Case study 2: John 13
John is 13 and attends mainstream secondary school.
He has the following difficulties with Speech, Language and Communication:
- Problems understanding long or complicated sentences.
- Difficulties learning new vocabulary, new words need to be specifically taught.
- Difficulties understanding higher-level language such as reasoning, problem solving
- Difficulties putting his thoughts into words.
- Problems knowing when he doesn’t understand
- Difficulties knowing which style of language to use – so he can be too casual with teachers or a bit ‘proper’ with his classmates – so he can have problems keeping friendships
- Behaviour difficulties associated with his SLCN, including frustration and a tendency to become angry when he feels he is struggling
John’s tutor knows their role as the first point of contact with home, and makes sure John’s family are also clear. The school and family use a home-school book in order to maintain communication as much as possible.
In the classroom John is positioned near to the teacher, and the teacher always makes sure that they stop speaking when they are facing away to write on the whiteboard. The teachers in all of John’s lessons understand the things to do that that are helpful to him when they are teaching, and can refer to his ‘communication passport’ if they need reminding (this is a way of recording important information about a pupil, their particular strengths and communication needs and ways of supporting these). Teaching staff make sure that they all use similar approaches for John, and this helps with his understanding of tasks. All staff give John a plan of what will happen in each lesson which he can refer to, and the teachers direct him to it sometimes when he needs reminding about where they are in the lesson. All staff are aware that John might find it difficult to understand some of the language that they might use e.g. idioms. Because of this staff point out when they have made a joke, or check with him and explain any of the language that he does not understand, when needed.
John has a range of resources that are the same for all staff that can be used across the curriculum, for example narrative frameworks (which tell him all the important parts of a story that he needs to include), story boards (for planning what he is going to write or say), John has opportunity to use IT to support his learning when needed, for example a laptop to record his written work. The teaching staff think carefully about how difficult the lesson is for John, and when appropriate keep a distance to allow him to work independently if possible. If the staff feel that he needs more support they have a number of things that are helpful for John that they use to reinforce what they are teaching, for example using visual clues (such as gestures or a quick drawing on the whiteboard), demonstrating what they are teaching or going over the new words at another time. Sometimes staff will teach John the new topic words before the lesson to help him understand.
John, along with classmates, is encouraged to ask for additional information if he is unsure of what he needs to do, or he realizes that he does not understand. The teaching staff encourage all pupils to seek help if needed so John feels comfortable when he does need to ask. There are regular ‘question pauses’ in lessons when all pupils can ask for more information, often pupils talk with each other before starting a task or answering a question. Sometimes staff need to check with John that he has understood as he is not always sure, they ask ‘do you know what to do?’ and then follow up with ‘tell me’. What a pupil will be learning in that lesson is always displayed, and this gives John something to refer back to when he needs it. The school have helped John to be more independent by encouraging him to use to-do lists in a filofax, to use the outlook task bar for organizing – and they have given him a few scripted phrases to help him understand – ‘I didn’t get all of that, can you say the last bit again please’, ‘does that word mean…..? Group working allows John to gain support in his learning from his peers, and staff give careful consideration to the groupings used.
To help John understand the school rules they are displayed using pictures and photos as well as in written form. This helps John both in the classroom and during free time at break- and lunch. John attends a computer club during two lunch-times and understands who is able to help him if he has any difficulty at other break-times. The supervising staff are aware of the difficulties that John has, and ways to support him have been shared with all. The school encourages the use of older ‘buddies’ during free time, such as breaktimes. These buddies have the role of helping younger pupils if they are experiencing difficulties. John has ongoing support from staff to help him manage his frustration and behavioural difficulties, for example if he is getting too frustrated, or in danger of losing his temper, John can take time out in the learning support room or the library. He has a red card system for this.