Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Meet Complex Needs with Creativity

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Meet Complex Needs with Creativity

Article excerpt

An innovative approach can enable any pupil to exceed their expectations

Engagement is paramount in any classroom. Teachers across the country, regardless of the setting, seek to motivate and enthuse pupils in order to develop their understanding and create an enjoyable learning journey. In the secondary phase, more often than not the motivation comes from looking ahead to post-16 education and vocations. Secondary students are familiar with the pressures of acquiring certain grades and skills for adult life.

But for pupils in special schools, these factors do not usually promote participation and interest in the curriculum. Instead, inspiration must come from elsewhere - mainly the creative and often innovative methods of special educational needs teachers, who develop their practice based on a deep understanding of their pupils' mental, physical, emotional and educational requirements.

Merely adapting resources (however skilfully differentiated they are) or adopting the most judicious of mainstream intervention strategies is not enough to ignite the curiosity of a 14-year-old with a cognitive age of 6.

Does this mean that we should abandon hope of inspiring hunger for learning in pupils with complex needs? Not at all. Accepting limitations is a necessity, but teachers can overcome innumerable barriers by homing in on how a young person thinks and learns. In my school, this led to the establishment of independent writing lessons.

Engaging pupils who have a low cognitive age in independent writing can at first seem an insurmountable challenge. The difficulties are numerous and usually stem from neurological diversity. Yet we have found ways of persuading disaffected writers to write. And they have enjoyed the process of writing and celebrated the final outcome.

In a secondary class of pupils with moderate learning difficulties, autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the crucial first step was to encourage these young people to believe in their capacity to become authors. …

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