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Abbreviations in Special Educational Needs – what do they mean?

Children in a circle in a special education classroom

A special educational needs setting

One thing you’ll notice about Special Educational Needs is the sheer number of abbreviations and acronyms you have to learn. What’s the difference between ASD and ADHD? What’s an EHCP? Should you be afraid of a COP? This guide should help you navigate…

(note: Where an abbreviation is written in initial lower case, it is usually pronounced as a word, for example it’s Senco, not ess ee en see oh).

 

ABA – Applied Behaviour Analysis is used to help children with autism, it looks at patterns of  behaviour and tries to find causes, and ways of dealing with them or preventing them.

AD – attachment disorder (sometimes attachment behaviour disorder, or ABD). This is a range of conditions believed to be caused by trauma in early childhood, which can lead to behavioural problems in childhood and adult life.

ADHD – attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. This is a range of symptoms including impulsiveness, restlessness and finding it harder to focus than your peers. Because of the setting of school it is most often diagnosed during primary school age.

AR – Annual Review. All children with a statement of special educational needs (now an Education Health and Care Plan) have this provision reviewed once a year, to ensure it still meets their needs, or to see if it is no longer required. If progress is being made and the plan is right for the child without amendments, there may be a No Change Review (NCR).

APD – Auditory Processing Disorder – a child can hear ok medically, but is unable to process the meaning of words. Sometimes they can repeat words but without knowing what they are saying.

AS – Asperger Syndrome. A type of autism that generally involves higher functioning individuals who perceive the world in a way that most people would see as different. It is not associated with the learning delay or disabilities of other kinds of autism.

ASC – Autistic Spectrum Conditions. Many professionals now use the term “condition” instead of “disorder” to promote the idea that autism should not be a barrier to living a complete life, with necessary adjustments. See ASD.

ASD – autistic spectrum disorder, aka autism. This is a different way of perceiving the world around you. People with ASD often have difficulty reading emotions, making relationships or understanding social situations as easily as their peers, as well as a degree of learning difficulty. But as the word “spectrum” suggests, it covers a number of different levels of need, and conditions of varying severity.

ARE – age related expectations. If a child is working Below Age Related Expectations (BARE) they may have special educational needs.

BARE – see ARE

BESD Behaviour, Emotional and Social Difficulties (also known as SEBD or EBD) is a ‘catch-all’ term  used for any condition that affects behaviour, emotions or social interactions. It
is used for a wide range of conditions and children.

BSP – Behaviour Support Plan. These are usually put in place by schools for children who have behavioural issues to assess their progress and outline expectations over a set period of time, for example a school term.

Camhs – Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

CIC – Child in Care. A child who is being looked after by (for example) a foster family after they have been removed from their parents by social services.

COP (or Cop) – Change of Provision. This is where a child moves from a special school to a mainstream school, or vice versa, because their needs (or the assessment of them) has changed.

CPAP (Cee-pap)- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure is a fan and a face-mask, that blows air at the child increasing the air pressure to open the airways of the throat. It is used for breathing difficulties such as heavy snoring, asthma, low blood oxygen levels (SATS) and sleep apnoea.

EAL – English as an additional language. This generally means young people for whom English is not their first language, who may speak another language at home.

EHCP – Education, Health and Care Plan. This is a plan to help a child who has special educational needs in school. They are replacing statements and will have entirely replaced them by April 2018. There is a good post here on navigating that process.

EP (or Ed Psych) – Educational Psychologist. These experts help assess the needs of children who may have special educational needs by observing children in their educational setting.

EYFS – Early Years Foundation Stage. This is school or nursery-based education from birth to the end of Reception, when a child is five years old.

G Tube
A Gastronomy tube way of feeding a child who has swallowing or difficulty eating. There is a tube through the stomach wall (known as a PEG) so that food and medicines can go directly into the stomach. It is a longer term alternative to NG Tubes.

HI – Hearing Impairment (or Hearing Impaired).

IEP – Individual Education Plan
An IEP is a plan or a program built to help a child achieve the targets outlined in an
EHCP. It is built around the curriculum that the child is following and uses strategies
tailored directly to the child.

KS – Key Stage. Education in England is divided into Key Stages – KS1 from 5 to 7 years old, KS2 from 7 to 11, KS3 from 11 to 14 and KS4 from 14 to 16.

LA – Local Authority.

LAC – Looked After Child. More common term nowadays is CIC or “child in care”.

LSA – Learning Support Assistant. These education professionals often work one-to-one with a particular child with SEN to develop a relationship and help with their learning, which may be particularly differentiated to their needs. They may also assist with physical needs eg toileting.

MLD – moderate learning difficulties.

NCR – No Change Review. See AR.

Neet (or NEET) – Not in Education, Employment or Training. Young people without qualifications are at risk of being Neet – where their options for work or education are limited.

NG- tube – A thin (often yellow) Naso-gastric tube that can be used short term for emergency food and drink when a child cannot eat. It goes through the nose, down the throat and into the stomach and requires trained use as there is a danger that the tube is in an airway and not in the stomach.

OT – Occupational Therapy (or Therapist). Day-to-day physical therapies for children who have disabilities or who may require recuperation from eg surgery.

Pecs (or PECS) – Picture Exchange Communication System. This is a way of using pictures to represent words, to assist children who have communication issues and autism.

PMLD – Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties. These are children who require the most support in an educational setting.

PRU – Pupil Referral Unit. These are institutions which take “hard to place” children who may have severe SEN or behavioural issues, with the latter resulting in exclusion from a mainstream school.

SALT (or S&LT) – Speech And Language Therapy (or Therapist). These are professionals who help children, especially those with communication difficulties or autism.

SATS – oxygen saturations, often with ‘SATS monitor’ as seen on hospitals wards, they show a percentage indicating how much oxygen in the the blood. They can be small and portable or bigger when used for overnight monitoring. A home sats monitor can be bought here.

Grey box with digital percentage readings

A typical SATS monitor used in NHS hospitals but can also be given to parents for overnight monitoring

SLT – Senior Leadership Team. At a school, this comprises the head teacher and assistant heads (plus principals, if it is an academy).

SEMH – social, emotional and mental health. This is a range of needs that can include behavioural problems and anxiety.

SEN (or Sen) – special educational needs.

Senco (or SENCO, or Sendco, or SENDCO) – Special Educational Needs (and Disabilities) Co-ordinator. These are qualified teachers who organise and co-ordinate a school’s SEN provision by working with other professionals, organising EHCPs and interventions etc.

SEND – special educational needs and disabilities

SWAN – Syndrome without a name
Children who doctors have been unable to diagnose with a specific condition are
often referred to as SWAN. These are usually children with a genetic disorder. A support charity called SWAN is here.

TA – Teaching Assistant. These professionals have a couple of roles: in the classroom they support the work of the class teachers, and they also teach small groups of children, particularly with interventions.

VI – Visual Impairment (or Visually Impaired).

Some of this information was taken from a printable glossary created by the Little Miracles charity which is available to download here

Little Miracles is a charity that supports children with disabilities and their families and siblings in the Peterborough area of UK.

Please suggest any acronyms or abbreviations that you have encountered in the comments.

The joy of fidgeting: how fidget spinners took over the world

Do Fidget Spinners help Children Learn?

You see them everywhere, a colourful blur right across the country, wherever there are children. Where once it was marbles or loom bands or bottle flips, the fidget spinner has become the craze of 2017. But how did this toy, designed to help children who have issues with concentrating, become the go-to gadget of our times? And have we lost sight of what they’re really meant to be used for?

The classroom can be a daunting experience for some of us. A number of conditions, including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), attachment behaviour disorder (ABD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mean that it’s harder to be “ready to learn” than your peers.

While most children (and adults) find it possible, if not always desirable, to sit in silence and focus on one other person talking, for others it’s more of a challenge. The sensory deprivation can leave some of us feeling agitated, on edge, with nervous energy that’s hard to keep in check. In a classroom environment this can manifest itself in all kinds of (for the educator) unwanted behaviour which are (for the learner) an aid to concentration. From calling out and interrupting to flipping rulers on desks or folding paper, educators find that learners’ self-therapy can be distracting and take away from the flow of a lesson. So is there another way of coping?

The theory of fidget toys is simple: if you have difficulty concentrating, it gives you something to occupy your senses. The pleasant whirr of the spinner as its outer spokes whirl around the central hub creates a light vibration. Watching the spokes slowly come to a halt – they run on ceramic or steel bearings – is a strangely satisfying experience, as it takes just that little bit longer than your brain expects.

In a classroom environment it can be easy for an educator to mistake this behaviour for disruption, whereas it is in fact an expression of unfocused energy or repetitive behaviour that the child finds useful in order to concentrate and be ready to learn, particular when around others. While some children with special educational needs find it more stressful to be in a noisy classroom, others find the silent “teacher talk, you listen” sections of a lesson to be the most challenging.

Fidget toys provide an outlet for the energy these learners – adults as well as children – need to dissipate, in such a way as to be a minimal distraction for those around them, and teachers too. It allows a child to express their needs and be as stress-free as possible, without hindering the learning of others.

Educators, learning mentors, learning support assistants and play therapists will be familiar with “busy boxes” and sensory equipment for children who have special educational needs. Traditionally, sensory toys have been cobbled together from other toys and ordinary household items, for example – but the fidget spinner, and its cousin the fidget cube, were specifically designed to help learning.

Whether that means they are more effective than what professionals have been using for years is up for debate. And whether it’s more helpful to have fidget toys to be used in the classroom, rather than during specially timetabled sensory breaks, is another issue. But there’s no debating how popular these toys have become among all kinds of children – and their purpose has changed, from their original mission to all-round craze and, as we see them now, a phenomenon.

Now you can find not just three-pronged spinners but two and four-pronged specimins, glittering colours, even with LEDs to sparkle underneath a desk or in a dim room. And so have come the tricks that have elevated these toys from their purpose to something entirely different: as the hula hoop of our times. With that popularity has come cheap imitation, of course, leading to German authorities seizing millions of potentially lethal spinners and planning to crush them.

The prevalence of spinners has led to some schools banning them outright, and others making them disappear from the classroom, allowed during breaktimes. This policy, while understandable, might be a little hasty, since the benefits of these toys are not yet fully understood. As an educator, I have seen them being used effectively already with children who have additional learning needs, to give them something to keep their hands busy and their minds occupied during teacher input. So while it might be irritating to see that blur out of the corner of our eyes, it might be best to consider they really might have a positive value to learning after all.

 

Stay Up Late: Enjoy Gig Life Independently

People with learning disabilities have the same interests, passions and hobbies as anybody else, accessing them however, is sometimes a lot harder than it should be. Music lovers may miss out on the opportunity to enjoy live music, simply due to their care plan or no one willing to go along to see their favourite band. Going out in the evening to listen to music, enjoy a show or a sports match should be accessible to everyone and the charity Stay Up Late promotes the rights of people with learning disabilities to enjoy a lifestyle of their choosing.

Stay Up Late Gig Buddies

Music with Stay Up Late

Enjoying Music with Stay Up Late

Stay Up Late relies on volunteers who want to enjoy live music and are happy to go along with someone with learning disabilities to ensure they get to enjoy the same experiences as everybody else.  Stay Up Late clients are matched with volunteer gig buddies with common interest so they can attend gigs together which might mean live music concerts but could also be football matches, church services and festivals.

Many people with learning disabilities live independently of their families but they are supported in their daily life by staff. This makes late night events difficult as many staff are tied down to rotas and therefore, if they finish their shift at 10pm, staying on at a gig until 11pm is very unlikely and the individual in question may need support in getting home and therefore would have to leave too.

Leaving events at around 9pm has become the norm for many people with learning disabilities according to Stay Up Late and this is clearly an example of the unfairness and inequality people are living with, simply due to their additional needs.

Live your Independent Life

Stay Up Late wants all its clients to know they can stay up late however they wish. Their Facebook page shows a wide range of events which have attracted people with learning disabilities across the country as well as those local to the charity’s base in Brighton.

Stay Up Late also assert that in addition to their voluntary scheme, support workers should be employed flexibly and be able to work different hours to allow late night events, going out in the evening and therefore ensuring people with learning disabilities can live the lifestyle they choose. Many support workers are happy to work different hours as long as they know in advance but red tape issues often stop companies from allowing this and this is something Stay Up Late want to change.

Share Passions and Interests

Music crowd at Stay Up Late

Music crowd with Stay Up Late

In a radio interview the man behind Stay Up Late, Paul Richards, explained the importance of the shared passions in the success of his charity. Discussing events he had attended purely because someone was needed to go, he realised just how important it was to attend events with likeminded individuals rather than just someone who’s available. Gig buddies are chosen because of their close matching interests to the clients and therefore long-term friendships are formed as well as simply someone to take along to events.

It’s also important to note that all individuals who are selected as volunteer buddies are fully checked and vetted to ensure they are safe to accompany with vulnerable adults and Stay Up Late ensure safeguarding practices are followed to the letter.

Stay Up Late and Do What You Want

Stay Up Late exists to further independence. In the interview again Paul explains how rarely you see a person with learning disabilities out at night and how Gig Buddies was setup to try and create a natural and organic process of forming friendships through shared interests and push forward the message that people with learning disabilities have every right to be out enjoying an active social life of their choosing, integrating into their chosen communities.

We think the work at Stay Up Late are doing is commendable and think their efforts should be spread nationwide to allow even more people with learning disabilities to live the lifestyle they wish, unconfined by rotas and management.

All photographs courtesy of the Stay Up Late website.

Video Transcript

The video was created using the NZ Radio interview and the mp3 can be found here http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/thiswayup/audio/20152929/stayuplate-org

A transcript of the video is available below but has also been added as captions to the you-tube video.

Simon:  Stay up late is a charity in the UK that promotes the rights of people with learning disabilities to live the lifestyle of their choice. They match clients and volunteers with common interests and then they attend gigs together everything from musical concerts to sporting events and church services.  Paul Richards is the man that set up Stay Up Late and Gig Buddies.

Paul:    I don’t know what the situation is like in New Zealand, but the UK there is lots of people with learning disabilities and autism who don’t get huge amount of funded support. So what happens is they end up spending a lot of time at home in social isolation. Loneness leads to all sorts of things around you know poor mental and physical health and it’s bad for communities to have people who are you know, lonely. And so, gig buddies is basically trying to deal with that problem by hooking social isolated people with learning disabilities up with a volunteer who loves the same music so they can go out to main stream gigs or whatever tickles their fancy together. For some people that is to go play sports, watch sport, somebody wants to go to church; doesn’t really matter. Say what your gig is and we’ll find someone later to go. But, generally it’s around about music.

Simon: And the critical bit here is having some sort of shared interest in that type of music because I guess you’ve got so many genres of live music happening that matching that up it would be problematic. There would be nothing worse than I guess one music fan having to go and sit for 2 hours through some other type of music performance that they actually hated and wouldn’t’ come back for more.

Paul:    Exactly! Last year some of our advisory group and they are made up of people with learning disabilities, they decided that they’d like to go see the dancing on ice extravaganza at the Brighton Center [00:02:01] and I said to our project manager ‘oh do I have to go? I absolutely hate that kind of thing”. Because, I know that if you love that kind of thing the energy rubs off and if you don’t you just sort of sit there zapping everyone else’s energy away from them. So I would go and I would try to be professional and I would try to be enthusiastic, but isn’t it better to go with somebody who truly shares you passion whatever that is? And your right, that’s the hook. It’s about a shared interest but also from that it’s also finding new experiences as well. So if you think about the sort of thing you sit in a pub and you are sort of chatting with a mate and you tell him to check out an artist I’ve never heard of, you know, and it’s that stuff that you go back and you buy the record and you listen to it and it expands your horizon and so that’s part of it as well, but within what people are comfortable with.

Simon: So how do you find the volunteers, the buddies that are taking people out to these gigs because as I mentioned you have to be I wouldn’t say careful, but there must be some sort of selection criteria?

Paul:    Yeah absolutely. We advertise in a variety of different places so, universities, venues themselves, a lot of word of mouth, we sort of go to events you know sort of around social care and things like that and put the word out, but also people like social workers sort of spread the word as well, but everybody gets interviewed and find out more about them. Then we do, well we are required by law to do criminal background checks on everyone, and we also give them some training. During that process some people do drop out and they realize it’s not for them or they come back with a colorful police record, and if you’ve got a police record it doesn’t mean that you can’t be involved; it does depend on what it was and when it was for to be honest.

Simon: I am sure, I am sure. Now the Gig buddies is part of a broader charity that you set up called Stay Up Late which is essentially about reclaiming the night isn’t it? For I guess as you say this community of people that are a large proportion of them don’t tend to get out at night.

Paul:    There is so much stuff going on you know but I sort of sit at the pub every evening, and still where we live very few people with learning disabilities out in the evening and you know the pub is where you, well I met my mates and watch music or chat the night away and those sort of things; those natural sort of things. So that’s what we through Gig Buddies are trying to create is natural friendships so they sort of go on in their informal and hopefully they last for a long time. But yeah, stay up late started because we were frustrated, I was in a band with 3 guys with learning disabilities in a punk band it’s called Heavy Load, and we were frustrated that people were leaving our gigs just as we got on stage and it was classic spinal tap because we never ever thought that was a reflection on the quality of our performances which were an acquired taste and quite chaotic and hilarious. It was because typically people do have support, have staff who are this ridged router systems that finish at 10 o’clock at night so everybody leaves at 9 so they can be home tucked up in bed with their cup of cocoa and the staff go home, and we started challenging that saying ‘look people with learning disabilities have every right to be active social lives that we all enjoy and the stuff that defines us and makes us part of a community and they are being denied it.’ So that’s why we started it and it sort of all grown from there.

Simon: So as a Gig buddy I would join the organization and I would go through the vetting process and then I fill out some form and say ‘hey look I am really into Reggae’ or I like a bit of this or that and you would then say ‘okay look we’ve got someone over here who is interested that.’ What do I then go and pick that person up and then I am responsible for them for the evening?

Paul:    Yes, well what we do is we have sort of a matching process. Our project manager she’ll be thinking when she meets people, she’ll be looking at their musical interests also where they live because a lot of the areas we work outside of Bright and it is quite rural and we pull public transport link. So it’s looking at do people live in the next village or town along and do they have a car and that sort of thing. And then, then it might sometimes be around sex or sexuality, age, it’s a whole range of things go into the mix in time which work out as well as their musical tastes which is quite a complicated thing. But then we’ll always go and support the first night out so that they get to meet at first. And then we’ll go support the first night out. So it’s sort of set up in that gentle way, and then they can go on and develop their friendship, but we sort of, we guide people through that because we are fully aware that people have anxiety around going out with somebody with a learning disability and most of our volunteers are new to supporting people with learning disabilities. So you know we talk through maybe a few of the potential support issues. There might be that someone is anxious in crowds and noisy situations and things like that and what you do in situations where somebody’s experiencing anxiety and different things like that. Yeah, so we don’t just leave them to it we sort of… – and then we offer them ongoing support as well so if they are having some doubts or problems we’ll meet with them and chat through things with them.

Simon: Paul Richards is the founder of Stay Up Late and there is more information on our website right now.