Professional advice

Children who are persistently given detentions at school.

I have a very varied practice seeing both quite young children all the way through to adults.  I am also trained to assess adults for attention deficit disorder (ADD).  When assessing adults for ADD a very important part of the assessment is their history of difficulties with impulse control and attention during the early developmental period, that is to say before 12 years of age and then their difficulties with the same during secondary education.   Time and time again I see clients who are polite, responsible adults from good homes who describe having been in persistent trouble at school.  During their secondary school education, they describe being given frequent detentions and it is concerning that the school does not see this pattern as being of sufficient concern to warrant further investigation.   As it is passingly rare to see a client with a simple diagnostic profile as in just one diagnosis such dyslexia or ADD it is worrying that other comorbid conditions are also being missed. In essence, it is the complex mix of specific learning difficulties that are causing the child to present with inappropriate behaviors that then lead to detentions having to be regularly served.

I would suggest that all schools review the children who are being subject to sanctions and if a child is getting more than one detention per term then at least some form of assessment should take place. My preference would be to refer the child for an educational psychologist assessment. I understand that EP time is rare and limited and so priorities have to be identified but many parents will be confused by their child being in frequent trouble at school and be prepared to fund an EP assessment if so advised by the school.  Behaviour is a symptom, it is the job of the adults to try and figure out the cause.  Humans are group animals we do not act outside the heard behavior unless something is wrong.  

MORE THAN ONE DETENTION PER TERM = REFER TO EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST

 

Short Lecture on the Assessment and Diagnosis of Dyscalculia.

I was asked to make a presentation to a group of senior decision makers from universities across London with respect to dyscalclia. To make the talk available to a wider audience I added a voice over to the PowerPoint presentation and published on YouTube.  Hope you find it interesting. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNlybmlSJY4

If you are interested in an assessment which would include dyscalculia, I would suggest our DSA assessment which is a through diagnostic assessment aimed at university students, but can be used as an adult diagnostic assessment, or our work related assessment, which is focused on the person in a particular job, both assessments include all specific learning difficulties.

If you would like to make an appointment please contact:

The Dyslexia Centre.
5 Wadeson Street,
London.
E2 9DR
Telephone 0207 018 0210
Email edpsychuk@hotmail.co.uk


 

 

Exam access arrangements Form 8.

Access Arrangements for Examinations

The examination boards in the UK have, for some years now, allowed a variety of access arrangements for candidates with specific learning difficulties if diagnosed and recommended by an educational psychologist.   

The type of access arrangement will very much depend upon the results of testing, history,  interview with the young person and their normal method of working.  This will be undertaken by an educational psychologist.  The psychologist can recommend a variety of adjustments such as, extra time, the use of a scribe,  the transcription of the candidates script, use of a computer if this is the candidates main method of recording at school/college etc.  The aim is to allow, as far as is possible, a fair and level playing field for the candidate to operate on, without giving them unfair advantage.

In the UK, access arrangement assessments can be undertaken by the schools allocated educational psychologist.  However, pressure of work often leads to only the very serious cases being assessed and offered access arrangements.  Some children who have parents that can afford it are privately assessed, however this seems to annoy some teachers and there was some very dubious research which gave JCQ the excuse to make a series of regulations that in our opinion are counter to the 2010 Equality Act. Nevertheless at the current time if your child has not been assessed by an EP and no moves are being made to request access arrangements and you feel that this is wrong, then you need to liaise with the school and ask them to complete sections A and B of the Form 8, this must then be sent to the independent EP of your choice, who must then make a  diagnostic assessment, write a report and complete section C of the Form 8, which is then sent to school. In other words the school are in total control over who gets to ask JCQ for access arrangements.  Our reading of the Act is that reasonable adjustments (access arrangements) must be applied if a person has a recognised disability within the Act, such as a specific learning difficulty, however until this is challenged by legal means we must play by the current rules.  The costs for this can vary greatly, to see our current fees click here.

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Dyslexia Tutor Writes About Self Esteem

Wise people say it is good to act to change the things you can change, accept the things you can't and even better to know the difference between the two.

You may be a parent or a teacher supporting a dyslexic child. You may be a dyslexic adult wondering how best to help yourself. If so, here is something to bear in mind. The single most important variable that affects the outcome of a person's life is self-esteem. Although prowess at academic and literacy skills is important – and can contribute to positive feelings – they are not more important than a healthy attitude to who and how you are.

A person who has weaknesses in some area of functioning but has good self-esteem is very likely to succeed, be happy and enjoy their life. They will find a way. A person with weak self-regard may lack courage and drive and even find it hard to take satisfaction in the things they do achieve.

When deciding on a course of action, therefore, ask the question; 'What will best strengthen self-esteem?' It might be working extra hard at those areas of dyslexic weakness, those academic, word-based, memory-for-detail, sequential, analytical things. Or it might not. Continuing to strive to get good at skills and activities that fall within ones areas of weakness may only serve to reinforce a feeling of 'I'm not good at stuff'. And that's bad for self-esteem. If someone is trying determinedly to improve, say, reading, writing, organisational or other skills and is consistently finding that they simply aren't very good at them, it might be better to try to find another attitude to the issue.

It’s worth bearing in mind that many skills that are prized in education are not valued in the same way beyond it. School is not the ‘real world’, the be-all and end-all – despite teachers sometimes seeming to believe it is. In the world after education 'getting the job done' is usually more important that doing it in a conventional way. In education, doing things 'according to the book' is usually what pupils are judged on as much as their outcomes.

Also, dyslexics often run into problems when they try to act as if they were not dyslexic instead of acting according to their particular strengths and weaknesses. They are often people who are good at finding their own idiosyncratic ways of doing things. Sometimes these are better than the 'normal' ways of doing them. Often it is an imposed procedure, someone else’s idea of how a task should be done, that is the issue for the dyslexic. It is good to look at tasks and ask what the required outcome is. Sometimes the dyslexic can find another way. And sometimes they don’t need to do it at all

So: act to change the things you can change. If you can improve in a particular skill area, it is good to do so – and good to get help from a dyslexia specialist if s/he can assist in this. This will strengthen self-esteem. But do learn to accept the things you can’t change. There comes a time when you should say; ‘I’m simply not so good at this, I’ll leave it to others to do – or find a way to do it that suits me’. 

This prevents positive self-esteem being damaged or negative self-esteem being reinforced.

And it is OK to be good at some things and not so good at others. Strive to develop a philosophy that distinguishes between those things you can get better at and those you don’t need to try to. Learn to judge yourself by your own values, not those of others. It is good for self-esteem. And self-esteem is the single most important variable that affects the outcome of a person's life.

 

Written by Simon Hopper

Reading Pen Review

This is a revolutionary new device; we purchased a 'Quicktionary Reading Pen'; the following review is therefore an impartial review of the product, untainted by connections or links with the manufacturer or retailer. This product is about the size of a small television remote control. When the user runs the head over a printed word, the device scans the word and then reads it aloud to the user. 


The reading pen was initially given to a group of children aged between seven and ten years. The children were shown the video that comes with the pen and then left to play with the device and get used to it. All the children were good readers and had no noticeable difficulties with motor skills. The younger children in the group were a slightly reluctant to engage, however the ten year old children very quickly found out how to use the reading pen; becoming accomplished in its' use within an hour. They were very soon experimenting with it to see if it could recognise handwriting as well as printed text. There was great disappointment when the reading pen was taken back to the office; the children had grown quite fond of it.

We were fortunate enough to have an educational psychologist in training working with us. She took the pen into schools and lent it to a number of children within the top primary to secondary age range. These children were again encouraged to watch the video and learn how to use the pen by playing with it. The children then began to use it in lessons. We anticipated that the children would find the device slightly slow to use, however this was not the case. 

A child who cannot read a word on a work sheet or in a book has a problem; the reading pen provided a solution. It did not have the emotional attachments that asking for help does, and the children did not perceive it to be slow. We hypothesised that the pen was no doubt quicker than asking the teacher, less embarrassing than asking a peer, and allowed the student a greater measure of independent learning. On the whole all the children who used it found it useful and were enthusiastic to have one of their own.

At £100 each this is a substantial investment. The tip used for scanning looks well built but would need to be looked after, as it could be vulnerable to damage. Age ten seems to be around the right age to start using this device, but some children may be able to engage with it earlier. Children selected to use it will need to have reasonable motor skills. The general feeling was that it was too fragile and easily lost or damaged to be provided by the local authority. If provided by parents it will likely be better looked after. If well maintained, we see no reason why this device couldn’t provide a long and reliable service.

On the whole the reading pen looks to be a valuable addition to the technological solutions available to help children who have difficulty with reading. As with any technological aid, it would be best to try out the device first. Experience has shown that however appropriate a parent or educator may feel a technological solution is for a child, it is only by offering children an array of aids and solutions to try, that they will be able to decide upon the best solution for them. It would probably be useful for schools to buy one of these pens to enable children to try it out. If they found it of use, then it is likely a personal reading pen were bought by the parents for the child.

Phelp's Ruling

House of Lords
Session 1999-2000

The Phelps v London Borough of Hillingdon (2001) 2 AC 619 is the landmark case on the failure to diagnose dyslexia, in accordance with duty of care in English law, and to hold that the appellant could pursue her claim against her school for humiliation, lost confidence, and lost self-esteem, and for loss of earnings following its failing to diagnose and treat her dyslexia.  Extract below.  For full document follow the link:

 http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld199900/ldjudgmt/jd000727/phelp-3.htm

Vicarious liability: teachers
My second illustration concerns a teacher. Does a teacher owe a common law duty of care to a pupil who is obviously having difficulty and not making the progress he should? Teachers are not educational psychologists, and they are not to be treated as though they were. But they, too, are professionals. It would make no sense to say that educational psychologists owe a duty of care to under-performing pupils they are asked to assess, but teachers owe no duty of care to under-performing pupils in their charge or about whom they give educational advice under the statutory scheme. In the same way as an educational psychologist owes a duty of care in respect of matters falling within the scope of his professional expertise, by parity of reasoning so must a teacher owe a duty of care to a child with learning difficulties in respect of matters which fall within his field of competence. A teacher must exercise due skill and care to respond appropriately to the manifest problems of such a child, including informing the head-teacher or others about the child's problems and carrying out any instructions he is given. If he does not do so, he will be in breach of the duty he owes the child, as well as being in breach of the duties he owes his employer, and his employer will be vicariously liable accordingly.

    My third illustration raises a particularly controversial issue. It cannot be that a teacher owes a duty of care only to children with special educational needs. The law would be in an extraordinary state if, in carrying out their teaching responsibilities, teachers owed duties to some of their pupils but not others. So the question which arises, and cannot be shirked, is whether teachers owe duties of care to all their pupils in respect of the way they discharge their teaching responsibilities. This question has far-reaching implications. Different legal systems have given different answers to this question.

    I can see no escape from the conclusion that teachers do, indeed, owe such duties. The principal objection raised to this conclusion is the spectre of a rash of 'gold digging' actions brought on behalf of under-achieving children by discontented parents, perhaps years after the events complained of. If teachers are liable, education authorities will be vicariously liable, since the negligent acts or omissions were committed in the course of the teachers' employment. So, it is said, the limited resources of education authorities and the time of teaching staff will be diverted away from teaching and into defending unmeritorious legal claims. Further, schools will have to prepare and keep full records, lest they be unable to rebut negligence allegations, brought out of the blue years later. For one or more of these reasons, the overall standard of education given to children is likely to suffer if a legal duty of care were held to exist.

In England and Wales, the failure of schools to diagnose and provide remedial can help for dyslexia following the House of Lords decision in the case of Pamela Phelps has created an entitlement for students with dyslexia in Higher education to receive support funded via the Disabled Students Allowance. Support can take the form of IT equipment (software and hardware) as well as personal assistance, also known as non-medical helper support. Dyslexic students will also be entitled to special provision in examinations such as additional time to allow them to read and comprehend exam questions.

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Origins Of Visual Stress (Meares-Irlen Syndrome)

A teacher in New Zealand, Olive Meares, was the first to provide a detailed written account of the spatial distortions affecting text being read by some individuals.  Olive Meares also reported that the effects she cited could be reduced or eliminated by the use of coloured paper or by using coloured plastic overlays; the overlay is placed over the text to be read.

A psychologist working in California, Helen Irlen, wrote a paper describing symptoms similar to Olive Meares.  Ms Irlen, named the effects as Scotopic Sensitivity or Irlen Syndrome.  The syndrome was one in which reading is impeded by distortions of print. She reported that the distortions were positively effected if text was viewed through a coloured filter or overlay.  Ms Irlen went further and established a protocol for screening for scotopic sensitivity and a system for dispensing coloured overlays as a result of the assessment.

There followed a period of time during which the scientific community discussed these findings with a great deal of skepticism.  For instance, I was told by very senior psychologists that it was nonsense; the problem being that there was no satisfactory explanation as to why the treatment of visual distortion of text with coloured overlays should work.  Of course this did not mean that it did not work.  In fact medicine is littered with examples of treatments working first followed by an understanding of why much later.

Prof. Wilkins and colleagues of Essex University were amongst the first to apply scientific rigor to the study of scotopic sensitivity or Meares-Irlen Syndrome, as it had become known.  The Essex University team set up double blind placebo controlled trials and went on to establish a number of tools for screening for scotopic sensitivity and quantifying the effects of coloured overlays. 

The screening test is available to professionals and is know as the Intuitive Overlays Test.  Whilst the tool used to quantify the effects of overlays is also available to professionals and is known as the Wilkins rate of reading test.

In the past, assessment for scotopic sensitivity was generally done by the Irlen Institute.  It was quite an expensive assessment and the overlays were also relatively expensive.  Now the Intuitive Overlays Test combined with the Wilkins rate of reading test has enabled practitioners who have been trained by the Institute of Optometrists to carry out an assessment and prescribe an overlay for use when reading.  This has rolled out the number of professionals who have these assessment skills and made the assessment and prescription of suitable overlays much more affordable.

If you or your child is experiencing visual effects such as text wobbling, moving, flickering, blocking out, underlining, halo effects, head aches and/or a feeling of over brightness, then it would be useful to have an assessment in this regard.  

Lazy Children

Over the ten years or so that I have been an educational psychologist, I have had many children referred to as being lazy.  My work as an independent psychologist working with a number of universities led me to assess numerous adults who had grown up thinking they were lazy.  Over the years I must have had hundreds referred.  A whole sea of lazy children and adults, but the strange thing was that every single one had a specific difficulty of some kind.

An average referral went along these lines:  He is just lazy, he can do the work, but sometimes decides that he just doesn't want to do the work.  A series of detailed questions follow and it seems that there are occasions when the child is very happy to do the work and others when he baulks.  There are occasions when he has worked well and then seems to stop.  What seems to happen then is that threats of punishment are made, or punishments given with more to come.  The child then reluctantly does more work, thus providing proof that he was just being lazy.  All that was needed was the firm smack of teacher discipline and all was well.

How about this for an alternative explanation.  The child is keen and eager to please adults just like any other child.  Writing/reading/planning/spelling or a complex mix or some or all takes huge amounts of cognitive resources. Yes, they can do these tasks, but it takes lots of mental energy; at some point they will be mentally exhausted.  This is not visible like being physically exhausted.  The mentally exhausted child stops work, or more likely slows down, begins to look around, perhaps chat a little.  They get noticed, are warned and warned with threat of punishment, and finally may do some more work.  This is not lazy, but indicative of a specific learning difficulty.

So what do you do now?  An assessment by an Educational Psychologist can highlight the cause of a child's' difficulty. If the cause is a specific learning difficulty, this will probably be identified and ways forward can be planned and implemented.  The emotional damage can cease or lessen, and the child will become much happier and gain in confidence. Skills increase because they are supported appropriately, and to offer appropriate support, the underlying area of need must be better understood.

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Exclusion, Permanent And Temporary

Exclusion from School/UK

There are two types of exclusion, temporary and permanent.  A temporary exclusion used to be called being suspended and has been around for years as a sanction.  Permanent exclusion has also been around for years and used to be known as being expelled.  Permanent exclusion takes place in some countries but not all.  In some countries they do not have the possibility to permanently exclude.

In the UK, topermanently exclude a child the offence must be very serious indeed and basically be violent in nature, with the expectation that it will be repeated.  Thus a mild mannered child who beats up a boy stealing his bike should not be permanently excluded.  Nor should thechild in who worked around the net nanny software on the school network, gleaned a naughty picture from the net and e-mailed it to the entire school.  A Saturday morning detention would likely be far better for both the child and the school.

Essentially, the Head Teacher decides that the child is in need of being permanently excluded and the parents are informed.  They are given a number of days to appeal to the governors.   It is at this point that you should seek advice as it offers the opportunity to get the exclusion overturned quickly and simply.   You can employ someone to represent your child at this hearing; it may be money well spent. 

If the governors uphold the Head's decision then your child is out.  You can then appeal to the appeals tribunal.  This is a serious move and they will be looking to see if the governors acted properly.  Findings at this stage were often in favour of the child, and thus the child would be reinstated back into the school.  This infuriated the Heads', the governors have now put restrictions on the types of offence that can be taken to tribunal and the type that can't.  So now a violent offence is not in their remit whereas our naughty boy and his masse-mailing of naughty pictureswould get a hearing, the boy defending his bike from a thief would not. 

There is talk about governors not being a fair and impartial tribunal, and that it was an infringement on our human rights etc.  Judgements will surely come from our own and European courts, but not for a while yet.

Once your child is out of school s/he is supposed to attend some form of schooling usually in a pupil referral unit.  These units obviously contain all the children who have been permanently excluded plus other children who are there for various reasons, usually linked to behaviour.  Like anything in life there are good units and bad units.  It must be said that it is extraordinarily difficult to run one of these units well.  It will depend upon your LEA as to how easy it is to get your child back into mainstream.  Some have more influence/control over their schools than others.  Some have schools that are full to bursting already.  It can take months, even years.  This is why it is better to fight at the initial hearing run by the governors.

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Role Of Educational Psycologist

This paper is written in response to the many hundreds of inquiries we get in relation to becoming an educational psychologist (EP).  

This site has a focus, which is to aid those that care for or teach children or adults with SEN.  We are very sorry, but we do not have the time to answer individual questions in relation to the day to day work of an EP, nor how to qualify as an EP; I hope the following is of some help.  For more information, contact a university where you can read for a PhD in educational psychology.

My route was as follows: 

 

  •  teaching degree.  
  •  taught for 10 years.  
  •  degree in psychology via evening study three nights per week for four years. I then took one year off and self funded a:
  • Masters degree (now a PhD) in educational psychology. Places on these courses are highly sought after, and seek high quality candidates. It is likely to be the hardest year of your life so far.  

I was spotted by one of my placements as a likely psychologist and so my first job was not hard to get.  I received supervision; which I welcomed, and still ensure this is a part of my practice.  It was very obvious that I had gone up several gears from being a teacher; even though I had a fairly high profile, and was a skilled behaviour management specialist.

In the beginning, my skills were yet to be refined.  My behaviour management skills gave me vast credibility as I could help schools sort out the difficult and challenging cases.  At the same time I was busy getting my head round the myriad difficulties and disorders that EP's deal with daily.  Aspbergers, Autism, pre-school developmental difficulties, Scotopic sensitivity, Dyslexia - SpLd, Dyspraxia, Language delay/disorder, ADHD, ADD, Touretts syndrome, ME, selective mutism etc.  Don't forget you are the expert to be consulted on these matters and expected to recognise at least that something is not right.  You need an excellent relationship with colleagues; the PhD is only a license to begin to learn.  Your team will be the real learning context. 

As a work a day EP in a Local Education Authority (LEA) you will have a number of schools, plus pre-school children, plus rota work (e.g. children without schools, children in residential schools), plus LEA work, like writing policies on just about every aspect of the job and stuff the LEA has to have polices on, like how it deals with under fives with SEN.  You will also need to attend staff meetings.  I saw the school work as my practice.  It was to be cherished and nurtured.  My relationships were the core of my practice.  Good relationships meant that we could quickly and easily sort out priorities and I would play to my strengths while the school played to theirs.  I take a consultative view; that is to say I reject the expert model, in favour of the multi-disciplinary model.  I may be an expert psychologist but, the teacher is expert in their field, and the parent is an expert on the child.  Between this team of experts, we will find a way forward.  If part of the way forward is psychometric testing, then that is fine, however there will be tasks for all parties. It may be very interesting work, but one must remember that an EP opinion has a lot of prestige and is therefore quite powerful.  Not surprisingly, some people will want control of that power; you need to be assertive.  Whilst it is a fascinating and rewarding job, it can be a very lonely job in many ways.  

If you are looking for praise, don't do this job.  If you are in any way good at it, everybody will consider that all the (your) bright ideas are theirs.  That the success is as a result of their work, effort and skills.  You know when you have practised good psychology when people to say, 'yes, I know that once you have explained it'.

Best job in the world - against a footballer or fighter pilot, probably not - but close!

Hope this has been of interest.

School Wont Recognise My Child's Special Needs!

Getting your child's special needs met in the UK

The courts have been debating the issue of educational psychologists and teachers/schools having a duty of care to those they teach and assess for years. The Phelps case (July 2000), Disability acts etc. mean nothing if the school won't recognise something is wrong. 

In general LEA run schools have quite limited budgets.The resources they do have available tend to be focused on children with the greatest and most obvious need.  

Often, we see children who raise parental concern because of underachievement relative to the child, not relative to the year group. So a very bright child reading at an average level and having difficulty completing independent written work to a standard commensurate with their ability, would not be sufficient cause for concern and trigger SEN support at school, but parents would be worried.  In these cases it is often best to seek independent advice and intervention.  

How to get your child's special needs met:

1. Assessment by a fully qualified Educational Psychologist.
2. Let the school have a copy of the report and recommendations.
3. Implementation of the recommendations. If school won't intervene then seek out an independent specialist teacher, try the BDA.

The Hostile Child

Stott gives an excellent description of hostility in children; describing hostility as similar to the emotional state of a jilted lover. This may seem a little strange in the context of children and their relationships with those who care, teach or play with them, until we unpick the causes. A jilted lover feels unjustly treated, not deserving of his or her predicament; life has not treated them fairly. When explaining this to teachers and parents the universal response is that the child gets treated more than fairly, in fact people have bent over backwards to help encourage the child to engage in his/her learning and social environments in an appropriate way, but to no avail.

The first thing to remember is that we are never dealing with objective reality, but with the human perceptual system. If a child is presenting hostile behavior we must try and understand how they are interpreting and understanding the world. We need to explore the home culture of the child. Are they an only child and used to feeling special? Are the parents using a parenting style inherited from another culture? Irish parenting is very different to English parenting as an example. Does the child have some form of social comprehension problem? Does the child have a physiological problem that drives their behavior, such as ADHD, a tumor or undetected chromosome abnormality? Does the child have a hearing problem? One could go on.

We will never solve this problem with sanctions, as you may have discovered. Sanctions will, in fact, reinforce the hostility and make the problem worse. Only by gathering information, undertaking classroom and playground observations, and asking carefully crafted questions will we be in a position to review the material and gain a glimpse at the possible cause. We can test our hypothesis by delivering a precisely targeted classroom intervention linked to regular review. If the hypothesis is accurate, then behavioral change will result in a much happier and well-socialised child.

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Underachievement

Underachievement, in a rich industrialised country such as the UK, has profound effects emotionally and economically.  For instance, what would it mean for me, a 46 year old professional adult?  How much less would I earn?  How much smaller would my house be?  How much less interesting would my job be?  Would I have somebody less intelligent than me in charge of me?  What would that feel like?  It must be very difficult.  Would I drive a new car?  Or would I struggle to get an MOT every year  some old banger?  Underachievement is important; I don't want it to happen to me, I don't like the sound of it at all.  So why do we accept it? 

Some would say that children in UK schools are allowed to underachieve on a gross scale.  Assessment by an educational psychologist is only available to the most severe of cases, such as children who are reading many years behind their chronological age. 

Others would argue that schools have complex support systems for children who are underachieving and are pretty sophisticated on the whole when addressing special needs.  

Often schools in the state sector focus their limited resources on the children with the most severe underachievement.  Many parents contact the Dyslexia Centre because they feel that whilst their child is achieving within the average range, they could and should be achieving at a higher level.  Often these parents have had their concerns recognised by the school, but it has been explained that there are simply insufficient resources to address higher level underachievement.  At this point, parents may make a decision to seek an independent assessment and intervention if they are in a position to do so.  It was for these parents that we developed the fixed fee assessment.

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Bereavement

People usually take this to mean the loss by death of a loved one or a person you held in some regard.  As I write, and as you read this, people will die that you and I don't know and we feel no sense of loss.  Naturally, were we to meet a relative who lost someone dear to them as this paper was being written or read we would feel sympathy and no doubt show kindness.  Nevertheless, bereavement is about personal loss; usually of a person, but perhaps also a family pet, may trigger a deep feeling of loss.

There is a well established pattern to bereavement.  Denial, Anger, Depression, Acceptance.  

People can feel loss with regard to many things; most obviously, family break up. This can induce feelings of loss perhaps more intense than the loss of a parent, particularly in countries that insist on sexually biased parenting orders.  Often successful people can become quite depressed at the pinnacle of their business life/career.  Retirementcan also cause extreme feelings of loss. 

The process to acceptance seems to be mediated by the severity of the loss, the persons experience of loss and their ability to manage that loss effectively.  

Counselling comes in for those few individuals who do not move on; they may become stuck on any phase.  We have all come across people who can't mention a lost ones name, the husband who keeps his departed wife's' car on the drive and clothes in the wardrobe.  These are the people who need the help of psychologists or councillors.

The process needn't be long; often after just a couple of sessions the person is on their way.  They will probably want to come back at various points, this should be made available, or built in to the therapeutic agreement.  

An Educational Phychologist Writes About Her Work

As a maingrade EP whose remit falls outside of the CGS management brief some thoughts are offered in terms of my generic EP position relating to potential contributions. My duties include direct and indirect services to schools (Pre-school, Primary, Secondary and Special), families, the Local Education Authority (LEA) and the community served by the Local Authority (LA) as a whole.  The Educational Psychology Service (EPS) in which I work is itself located within a multi-disciplinary Child Guidance Service (CGS) and some of my time is allocated to work with CGS colleagues.   

All work with which I am engaged is intended to contribute to and facilitate the optimal learning and development of children aged 0-19 years within the borough and to fulfill the three broad Child Guidance Service aims of providing psychological assessment and

advisory services, multi-disciplinary assessment and treatment of children and families referred to the service and on-going development of the service as a whole.

My work can be categorized into 4 areas which are not necessarily discreet, and which interact and have implications for the work as a whole:

School-based EP work (1) and EP work external to school (2) 

(1) Assessment/intervention/evaluation within a legislative, solution-focused andconsultation framework at some or all of the following levels:  Pupil, group, class, staff, parent/career, whole school.

(2) Assessment/intervention/evaluation work for children/young people and families within a therapeutic framework.  This occasionally intersects with school-based work where my primary role in such instances is to facilitate and ‘bridge’. 
 
(1) Elicitation and dissemination of information (verbal and written) relating to school-based work and from and to families and involved professionals, e.g.; school visit records, consultation and assessment reports.

(2) Elicitation and dissemination of information (verbal and written) relating to CGS work and from and to families and involved professionals.  Also LEA/LA commissioned work entailing the above. 
 
(1) Staff development and training on areas identified by school staff in consultation with EPS and LEA personnel

(2) Staff development and training on areas identified by CGS and LEA/LA and EP profession.  Peer supervision and support. Team building. 
 
(1) & (2) Research, evaluation and project work arising from the school’s ‘live’ concerns/questions Research, evaluation and project work commissioned by or stimulated byLEA/LA/Department for Education and Employment (DfEE)/ Educational Psychology profession
 

How Might The EP Role And Function Be Developed?

Currently the majority of my work relates to the first two categories, i.e. Assessment/intervention/evaluation and Elicitation and dissemination of information and it would appear that schools’ priorities for EP work match these fairly closely, i.e.:

· Individual assessment work

· Meeting statutory requirements relating to children with SEN's, i.e; annual review of statement procedures

· Work with staff on Individual Education Plan (IEP) formulation.

· Consultation and advice to senior management level staff re SEN issues

 The last item on the above list, frequently prompted by post-OFSTED initiatives represents a possible important exception and relates more to staff development and training andresearch, evaluation and project work and merits serious consideration as an area for development. 

 Recent National Level Debate And Planning For My Own Profession’s Development. 

What and how EPS’s can contribute to raising achievement and social inclusion is the focus of wide-ranging current work within the profession and the DfEE.  

The DfEE’s (1997)Green Paper ‘Excellence For All Children: Meeting special educational needs.’ refers explicitly to the role and development of educational psychology.  A working party from the Division of Educational and Child Psychology has been formed as a result of follow up to the Green Paper and is working closely with the DfEE.  The results, due new year, promises important implications for training, continuing professional development and practice of EPS’. 

The central theme arising from this work is that EP work needs to be acknowledged and re-defined in the light of governmental priorities for a more inclusive and effective education system. 

Four broad areas of EPS work are highlighted:   

1. ASSESSMENT AND INTERVENTION

2. EFFECTIVE INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION

3. DELIVERY OF PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE WITHIN A LOCAL AUTHORITY AND LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK

4. RESEARCH AND EVALUATION LINKED TO RAISING ACHIEVEMENT 

What the profession and government are seeking is a shift of emphasis from statutory assessment work, currently consuming the majority of EPS’ time and energy to that of a position where EP assessment skills and knowledge remain focused upon the most complex individual cases but are utilized more fully in developing school staff’s assessment practice and with: 

·        Early intervention and preventative psychological work with children and young people whose SEN's are less complex and severe, i.e.; not requiring formal assessment under Section 323 of the 1996 Education Act.

·        Problem solving and consultation with teachers and parents/carers.

· Interventions with individuals, groups and schools.

·  Evaluation and development of effective teaching for effective learning of all.

·  Development of policy and practice for promoting positive behaviour.

·  Complex organisational change

·  Understanding of optimal learning and development for all within complex inter-related social systems.

·  Identifying trends and analysing individual needs and suggesting ways of meeting these through curriculum and organisational development.

· Training and support for teachers, support assistants, governors, other professionals and parents/carers.

·  Project and evaluation work to inform Local Authority Policy and Practice and efficient use of resources 

In summary then, the current need and desire for a fuller utilisation of EP skills, knowledge and competencies with a wider focus is becoming more apparent and should be taken into account when considering the development of EPs work with and for LEAs.

Addictions And Obsessions

Below, you will find the process an educational psychologist used to unpick their own addiction (tobacco).  Construct theory was used, which is a very powerful technique for unravelling how we as humans work and think.  Please feel free to use this technique with a friend or colleague, or alone if you wish. 

1.  Imagine someone like you, but without the addiction or obsession.

2.  Write down three things that describe the person above. Mine are: pure, sensible, dull (these are emergent constructs).

3.  For each of the three descriptors, think of a word that describes a person that is not like that.  So someone who is not pure - human/fallible; someone who is not sensible - fun; someone who is not dull - good company.                         

4.  You now have three core constructs that are supporting the continuance of the addiction.

emergent construct 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Contrast construct
Pure     O           X   human/fallible
sensible   O       X         fun
dull     O     X         good company

Now rate yourself using the table above for how you are at the moment.  Use an X symbol. 

Think of a time when you didn't have the addiction, (you may be going back sometime) and rate yourself on the table using an O symbol.

5.  You need to unpick what was happening for you in the time before you were not addicted.  What was going on in your life generally before addiction.  Work, family, intellectual stimulation, social life, relationships, interests, lifestyle habits such as diet and exercise?

Self Esteem and Dyslexia

Wise people say it is good to act to change the things you can change, accept the things you can't and even better to know the difference between the two.

You may be a parent or a teacher supporting a dyslexic child. You may be a dyslexic adult wondering how best to help yourself. If so, here is something to bear in mind. The single most important variable that affects the outcome of a person's life is self-esteem. Although prowess at academic and literacy skills is important – and can contribute to positive feelings – they are not more important than a healthy attitude to who and how you are.

A person who has weaknesses in some area of functioning but has good self-esteem is very likely to succeed, be happy and enjoy their life. They will find a way. A person with weak self-regard may lack courage and drive and even find it hard to take satisfaction in the things they do achieve.

When deciding on a course of action, therefore, ask the question; 'What will best strengthen self-esteem?' It might be working extra hard at those areas of dyslexic weakness, those academic, word-based, memory-for-detail, sequential, analytical things. Or it might not. Continuing to strive to get good at skills and activities that fall within ones areas of weakness may only serve to reinforce a feeling of 'I'm not good at stuff'. And that's bad for self-esteem. If someone is trying determinedly to improve, say, reading, writing, organisational or other skills and is consistently finding that they simply aren't very good at them, it might be better to try to find another attitude to the issue.

It’s worth bearing in mind that many skills that are prized in education are not valued in the same way beyond it. School is not the ‘real world’, the be-all and end-all – despite teachers sometimes seeming to believe it is. In the world after education 'getting the job done' is usually more important that doing it in a conventional way. In education, doing things 'according to the book' is usually what pupils are judged on as much as their outcomes.

Also, dyslexics often run into problems when they try to act as if they were not dyslexic instead of acting according to their particular strengths and weaknesses. They are often people who are good at finding their own idiosyncratic ways of doing things. Sometimes these are better than the 'normal' ways of doing them. Often it is an imposed procedure, someone else’s idea of how a task should be done, that is the issue for the dyslexic. It is good to look at tasks and ask what the required outcome is. Sometimes the dyslexic can find another way. And sometimes they don’t need to do it at all

So: act to change the things you can change. If you can improve in a particular skill area, it is good to do so – and good to get help from a dyslexia specialist if s/he can assist in this. This will strengthen self-esteem. But do learn to accept the things you can’t change. There comes a time when you should say; ‘I’m simply not so good at this, I’ll leave it to others to do – or find a way to do it that suits me’. 

This prevents positive self-esteem being damaged or negative self-esteem being reinforced.

And it is OK to be good at some things and not so good at others. Strive to develop a philosophy that distinguishes between those things you can get better at and those you don’t need to try to. Learn to judge yourself by your own values, not those of others. It is good for self-esteem. And self-esteem is the single most important variable that affects the outcome of a person's life.

To contact the author Simon Hopper click here.

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