Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Labels Are Not a Cure

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Labels Are Not a Cure

Article excerpt

There is no miracle cure for SEND - we need to tackle the underlying social barriers that lie in the way of students' success

I've been spending some time lately attempting to explain the social model of disability to colleagues. It's not something I would usually do, but seeing as it is the key idea that underpins the SEN Code of Practice (even if it doesn't quite go the whole hog), and I was delivering some training on the very subject, it was worth giving it a go.

On the face of it, it's quite easy to explain. The idea, in a nutshell, is that the person with the disability is disabled not so much by themselves, as by the world and the society that surrounds them.

After the Paralympic Games, there was a great video doing the rounds that made this very point. The young man starring in it went about his business, visiting coffee shops and other public places, and finding that thanks to his use of a wheelchair, he was unable to get in or use the toilet without having to ask for help.

When you present it like that, it seems obvious.

The problem for us is that children or young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities don't tend to come with a handy sign. More often than not, their needs are invisible to the naked eye. So one of the things we like to do when we come across a young person with a learning disability or additional need of some sort - to help us to remember that they are experiencing barriers that we need to support them to overcome - is give them, and their needs, a label. …

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