children may find the transition to a new school difficult. Others may find an unfamiliar curriculum and new language demands too much to handle. Some children will have learning challenges, for example dyslexia, and others may have social or emotional differences. The greater the barriers to learning, the greater the challenge. Many international schools may not have the level of support that is available in the national systems of higher income countries. There may also be a stigma attached to learning differences in some countries that is not usual at ‘home’.

It is true that more and more international schools are able to meet a greater range of individual children’s needs and very many children will gain a lot from an international education. Parents need to be aware of their child’s needs and make sure that the school that they choose is able to support all of these needs. This support must continue to be available as the child moves through her schooling.

In a small number of instances an international education may not be the best fit for a child. They may be happier and more successful with the support networks that are available at ‘home’. These networks may include family and friends, as well as educational support. If this is the case parents should not be afraid to put the interests of their child first. Their choice may be between going to a city with a suitable school, or staying at home.

What do you think?

Why transitions may be difficult for children on the autism spectrum

We need to understand that children on the autism spectrum may have difficulties with transitions – moving from one activity to another.

Children on the autism spectrum may have difficulties with transition – moving between activities – at school. It is well documented that changes to routine are difficult for such children and that they can become fixed on one activity and have difficulty shifting their interest.

In any school day there are transitions, for example around break times and lunchtimes, or  heading to PE or music. There may also be transitions involved where there are visitors to school, such as visiting speakers and assemblies. These transitions may also be accompanied by changes in environment and possibly sensory issues. It is common for children on the autism spectrum to have sensory issues associated with touch, sound and vision.

There are also ‘vertical’ transitions as children move from one year level to the next. These transitions are particularly critical as children move from primary to secondary school and from school to adult life.

It is essential that schools attempt to minimise the stress that these transitions cause to children.

What steps can we take to reduce the stress of transitions for children on the autism spectrum?

We all need to remember that all children have their own needs and that these differences are especially apparent with children on the autism spectrum. The first step is to find out where the difficulties are for the individual. Once we have this information we can begin to find ways to ease transitions.

  • Establish a  routine and stick to it
  • Give ample warning when the routine needs to be changed
  • Give a timetable showing where transitions take place – a visual timetable may be appropriate
  • Avoid sensory overload where possible e.g. at an assembly, moving around the school
  • Have materials organised and accessible to move to a new activity e.g. have a workstation where the child can sit, with all the necessary supplies in place
  • Have a buddy, who can model the transition and remind where necessary
  • Keep instructions direct and unambiguous, you may be taken very literally
  • Parents and teachers need to work together – parents can share their knowledge of their own children with teachers

Sometimes a child on the autism spectrum may have limited or fixed interests. Try to incorporate these interests into school work and home activities, as this may allow the child to learn to develop new skills.

Other posts: what is autism? | sensory issues for children on the autism spectrum – vision

 

SENIT-Special Education Network in Thailand

What happened at the Sixth Meeting of SENIT.

SENIT (Special Education Network in Thailand) meets twice a year in Thailand. The sixth meeting was hosted by Prem Tinsulanonda International School in Chang Mai on Monday 27 April 2015. This provided a perfect opportunity for teachers and others working within special education to discuss developments in practice and to share their experiences and ideas.

The ‘North’ was well represented by schools from around Chang Mai. In addition to the host school PREM, there were participants from Chang Mai International School, Lanna International School, Grace International School as well as NIST International School in Bangkok.

Welcome by Head of School

Participants were welcomed by the Head of School at PREM, who emphasised the importance of partnership in the provision of Learning Support for all learners with the Learning Support specialist supporting teachers in the classroom. There should be a transfer of knowledge about students within the school with all teachers in contact with children, parents and outside specialists. Everyone should be challenging all students to meet their potential.

Visiting School Program

Linda gave an introduction to some of the services offered within the visiting school program. These include:

  • The working farm
  • Teamwork and leadership: challenges, e.g. ropes, climbing, rafts
  • Thai cooking and fruit carving
  • Overnight camping on campus
  • Education trips provided: throughout Thailand
  • Outdoor education, service learning and experiential programs
  • Sustainability and watershed programs- including a barge program on Chao Phraya River which can be residential
  • Wellness community programs

For more information about VSP visit the website: www.threegenerations.com

Topics for the day

  • Writing Strategies-VCOP/Kung Fu
  • IPad Apps
  • Small group talks
  • Feeding back to larger groups
  • Online resource mobymax (reading, math, grammar, writing, etc)
  • Co-teaching: Myth or Reality?
VCOP strategies for immediate impact on writing from emergent to fluent writers.
  • Vocabulary
  • Connectives
  • Openers
  • Punctuation

Anita showed how children could be encouraged to widen their use of language, resulting in richer writing. We learned that ‘wow words’ could really make us say, ‘wow!’ And we all had a go at ‘punctuation Kung-Fu’. Great fun, but you had to be there!

iPad Apps

Core Apps:

  • Book Creator
  • Explain Everything
  • imovie
And More
  • Thinglink
  • reflector – to beam ipad onto screen $12
  • aurasma
  • Green Screen search app store for  ‘green screen by do ink’ – a great app that allows layers to be built up
  • AutoRap : can turn spoken word (or song) into a rap – good for poetry
  • Prodigy Math
  • istopmotion
Some other software and resources we talked about

mobymax.com (an on-line resource) for

  • reading comprehension
  • writing
  • grammar
  • vocabulary
  • math

$99 for a user – who can then add classes

prodigy //www.prodigygame.com – a free math program. You can create assignments from topics. Get feedback.

Recommended from our Group discussion:

Read Naturally: Take Aim Vocabulary for dyslexic readers

Jamestown Comprehension skills series with writing activities

Co-teaching: myth or reality?

Beth asked the question, ‘Co-teaching: myth or reality?’

The big hurdle is finding the time for planning. This is essential  – but may not be timetabled. Co-teaching works best when you find people who want to do it – rather than when it is imposed on teachers – and when there is understanding between the teachers.

It may take time to get used to different teaching styles and different classroom expectations. But it is worth it!

Thanks to Lynne and the team at PREM. Hope to see everyone at SENIT next time!

SENIT is a local chapter of SENIA – see the website for more information http://www.senia.asia/local-chapter-news/senit/ or the SENIT site https://sites.google.com/a/isb.ac.th/senit/home/about-us

Please feel free to make comments below – It will make a change from all the spam I have to delete!

SENIA 2015 – Special Education Network in Asia – Conference

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/

 

Dyslexia and Multi Sensory Language Teaching

Multi sensory language teaching for children with Dyslexia

In an earlier post I wrote that dyslexia is a learning difference that leads to difficulties in reading and writing – which is often most noticeable in spelling. The latest scientific research suggests that the dyslexic brain works differently. Dyslexia is often associated with memory problems but it can affect people across the range of intelligence. Dyslexia is a spectrum of difficulties – with any individual likely to have his or her own strengths and weaknesses.

A multi sensory teaching approach addresses problems people have in visual and auditory memory (interpreting what they see and hear). It also encourages the building of neural- pathways (pathways in the brain) that connect the speech with print. You could call this ‘rewiring the brain’.

Using a multi sensory method teaches children how sounds are made and how they are written. They learn the sounds and the letters that represent them – how they are put together and how they are taken apart. As they write and say the sounds their hands, eyes, ears and voices are working together to make the connections.

Learning language for a child (or adult) with dyslexia is a time consuming and intense undertaking.  The teacher is always needing to assess the needs of the individual learner. The teacher needs to be an expert with time to work with the child.

The pace of learning should be as fast as possible, but as slow as necessary.

Phonics need to be taught in a logical, sequential and organized manner alongside language rules. Despite its irregularities English is 85% predictable and children can be taught to think through language problems.

What works

Most language programmes that work for dyslexic learners include

  • multi sensory practice for symbol learning
  • explicit teaching of letter-sound relationships, syllable patterns and meaningful word parts
  • a lot of successful practice of skills learned
  • fluency building exercises
  • vocabulary instruction
  • spelling skills that are applied in meaningful reading and writing of sentences
  • immediate feedback on mistakes

There are programmes that use the ‘Orton-Gillingham approach’ – incorporating methods described by Dr Orton, Anna Gillingham and Bessie Stillman in the ‘thirties – and encompassing structured, sequential, multi sensory techniques for teaching written English.

  • Children are discouraged from guessing and skipping words, instead they learn how to analyze and read unknown words.
  • Don’t expect that a dyslexic learner will infer a language concept – direct teaching is needed
  • The teacher needs to continually assess the needs of the individual learner
  • The content must be mastered step-by-step for the student to progress
Conclusion

A dyslexic learner will need a structured, step-by step and multi sensory approach to the learning of language. Their teacher will need to constantly assess progress and adjust the content. With the right support a dyslexic learner can succeed with language.

Source: Multisensory Structured Language Teaching fact sheet. The International Dyslexia Association. Baltimore. Website: http://www.interdys.org

 

What is dyslexia? A simple introduction.

A simple introduction to Dyslexia.

Dyslexia is a learning difference that  leads to difficulties  in reading and writing (often especially noticeable in spelling). Dyslexia is a spectrum of difficulties,without clear-cut boundaries or with a single cause.  Many intelligent people are dyslexic, including some very creative and successful people.

The latest scientific research indicates that the dyslexic brain works differently. Scientists are now able to study the living human brain (for example by using MRI and EEG scanning). They can see that the whole of the brain is used in language activities. How the brain makes its own internal connections will affect how we are able to process language. New connections are made as we learn how to do things and a dyslexic person can create new pathways as they learn how to process language.

It would seem that there are genetic links in dyslexia. If you have a family history of dyslexia you are more likely to be dyslexic yourself. What causes dyslexia and what causes the differences in the brain is far from clear, and open to debate.

Traditionally education values reading and writing . Talented children may be overlooked if they cannot express themselves through writing and they will not get far without reading.

Writing is not a natural process, it is the most complex thing that your brain will ever need to learn. In human development terms we have only been writing for 4000 years – out of tens of thousands of years of communicating.  It takes us many years to learn to read.

The importance of phonics (matching sounds to their written form).

Phonological processing involves the processing of speech sounds and not just hearing. We need to be able to process the sounds correctly and to be able to match them to the letters that represent them. If you can’t process the sounds it is difficult to relate them to their written form. All languages have a phonetic element.

Memory difficulties often found with dyslexia.

Weaknesses in short term or working memory may be a part of dyslexia. Most people have difficulties with remembering the name of someone they have just met – because this information is held in short term memory, which is quickly ‘overwritten’. Once the name is added to your long term memory you are less likely to forget it (you’ve met someone twice and talked to your best friend about them – you remember their name! Most of the time…)

The speed of processing information may be effected. A dyslexic person may need longer to work on a problem and they are likely to need frequent breaks. These problems can become more apparent when there are time pressures and stress (during a timed test for example).

Other memory difficulties may include:

  • Difficulties with organisational skills, such as time management.
  • Difficulties with common sequences such as days of the week, months, the alphabet, times tables.
  • Difficulties in following instructions – not being able to remember and follow a set of instructions.
Self Esteem

A young person with dyslexia may suffer from low self esteem. They may feel that they are stupid and they may think that they are having difficulties that other people are not (such as remembering the name of someone that they have just met). Someone who thinks they a dumb is less likely to keep trying in school.

However, with early intervention and good teaching there is no reason why a child with dyslexia should not be successful at school and in later life.

Conclusion

Dyslexia can be viewed as a spectrum of difficulties that impact on reading and writing as well as everyday activities such as following directions and timekeeping. Recent studies show that there are differences in the brains of dyslexic people, although the causes of these differences are still open to argument. Traditionally children with dyslexia have been disadvantaged at school but with the right support they should be able to succeed and excel at school and in later life.

Source: Developed from notes taken at a Dyslexia workshop presented by Dr Sheena Bell of Northampton University, in conjunction with The Village International Education Center, Bangkok October 2014

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