Special Educational Needs Of Visually Impaired Children

My name is Clive Matthews, and I’m a Special
Education Needs advisor and sometimes advocate. My background is quite varied. I worked in
a couple of child development centres many years ago with pre-school children. I worked
in an independent residential special school, which has since closed, nothing to do with me.
An independent residential special education needs college, a local authority peripatetic
visual impairment team, and national charities across the country. So quite a varied experience. The anomaly possibly is my degrees in autism.
Although my experience is teaching visual impairment. I’ve also spent a couple of sessions
working as a social worker, with the children with disabilities team. So I have a pretty
good understanding of the system, amongst other things. You’re probably aware, especially the guys
in here that have youngish children, that the local authorities services are contracting.
I’m not going to get into the political debate as to why. But what we can
we do to address this? As a consequence, I have written a number
of books over the last 4 years, to try and support parents in particular, to try and
make up this shortfall. So there are 6 in total written now, and I’ve
written the first draft of the next 3, which will fundamentally be about pre-school issues
over the next year. Some 80,000 words to be put into the same kind of format that I have
already produced here. The format I think is quite important, I’d
like to make note about that. Because when we’re doing our training, obviously I have to
to read quite a lot of stuff, and people are sometimes intimidated by text, and also it’s
quite boring sometimes as well. So what I’ve tried to do is condense it, using
a lot of bullet points and lots of sub-headings, so potentially busy parents and mums in particular,
who finish work at 11 o’clock at night, can pick up one of these books, read a couple
of blocks of information, put it down, and then come back to it again. So in other words
you don’t have to read hundreds and hundreds of words to extract the important information. So the books are…
where to start, let’s see… Independent living skills. There’s a cookbook, because everyone knows
it’s flavour of the month, everyone wants to be a Jamie Oliver. We’ll talk in more detail
about these in a minute. there’s a book on mobility and orientation.
And there is one area that really is massively under sourced in the UK, as you’re probably
aware, is mobility and orientation .So young people and kids are not getting the support
that they need and the training they need. There’s something on employment. Now this
is written again with visual impairment as the main disability discussed, although there
are implications for other disabilities too. How do you make a CV look positive? How
do you deal with discrimination, both in the workplace, obviously sensitively, and put
over your case, and draw out the skills that you do have? Hopefully I’ve addressed it in
this particular book. Now, on a more adversarial line, this one
here is about accessing the curriculum. So what should the local authorities be doing
to support teachers, children, teaching assistants, etc in the learning environment? I’ll describe
all these in more detail in a moment, in fact I’ll probably try and read a little bit from
each one as we go along. And lastly it’s do-it-yourself education advocacy.
I’m not suggesting you do this, but you could with this book take a case through to tribunal,
and represent yourself. In here there’s enough information, and I’ll explore it in a little
bit more detail in a second. But it deals in how do you manage conflict
and how do you manage meetings. And also, can I say, even people who come
to work, highly placed professional people, when it comes to their own child in a meeting,
it’s a completely different ball game, as you well know, to have a professional meeting
when it’s got nothing to do with you. So we tackle many of the issues there. Now, I propose to be dealing with that one
last. So if anybody who wants to raise a question, please do, and I will try and offer forth
on the subject. Again, as I say, please do, because often
we do find, as I expect everybody in this room you’ll find, there will be more than one
of you thinking the same thing. So please ask. I suspect you’ll be doing everybody else
a favour by asking it. Ok, so that’s where we are at the moment.
So under the heading of “Meeting Unmet Need – If You Don’t Do It, Who Will?”,
I’ll begin with the first one. So here we have independent living skills.
Feel free, by the way, later on to have a look through these yourself. So what I’ll do is I’ll read a section from
each one, to give you a flavour of what it’s about, and the way I’ve
actually written it down. So under the heading of Meaningful Inclusion.
Underdeveloped independence has a major impact on meaningful inclusion. When the child is
young, you can take her or him with you when visiting friends and family. She can then play
in the garden or in other safe controlled environments. But later, can she eat independently,
go to town unsupported, or keep up with other teenagers doing what teenagers do? And then under another subheading, Developing
Skills. Children need to learn independent skills in order to eat, drink and socialise
independently. This involves developing the confidence necessary to do
these things for themselves. And then I give a suggestion. Independence
can often be best achieved when activities are designed to combine a supported learning
experience, whilst trying something new and fun. The other point that is relevant to this is
hopefully all the stuff you’re getting is practical. Try to leave the theory. There’s
nothing wrong in theory, but try to leave the theory till another day.
This should be all practical stuff. So for example, under the heading of Building
Autonomy. We all must learn how to deal with frustration and disappointment. However, allowing
your child the freedom to make the meaningful choices and learn whilst maintaining support
can be difficult. For example, when your child is accessing
information in the shops, stand back and let her or him do it independently. When she is
trying to find a bag of peas at the bottom of the freezer, give her or him time and space
to do so independently. At times like these, you and your child may notice dependence,
experience anxiety, frustration and even anger. So flipping over – Expanding Independence.
As she becomes more independent, reduce your control of the situation and allow the child to
regulate her or himself more by, for example managing time independently. Trust her or
his own ability and judgements and, for example, learn to be proactive. Learn and practice
new independence skills. Provide opportunities for your child to make choices and encourage
questions, but also make it clear where she can get support. Ok, now just moving on slightly, to the more
practical side of this particular book. We’re talking now about kitchen skills. Safety. Certainly in the beginning, when teaching
your child it is extremely important that you pay close attention to safety. For example,
never leave her or him alone and unsupported in the kitchen. Another subheading – Be Consistent. Always
keep the environment consistent. For example, keep equipment in the same place and accessible.
If you need to rehouse something, ensure that you tell your child, and ensure she is given
time and the opportunity to learn about accessing the new position. Another tip could be could be be methodical
and tidy. Always encourage your child to be methodical and tidy. This is necessary both
to make learning easier and safe. When cooking, and certainly when starting
to teach kitchen sills, only put out the ingredients and equipment necessary. Also, arrange them
in the order of use – first to be used at the front, last to be used at the back. Pretty obvious stuff, yeah? I try to put it
in these books so you don’t have to think about it. So it’s all in front of you, you
don’t have to deconstruct the actual exercise. Got the idea? So that’s the plan anyway. Under Washing Up – don’t forget that the cleaning
up process is part of the cooking at mealtimes. Therefore include the child when cleaning
the table, washing up and putting things away. Another pretty obvious thing to do, but see
how it goes. And then later on we talk about cookers. What
is the best one, a gas cooker or an electric one? We have suggestions in here, not only
to decide, but also mark it up if necessary using bumpons or HI Mark or whatever is available
now, to actually highlight the different dials. So that is that one there. But there’s one
thing on storage and labelling, because that is quite an issue too as well. The safety
considerations can include avoid storing items out of reach when your child needs to access
them. If needed to reach high shelves, always use proper steps and not a chair, which could
tip over. Plastic containers are safer than glass ones. Pretty obvious stuff again in
this book. Hopefully we have decided to put that in there for you all to read. Now turning to… what was the next one…
oh yeah, cooking, the Jamie Oliver stuff, that was it. Setting Out is again in the same format, in
bitesize chunks. When setting out you may find a basic structure to learning usefully.
Start to develop an understanding sf what constitutes quality and a healthy diet. Do
a bit of cooking, but without heat. For example, produce a selection of salads and dips. When shopping, learn to discriminate quality
by tasting, smelling and squeezing produce. Visit various foods outlets like famers markets,
local butchers and fishmongers. Then, when in the kitchen, develop techniques like
cuttingvand chopping. Again, I do emphasise, this one is for the
young person themself, ideally. That’s not to say you
couldn’t teach it as well. Assessing Your Skills. To begin, consider
the overall result you want to achieve, then devise a program. Assign it to run for a measured
period of time, taking into account the skills you have and the skills you need. Consider as part of the preparation process
where you’ll be learning and any problems associated with the place. For example, are
there any distractions? Is the environment cluttered? What equipment will you need? Is
specialist equipment required? Ideally everyday items will be used as far as possible. At what stage of learning are you? Do you
have a number of skills with previous experience? Are there any issues needing to be considered
along with the low vision? For example, difficulties manipulating items. Would you need support,
and if so when and from where will it come? All reasonable questions for the young person
to ask themselves before setting out. Under the heading of Recipes & Techniques
– Organise Yourself & Be Tidy Once Again. Be distinctive. Cook so your food is noticed.
If your recipe is light and delicate, or full of flavour, it should still be distinct and clear.
To help avoid wishy-washy food, use heat and seasoning confidently. For example, get your
pans hot before adding the ingredients, etc. The same sort of idea,
you get the flavour there. Plan and prepare. Consider and plan carefully.
For example, prepare vegetables by peeling and chopping them, and part cooking them.
Reduce the stock, get the garnishes ready. Working this way will then leave you free
time to concentrate on the dish’s main elements. Again, stuff we all know if we’ve done this
kind of thing. But to a young person setting out, it’ll make quite a useful thing
to actually highlight. Under the subheading Don’t Panic. If you worry
that something will go wrong, it probably will. Recipes are only there as a guide.
A little bit too much of this, or too little of that, is probably not
going to be a catastrophe. And then this particular book is a series
of recipes and methods. So I’ll just go down a couple of these to give you an indication
of what is there. So under the heading of French dressing, there
is a series of comments, we’ve all presumably made a French dressing, so I won’t go into
that too much. But the comments include lighten the dressing by not using all olive oil, but
instead adding some ground nut oil. Good dressings make good salads. Salads can be eaten as snacks
for lunch or dinner, etc. All these suggestions here, I go on. Then we’ve got 8 recipes, starting with boiling
an egg. For someone who’s never done it before, and the environment is potentially dangerous,
it’s an important skill that we all need to learn. So we’ve got the method, then we’ve
got a comment. If you’re preparing hard boiled eggs, after cooking quickly cool in water
to prevent the yolk discolouring. Again, things which we in the sighted community
may have learnt over time by watching others, for someone with low vision,
this might not be quite so obvious. I should also say I live in Wolverhampton.
And Wolverhampton is a highly, as you probably know, multicultural community. My next door
neighbour, for example, although she died recently, some 80 year old woman, taught me
how to cook a great many Afro-Caribbean dishes. This is why in here we have got rice
and peas, we have got jerk chicken, we have got Jamaican chicken curry. My other neighbours
the other side are from the Punjab. So therefore we have got vegetable curries,
we have got chapatis. In other words, it’s highly multicultural.
There’s some stuff in here from Eastern Europe, and even a burger from America, because my
neighbour opposite is American. So you can see this is what you actually get by living
in that kind of community. So it’s not your standard cookbook. It is highly
idiosyncratic for Wolverhampton. Oh, there’s even a goat curry here by the
way folks, if you’re really interested in how to produce a good goat curry.
I recommend it, it is fantastic. Ok, where are we next then? So moving on from there, the independent
living skills, and I’ll turn now to mobility and orientation I think. In this particular book… excuse me just
for a moment to get my papers together… this manual is designed to enable you to teach
your child if necessary. Although I wouldn’t necessarily advocate that. Long cane skills
can be both dangerous to yourself, as you know, and to other people. But you could use
this book to teach, but also monitor the support given by others. You will cover things like, for example, sighted
guide, indoor travel, different cane techniques, road crossings, teaching routes, assessments.
I’ve also put in there 3 programs, which I have used in a past life, and they do actually
work. So you’ll have a pretty good understanding once again about what to teach. So take a little bit from this particular
book, to read a little bit about this. The level of mobility skills can, to a large
extent, determine a visually impaired person’s quality of life. The ability to move around
can impact both physically and emotionally, in relation to their confidence and self-esteem.
Although these points are recognised by many, it is estimated only a fraction of children
or young people needing mobility training receive it. Aspects of vision affecting mobility. Mobility
can be affected by a reduced distance acuity, field of vision restrictions, difficulties
adapting to light and dark and vice-versa, bright light or a cloudy day, strong lighting
causing confusion, or contrast sensitivity, or poor depth perception. Ok, so these are things which might be quite
useful to know about when teaching the subject. Early Training. On this particular section
here. The needs of those born with low vision can be very different from those who lose
their sight later in life. Losing sight later in life usually means
that the individual has a visual memory of the environment, and is able to form mental
concepts of the surrounds. For example, she will know what buildings are like, and how
corridors and stairs fit together, have an understanding of space and how
something fits within it. Those born with low vision may have a poor
mental mapping system, and thereby have problems forming a correct mental concept of themself
in space. Again, somewhat obvious, but not necessarily automatically
thought about. Poor mobility skills can mean having to rely
on others. Independent travel is extremely important to find, secure and maintain employment.
Without being able to travel independently, journeys are expensive. This is especially
the case when taxis are constantly necessarily. Now, moving on from this. Mobility orientation as an integral part of
education. To develop the necessary skills, mobility orientation needs to be an integral
part of a child and young person’s learning. It is not simply a process of mastering a
few skills, which can be taught in a few weeks or months. A program for those with low vision, abilities and
educational necessity, they need independent skills to learn in their learning environment curriculum,
social environment and wider community. Under the heading of Transferable Skills.
Ability skills need to be transferable, so the child or young person can become independent.
It would be silly to say that the individual only learns numeracy to use in school. Numeracy
is taught and designed for application in the wider world outside school. Consequently
the same principle applies to mobility. Under Pending Skills. A functional grasp of
the following is usually required. Sighted guide training, knowledge of the environmental
clues, indoor orientation safety clues, appropriate cane skills, etc. And then I go on to list
the kind of skills which you’d want your child to develop within a mobility program. We cover also different canes, the different
canes people might want to use. And there are a number of diagrams here, which should
certainly show my limited IT skills. However, they do show what you’re actually trying to
do with the cane. Moving forth, moving on. I’ll turn next to
the more adversarial type stuff here. And we’ll look at the curriculum – what do you
expect for your child, and what should the child have. And then I’ll turn to do-it-yourself
self-education advocacy. This in a sense will help you put what you want into place.
Does that sound ok? However, I want to make something a bit clear
here. Because if you do decide to challenge, you will be putting yourself into an adversarial
situation. And you didn’t invent the situation. However by definition it will then be a ‘them
and us’. So if you do start to become adversarial, realise the opposition may come back
equally as adversarial. Because in these particular sections I don’t
want to send people into a situation that they might find extremely difficult. That
is not to say you shouldn’t – in fact, I believe you should. I see some of you are smirking,
you know exactly what I’m talking about. Many of us do. [Lady] We get tastes of it, so we know. I’m
not mocking it. [Clive] No, I’m not saying
you’re mocking it. [Lady] But you know that it can be, like,
roll up your sleeves and get on with it. [Clive] Yeah, it can be. But you know what
I’m talking about, don’t you, in that sense. Let me give you one example. We can talk about
this a little bit later, perhaps in a Q&A. But when I start working with people in this
particular area, I say you must put everything in writing. Now, some people find that particularly
aggressive. They’re not used to doing that kind of thing. But, when push comes to shove, the opposition
will do that. And then they’ll build their case up accordingly. I’m not suggesting you
go in there to fight, the thing is to play by the rules. We can talk about this in more detail, I digress
slightly. Please come back in a second with your questions. But it’s great that
we’re on the same page, certainly. Welcome to the club, sort of thing. Ok, so I want to talk about the curriculum.
The kind of stuff we’re talking about here, under the heading of Meeting Individual Need.
Children and young people, and here especially those with low vision, should have the same
access to opportunity as their non-disabled peers. Adequate specialist support should be provided
to enable learners to benefit fully from the opportunities and develop self-confidence,
self esteem and a positive attitude to learning. Under Effective Support. It is important to
acknowledge that there is a great deal of dedicated and effective work taking place
in the UK, to meet the needs of the disabled child. Particularly impressive are those who
spend a great deal of their own time supporting learners. Consider especially the crucial role of teaching
assistants who make the curriculum accessible, learn Braille, and teach the learner whilst
a class teacher teaches the class. He say that tongue in cheek, but it does go on. Inappropriately,
but it does go on, quite extensively actually. Assessing Unallocated Resources. Many of you
will point out that parents should be listened to, with their points taken on board by professionals.
They should be better monitored, and specialist resources allocated to meet need. Resources
should be allocated based on assessed need, clearly specified and quantified. What I’m encouraging you to do within this
particular book is to monitor and record what actually is in place. So in other words, what
I’m doing, Clive Matthews is saying this is what he believes should be in place. If you
then monitor it, you can then see. So it gives you a bench line from which to start your
request for more support or better support. Monitoring. Therefore information contained
in this book is designed to enable you to rigorously monitor your child’s development.
It highlights the resources which should be available – 0-2, specialist support within
schools, specialist support within further education, and specialist
support during employment. Don’t forget education and health and care
plans now run up to 25 by the way. So now that hugely increases the support available,
and should be available, later on in life, if still in training. One of the things which I consistently try
to do throughout these books is highlight the skills we all need in life, and how are
you going to address it. I’m talking here about functional skills. I’m not necessarily talking
about academic numeracy or whatever science. I’m talking about things like being responsible,
working with others, managing information, working safely, communicating effectively,
using numbers, demonstrating a positive attitude and behaviour, being adaptable, learning
continuously and problem solving. In other words, issues we all need to live
effectively. How are you going to get it over to the young person and child? Education for
most of us is not an academic exercise, is it? It should be a functional one. So I say,
how are you going to get those skills across to the child? Hopefully this information
will help you to do so. It’s a constant theme throughout these books,
I do emphasise again, particularly in the employment one which
I’ll come to in a second. So a little bit further afield,
what have we got? Oh yes. I then highlight the different stages in education.
Yes, 0-4 and on to 5. But this one here, 5-10 years old. Intervention. Each of these areas may differ
according to a child’s personality, age when the visual impairment began, degree of low vision,
additional disabilities and cognitive skills. Starting School & Meeting Need. It is hoped
that a teacher of the visually impaired will have visited the child at home, and advised
about meeting need. If severely sight impaired, as in blind, this is more likely to take place than
if the child is sight impaired, partially sighted. Before the child enters school, a specialist
teacher should have assessed the environment and given training to teachers and teaching
assistants, along with anyone else coming into contact with the child. This is vital
if a placement has never worked with someone visually impaired before. A transition plan
should also have been produced, so everyone has an understanding of need. Ok? So this is the kind of stuff
we’re talking about here. I might flick over a few more pages. We’ll stay at primary, because I think we’ll be
moving on to parents who have younger children. So what might the low vision teacher in primary
school be doing? Well, developing early reading skills, for example. Matching, sorting, counting,
assembly, colour recognition and discrimination. She might deal with reading skills, following
a line, scanning the page, finding detail, using picture clues, word building. Numeracy
skills – seeing numbers, groups, understanding the layout of a diagram, using instruments,
measuring, reading tables, etc. There’s lists here of what you would expect
a low vision teacher to be working on with your child during that particular process. You’ve got the same thing here, 11-19. The
differences a child might encounter can be many. Following are a few which commonly
impact alongside low vision. Secondary schools are often much bigger than
primary schools. Sorry, I should make this a little bit clearer. This is about transition.
What will be going through your child’s mind, or what will be happening when moving from
junior school into senior school? Well one thing you can do is point out the
differences. The differences might be secondary schools are often much bigger than primary
schools. Some may have several thousand learners, which may be daunting when compared
to a primary school with relatively few. There can be many more teachers and support
staff, over 100 in some cases, who will need recognising, and many perhaps will not know
the child’s specific needs. To compound orientation mobility difficulties,
they are likely to include the number of buildings, to include more than one main building,
porter cabins, etc. In other words, I’m saying here a transition
plan is really quite important. Going from junior school to senior school, a pretty important
piece of kit. And they’re quantifiable ones as well. This could also mean your child
actually going to visit the school before it actually starts, because it’s a new placement. So flicking over a bit further. Oh, one other
thing in this particular bit. What I’ve done here is it’s very difficult sometimes deciding
where your child is developmentally, in comparison to a child who doesn’t have low vision. So what I’ve done here is actually set out
what you might expect a child who doesn’t have a visual impairment, what kind of milestones
might you expect between the age of 12 and 16. I’m not saying that they should do both at the
same school. What I’m saying is you can gauge development accordingly, can’t you? Like a
line in the sand. If your child can’t do something, then you can put the support in, potentially, to
encourage it to happen. So that’s in there. I won’t read it out. And there’s also the next one here, adolescence.
Now, on top of the normal stuff which we all go through in adolescence, what are the issues
that might be one for someone with low vision, on top of the standard stuff? I mean, the classic one which you come across,
for example, is makeup, and highlighting the very issues that the person might not
feel that confident about. When her mates go out at night, doing what
teenagers do, she can’t go. The light gets worse, she needs support. It’s not much fun
is it, going out with your mates if you’ve got to get support. So all these kinds of issues, which can compound
that very, very volatile area. There are ways of addressing it, I do mention in here by
the way, but never overcoming it of course. We talk about isolation. That’s again another
issue. Identify social and emotional skills and independence. Oh yeah, this is another one. Opportunities
to express control, the important factor for us all to develop. Without the opportunity
to express control and make decisions, your young people may choose inappropriate ways
of expressing themselves. And adolescents can usually accept constructive criticism
and positive feedback. She needs to feel valued and appreciated, with
some way of gauging performance and behaviour. The young person needs the opportunity to
show initiative, take responsibility, and make decisions about her or his own learning
and development. Yes. How are you going to do that if the person has low vision? They’re all important factors. I’ll leave that one there, and turn now to
education advocacy. Dependent children lead to dependent adults.
If you don’t address it, who will? Information within these books will enable you to compile
and deliver a case. So therefore be armed and ready for school or local authority meetings,
mediation and arbitration hearings. Topics covered include tracking and development,
collecting evidence, meetings, conflict and negotiation, putting your case, and acting
like a barrister. Everyone knows how to act as a barrister, you know
where I’m coming from. Wendy Sainsbury over there will remember when
a very well known solicitor turned round to Nick Bowen, who is now the QC, and said precisely
that. “I don’t need to bloody act”, he says. [Laughter] Ok, so let me flick through this particular
book, and I’ll take some questions, if anybody has any, on this business of advocacy. Low Vision, Appropriate Support & Building
A Case. If the visual impairment is not addressed, it could significantly hamper learning. Extra
support may be needed. To argue your case, evidence will be necessary. I then go on to list signs of a visual impairment
impacting on the actual curriculum, on the learning environment. There’s a great long
list of these, and you should be able to get this with the VI teacher.
But I’ll just mention a few. If the child keeps blinking or rubbing her or
his eyes, that’s watery, itchy or inflamed eyes. Frowns, squints or peers at work. Appears
clumsy. Finds it difficult copying from the black or white board. Uses fingers
to follow work on a page. These are all indications, this great long
list here, there is an issue with low vision impacting upon accessing the curriculum. Ok, I’ll move on. Again, another section here on transition
plans and audit. It really does provide a lot of evidence folks, if you are considering
challenging a placement, transition plans, seeing what’s available. Accessing Learning. Is information presented
in an accessible format, and at the time of fully sighted peers? If not, the child or
young person is being denied access to the curriculum, with the subtext also saying “we
don’t care about you”. Again, loads of mileage in there if you’re putting
together a case folks. This applies to all materials being correctly
modified and adapted, regarding for example print size and good quality photocopying in
an accessible format on A3 or A4 sheets. Is this happening consistently? Examples of poorly modified and adapted
materials represent useful evidence showing need not being met. Probably worth mentioning here 2 things which
you really do need to pin down if you are challenging, one the need not being met and
the child regressing. If you can pin those down, those are really, really useful things
to be able to do. So that’s child regressing or need not being met. Hope you don’t mind me getting a bit confrontational,
it goes with the territory I’m afraid. Visual fatigue and fatigue generally. Visual
fatigue can be a significant issue for many with low vision. Consider therefore has an optimum
length of time been ascertained for the child or young person to rely on vision
in order to access learning? For example, an optimum time for efficient
and effective visual learning maybe can only take place in the morning. Afternoons may
then be best for aural or tactile learning. Timetables. The learner’s timetable may need
rearranging to allow time for training in mobility independent living, touch typing, Braille, specialist
IT and social skills. Again, is this happening? An important point here, again, for those
who are trying to address this, it’s not something that can happen in one day, in one year, in
one month, in one session. It needs setting over a great long period of time.
If that, who’s going to monitor it? If it isn’t you, who else
is going to do it? So you’ve got this constant so the child doesn’t
arrive at 11 years old and can’t feed itself, can’t dress itself, etc, in an age appropriate
way I’m talking about here. Lesson Delivery. The area is inevitably large,
but nevertheless crucial. It emphasises the need for support and training delivered by
disability specialists in classroom teachers and assistants. Noting either of these
techniques will indicate whether further needs are being met. I then go on to list them. I won’t go on too much about that, but if
you can imagine the situation there. Addressing Concerns. Keep examples of poor
school or college work the learner can’t access, for example homework or classwork. Ask her
or him if there are any times one-to-one support was needed but not available. For example,
learning resources not modified and adapted, or not delivered at the same time as peers. Ask a specialist in disability, for example
low vision, to interpret findings in terms of function. In terms of function
is really quite important. Not the theory, but in terms of function.
That is based on the information you have presented. Ask the specialist to
interpret what the learner can actually see and comment on the individual’s needs. You
might want to press on that one, because you might not get answers otherwise. Write down your queries in relation to these
points, and then speak to the learner’s teacher, pre-school or school teacher, SEN coordinator, head
teacher or principal. Ideally the head teacher or principal will support your concerns, however
this is not always necessary. Ok on that one? So a couple more points. I will do a little
bit on the employment book, and then please come back to me on any of these questions
that we’re dealing with now. Meeting Techniques. To be effective in a meeting
there are a few basic skills. You should ideally be articulate, along with being able to spot
an issue, sort out the relevant from the irrelevant, present an argument and explain points clearly.
These skills can be helped or hindered dependent on the sixth sense – preparation. Never ever wing it folks. If you’re going
into a meeting, do your prep, ok? No matter how good a speaker you are, thorough
preparation is still necessary. Avoid winging it. Reports. If reports are to be sent, request
copies 2 weeks before, give the chair a copy of the points you wish raised 2 weeks before
too, and request a copy of an agenda. Standard meeting techniques,
there’s all of those in there. Ways to influence meetings. Submit your own
agenda about what you want for the child or young person. Back up your wishes by providing as
much evidence as possible. Try to get a professional to support your position regarding the learner’s
needs. Ideally get reports from those professionals who support your views, and know the child
or young person. Ask the head teacher to request reports from those professionals who support
your position. Ask them to attend the meeting. If professionals disagree with, for example,
the head teacher’s reports, get them to write to the local authority i.e. the head teacher. Get the learner’s views about her or his education,
for example support, in writing if possible. And get her or him invited to the meeting
also if appropriate. That might not be appropriate. Also study closely reports submitted by
professionals and write down questions to be asked at the meeting. If you disagree with the minutes or reports
based on the meeting, write your own report and submit it to the meeting’s chair. Say
on the first page that you want it attached to the report you disagree with. That’s quite
a useful one actually I do find, that one. They might refuse to change the minutes,
because they aren’t your minutes. But they can nevertheless attach bits to it. And finally, we turn now to employment. Information
within this book will enable you to develop standard and creative techniques to find and
sustain employment. Information offered covers standard fare such as CV writing, letter writing
and interview techniques, but this time specifically aimed at someone with a visual impairment. You will also discover how to assess and develop
your employability skills. Contained within are examples of how to address and control
the situation by way of positive disclosure, equal opportunities and starting work. Equal Opportunities. When we apply for a job
or promotion, equal opportunities mean that we are all treated the same and judged
only on our ability to do the job. It is illegal for an employer to discriminate
based on disability, gender, colour or race. If you are treated unfairly because of, for
example, your disability, there are organisations which can help, advise and support, for example
the Disability Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission. Reasons For Disclosure. If you have declared
your disability, an employer cannot lawfully refuse to employ you without good reason,
and just because you are disabled. Reasonable Adjustment. An employer must also
consider making any reasonable adjustments… highly contentious that one… that you might
need in order to work in the organisation. For example, if specialist computer equipment
enables you to overcome the effects of your disability, it would be unreasonable of the
employer not to take this into account. An employer would have to decide whether
it is reasonable to provide the equipment. I then go on to talk a bit more about Access
To Work and funding. Health And Safety. There is an issue there
by the way. If you don’t disclose your disability, there is a health and safety issue if something
goes wrong. So be careful on that one. Battling Discrimination. You may feel that
in today’s competitive job market, employers will see no further than your disability,
and not look at your abilities. Employers will automatically see you as a problem, an
extra expense, someone who needs special employment arrangements, or someone who
will take lots of time off through ill health. You may feel also that an employer will see
your disability as a dominant feature. Again, you can address all of this on the application
forms and during the interview. Just in relation to this business about disclosure.
Because I can’t emphasise this enough. it is really quite important. Having got an interview, you should have already
told the potential employer that you have a disability. If you haven’t, even if it has
no effect on your ability to do the job, you run the risk of surprising the interviewers. Then,
rather than focusing on how you are suitable for the job, time is potentially spent addressing
irrelevant questions about your disability. That is unpicking information that should
have been given on the application form or within the CV. Ok, Controlling The Situation, finally. Try
an avoid an interview dwelling on your disability, especially any negative aspects. Job seeking
can be a frustrating business, and it is sometimes tempting to use interview time
as a chance to air past grievances. Employers want you to
be positive and enthusiastic. Suitable timing of your disclosure will help
control the way it’s seen by potential employers. You can describe it in a positive way and
any positive effect it has had on your life. For example, your disability may have encouraged
a heightened awareness and respect of social diversity. OK, so that is it. Any questions on anything
really. Could be education or advocacy perhaps. [Lyn laughs as she picks up microphone]
I’ve got a loud enough voice anyway haven’t I really? I don’t need it! Thank you Clive. Just something
that made me smile was the bit about the children transferring schools. This wasn’t a visually impaired child, but
it was something that I really hadn’t thought that a child could find different from going
from primary school to secondary school. The child that was in my class
came back to see me after he left. And I said “How’s it going? Is it good?” He went “Really strange Miss.”
And I said “Well why’s that?” And he said “They keep having fire drills.
All day they have fire drills.” And I said “They don’t have fire drills.”
And he said “They do, they keep ringing the bell and it’s a fire drill.”
And it was the lesson bell. And I’d not have thought of saying
to a child going from primary school to secondary school, about a bell that means
you’ve got to get up and have to move. And this child for the first week had thought
it’s a fire drill! [Laughs] But for a visually impaired child,
that’s even more scary really, isn’t it? So yeah, anybody get any questions
that might be specific to them? I’ll bring you over the microphone. [Angie] Hi there, my name’s Angie. My child’s
going to high school in a year from now. So she’s got a visual impairment, but
there are some learning difficulties. The main question that I’ve got is, what do
I choose? Elements of the academic parts, or do I go for life skills? I mean, I know
it varies, but it’s really, really tricky. [Clive] Unfortunately I think you’ve got to do both.
Because one will shore up the other, won’t it? For example, take someone who has social
communication skills as a result of low vision. That’s going to impact all the time isn’t it, whether you
can count, read and write or whatever you can. So I think you’ve got to do both.
The other thing is I would say… How old is your child? She’s moving now
So she’s 11? [Angie] She’ll be moving in a year from now,
and I don’t think there are options. But then they’ve said to me, you’ve got to think about
whether you can go for more life skills rather than actual curriculum. [Clive] Can I ask, are we talking mainstream?
Is she going to a mainstream placement? [Angie] Yeah, mainstream. [Clive] Yeah, both, definitely both. Has she
got an education, health and care plan? [Angie] Well, there’s been an education plan
in her primary school. [Clive] Well in that case definitely, yeah. [Angie] But I don’t know. It’s hard. I want her
to be independent. Grades will be grades, and I don’t really care if she’s keeping up with
her peers. I just want her… [Clive] I can’t emphasise enough, I think
you’ve got to do both. Any issues will kick off in the near future, I’m sorry to say.
That’s when they do come to the fore, during this transition time. It’s a different education, it’s
different moving from junior to senior school. But you’ve also got to do it over that particular
time, so you don’t arrive at a 16 year old who can’t independently shop, for example,
should she be capable of doing that in the first place. But you’ve got to
do it in a progressive way. So you can’t do it all in one go. It’s a big ask, on top of all the standard
education. You’ve got to do be able to do all these things on top. Another mantra which I bring up here, you
probably remember the leader of the country a few years ago, his mantra was
“Education, Education, Education”. I don’t disagree with that,
it’s incredibly important. But most of us are not in education for the
sake of education. We’re in education for development and also employment. So you need
the basic skills, which we will do – numeracy, literacy, etc – but also independent travel. For example, your child, say she’s 19-20,
after university or whatever, and has to attend a meeting for work. That’s going to
surely mean independence skills, that’s going to mean social skills, that’s going to mean
getting to and from the place. Do you see what I mean? They do impact. Unfortunately, you’ve really got to be able
to do both. But the point is I make, is you do not want it all to happen in one go. Would
you agree with that? It’s got to be built into it. [Lyn] I would. I think you’ve always got to
look at how one impacts on the other. Does she have a statement of education
needs? She hasn’t transferred to an education and healthcare plan? [Angie] It’s just, I know that maybe she’s
not where she should be. But then, what do I do? I just want to get her independent.
Obviously there will be an element of education, of course there will. But then
these other skills, it’s hard to see… [Clive] Yeah, these books, this is why I produced
them, for that very reason, so you could help the situation. I don’t want to set you up into an adversarial
situation. It can come over, as if to say, with gloves on. The education, health and care plan is a legal
document. You want to specify and quantify all the provision that you want in that document,
and then the local authority has to deliver it. [Angie] So set up all the evidence and
the requirements and the needs. [Clive] Exactly. For example, the independent
living skills. If she’s going to do domestic science… I’m not sure what it’s called now…
but whatever it’s called, she’s going to have to have the skills to manage the cooking environment,
isn’t she? And they need the equipment in place for her to do it. [Lyn] There’s somebody here. [Lady] Hi, thank you. I think you’ve answered
that when you talked about the education and healthcare plan. But I think you said that she
had an education and healthcare plan. Has she got a current education
and healthcare plan now? [Angie] Well, there’s a statement,
but that’s only in primary school. [Lady] Statements are no longer. She should
have transferred over well by now to that education and healthcare plan. [Clive] What’s your local authority?
[Angie] Wales. [Lady] There were changes in Wales long ago. [Lyn] They might be waiting,
because there’s a backlog. [Clive] I think you need to
chase it up with them. [Angie] Maybe I’ve missed something. But I’m just
trying to figure out whether it’s life skills. [Clive] You need to do both. But just on
this issue of statements, tackle it gently, but I do really think you need to address
your local authority with it. If, as we think… you’re English you see,
and they have changed it, and they’re in the process of changing it, so I don’t want to
give you duff information… if she has got a statement, she should have moved to a plan,
as has been said, a while ago. There’s no real excuse that it hasn’t been
done. Because if it hasn’t been done, if they certainly haven’t for a year, then that means
they haven’t reviewed the statement properly. They’re in breach of it. [Lyn] And the problem is with the old statement
is that it’s an education statement, and the education and healthcare plan is much wider,
it covers all sorts of things. So it would cover the life skills and it would cover the
education as well. Whereas the statement of educational needs only
covers education needs. [Angie] So would that be by the paediatrics? [Lyn] No, you need to go back to your local
education authority, and whoever you are in contact with, if you’re not at school, the
special needs coordinator, ask to speak to them, and say “Can you just clarify? Does she
have a statement of educational needs, and if so, at what point would she be transferring, or will she be transferring? She should transfer to that. [Clive] Just another thing in this important
area, just to give you a flavour. If they are in breach of the statement, that is to
say they haven’t reviewed it within a year, they’re in breach, and that is a
high court job. It’s that serious. I’m not suggesting you go in there with it,
because obviously you’ve got to have legal support to do it. But that’s the
kind of area we’re into if they haven’t reviewed the statement
within a year. It’s serious. [Lady] I think as well, with Wales, I know there’s
so many changes, and you probably absolutely know what they are. But I think they’re moving
more to the Scotland kind of assessment of need. and they’re looking at doing the
assessment rather than… [Angie] Yeah, assessment rather than generic.
I just need to see what it is. I know that it was a statement, but… [Lady] And it’s a question as well, I think,
of will you be given the choice between the academic and more vocational life skills. [Angie] So far so good, we’re working together.
I’m just pondering. [Clive] There is another route of course.
You could also apply for New College Worcester, an independent school, £46,000 a year, and
see how you get on with that with your local authority. But hey, it’s a
good residential school. [Lyn] Ok, we have one more question
before we finish. [Lady] Hello. I just wondered, if your
child does not get disability allowance, does that affect them getting an education
and healthcare plan? [Clive] Absolutely not. And incidentally,
legally speaking – and there is law on this, case law – speech and language is an educational
necessity. There’s case law on that one. And that one’s specific. So yes, it should very
much be in there, and in a quantifiable way. The advice I’d probably give you then, is
you’ve got to get it into the part that deals with the local authority, not the health authority,
because the health authority could refuse. You must get it from the local authority,
and they’ve got to provide it so it’s in place, if that makes sense to you. [Lady] So you were talking earlier about statements.
Do you get the statements first, and then the education plan? [Clive] No, the statements of special educational
needs in 2014 were replaced by education, health and care plans. These plans are, I believe,
too big, too comprehensive, too much of it. So they replaced the same idea. It’s a statutory
document for education support. In other words it’s backed up in law. [Lyn] The main thing is it goes from very young
to 25, doesn’t it? And it covers education and health. Whereas the old statement was
a much shorter timescale, to 16 I think? [Clive[ 19, and now it goes to 25.
So it’s expanded. [Lyn] So it’s about everything coming together,
and understanding the child’s needs. So that it might be the health need impacting on the
education. So the idea is to put it all together. It is more complex, and some local authorities
haven’t got around to getting all their children on their education and healthcare plan. [Clive] And also, how it’s impacted on my
daily work. SEN tribunals have employed 20 more judges to cope with this expansion. And
also now, this is probably useful for anybody in here. If you have a case pending, the SEN
tribunal will take the case in August, which has never happened before, on paperwork only.
Because they’re trying desperately to get away with the backlog. There’s such a backlog of cases going through
the tribunal at the moment. One of the reasons is, as has just been mentioned by my colleague
here, is because it’s now up to 25. 19 to 25, so that’s a huge new group of people
who now come under that umbrella, and they got so far behind.
[Ladies] Thank you. [Lyn] We have to finish there I’m afraid
I’m getting the evil eye from Dave over there. [Laughs] Thank you very much Clive. [Clive] If anybody’s got any questions, I’ll
be out the back there, if anybody wants to go any further. And also, pick up a card,
I’ve got some cards there, and come back to me on the phone, and we can talk further about
any issues or more personally about issues if you want. Okey dokey? [Applause]

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