Special Educational Needs. Intervention to promote pupils in their learning

Submitted Assignment, 2016

19 Pages, Grade: 80



1. Introduction
1.1. Dyslexia
1.2. Giftedness/Ability
1.3. Gifted and learning disabled
1.4. Diagnosis challenges

2. Method and Rationale
2.1. The importance of phonological abilities
2.2. Promoting interest in Science
2.3. Intervention Timeline
2.4. Results
2.5. Future Steps

3. Discussion
3.1. Before-After-comparison
3.2. Challenging timings of sessions
3.3. Potential diagnosis through administration of Boder test
3.4. Building more strongly on his creative skills

4. Impact on Teaching Practice
4.1. Verbal rather than written explanation
4.2. Marking of work
4.3. Handwriting
4.4. In the classroom

5. Conclusions



Abstract. Every individual has different learning strengths and weaknesses; however, some have more exceptional abilities for or more barriers to learning. Learners can also be ‘twice exceptional’, such as the individual chosen for this intervention. He is a gifted Y7 Science pupil with dyslexic tendencies. Based on my baseline assessment, he fits most closely into the dysphonetic dyslexia sub- group. The depicted intervention was based on identifying his strengths and weaknesses and aimed to develop his literacy skills, especially his phonological awareness, as well as his interest and understanding of science simultaneously. The effectiveness of the intervention was assessed using a Before-and-After comparison of a written summary. In the final assessment, the pupil made fewer spelling mistakes and was more able to correct them independently. More precisely, the literacy error ratio, as calculated by dividing the number of erroneous words by the total number of words, im- proved from 15.78% to 9.46%. Moreover, the overall structure of his summary was better organised, using the DEFENDS method he was taught.

“Intellectually gifted individuals with specific learning disabilities are the most misjudged, misunderstood, and neglected segment of the student population and the community. Teachers, school counsellors, and others often overlook the signs of intellectual giftedness and focus attention on such deficits as poor spelling, reading, and writing.”

Whitmore & Maker, 1985

Special Educational Needs are a very wide range of different addi- tional needs of learners that teachers need to address in an inclusive school. In this study, we are focussing on one gifted and able pupil that most likely suffers from dysphonetic dyslexia, a specific subtype of dyslexia. Currently, he has not got an educational statement for sec- ondary school; however, he was classified as SEN in Primary School. Furthermore, his understanding of Science is significantly greater than his spelling abilities are.

1. Introduction

1.1. Dyslexia.

According to the World Health Organisation (2010), “Dyslexia is a brain-based condition. It is a disorder manifested by dif- ficulty in learning to read, despite conventional instructions, adequate intelligence and socio-cultural opportunity. It is dependent upon funda- mental cognitive disabilities which are of constitutional origin.” This implies that - differently to the common perception of learning dis- orders - the occurrence of dyslexia is not correlated to IQ. Hence, there are learners that are dyslexic and highly able at the same time. Moreover, dyslexia covers a very wide range of needs. Some dyslexics have more difficulties with phonological processing, others with pat- tern recognition. Phonological awareness is the conscious sensitivity to the sound structure of language. It includes the ability to aud- itorily distinguish units of speak, such as the word’s syllables and a syllable’s phonemes. Pattern recognition refers to perceiving the co- herent ‘gestalt’ of a word. Capel (2005) states that the emphasis of any intervention should be on examining the individual’s skills, such as phonological awareness, and working on them as a way forward.

1.1.1. Dyslexia subtypes. There are several different subgroups in dys- lexia. The dyslexia subtypes can be identified by investigating the different patterns of reading and spelling deficits on various diagnostic test. In 1963, Kinsbourne and Warrington identified two groups, one that suffered from a language disorder and another one from a non- verbal sequential processing difficulty. Boder and Jarrico (1962) de- veloped a screening tool that sorts individuals into three different sub- groups of dyslexia based on their strengths and weaknesses in two differ- ent forms of information processing that rely on different neurological functions. The human brain processes information very differently in different tasks. Information processing can either be based on analytic- sequential synthesis (e.g. recalling a phone number, predominant in left cerebral hemisphere) or simultaneous gestalt recognition (e.g. face re- cognition, mainly controlled by the right hemisphere). The dysphonetic subtype performs well in simultaneous ‘gestalt’ recognition, but exhib- its difficulty using phonetic analysis, which corresponds to the skill of auditory analytic-sequential synthesis. This can be measured by how well phonics are applied in ‘sounding-out’ unknown words and in phon- etically spelling unknown words. Similarly, the dyseidetic subtype has a deficit in recognising whole word configurations, or ‘gestalts’, but has no difficulty with phonic skills. The dyseidetic’s misspellings are often phonically accurate, e.g. ‘talc’ for talk. Mixed dysphonetic-dyseidetic dyslexics have deficits in both key skills of information processing, res- ulting in great difficulties when developing sight vocabulary and phonic skills.

1.1.2. Dyslexia in the classroom. According to Hooper (2000), literacy skills like learning to read, spell, express one’s thoughts on paper and acquire adequate use of grammar are essential tools for learning a large part of the curriculum taught at school. For dyslexic children, the acquisition of these literacy skills is not only difficult, but they can also suffer a lot of anguish and trauma when they may feel mentally abused by their peers within the school environment because of their learning difficulty. Teachers can work towards alleviating this by integrating the child into the class environment, making the respective pupils feel self-confident.

1.2. Giftedness/Ability.

Based on Renzulli (2004), giftedness can be defined along a continuum ranging from a very conservative or re- stricted definition of giftedness (focussing almost exclusively on IQ test scores) to a more multi-dimensional view. The conservative view has influenced the identification of gifted pupils during the early part of the past century, is strongly correlated to ‘schoolhouse giftedness’ due to its emphasis on analytical and verbal skills. ‘Schoolhouse giftedness’ is used to mean the ability to perform well in test-taking or lesson- learning. However, divergent thinking, non-entrenchment, and creative productive giftedness are types of giftedness that are most valued by society, as they have led to major contributions to the arts and sciences (Renzulli, 1978, 1986). Moreover, Benbow and Minor (1990) showed that “... global indicators of intellectual functioning may exclude too many non-verbally gifted students, who appear to be less balanced than verbally gifted students in their cognitive development”. In conclusion, although schoolhouse giftedness should be valued and accommodated, at least equal attention should be devoted to creative productive gif- tedness, promoting students’ development of original ideas, according to Renzulli (2004). For this approach to be fruitful, student interests need to be taken into account and an investigative methodology needs to be promoted in lessons.

1.3. Gifted and learning disabled.

Linda Kreger Silverman once stated that “it is a well-kept secret that a child can be both gifted and disabled”. According to Davis (2010), dyslexics are primarily pic- ture thinkers. Rather than using internal dialogue, they specialise in mental or sensory imagery, hence they learn to excel in spatial rather than verbal thinking. Toll (1993) differentiated three different types of gifted and learning disabled pupils: the subtle gifted LD, hidden gifted LD and the recognised learning-disabled. Based on my experience with the pupil that is taking part in this intervention, he is on the border- line between the subtle and the hidden learning disabled subgroups. However, he fits more closely into the group of the subtle gifted LD in Science, as he matches very closely with Toll’s criteria, i.e. he has good verbal skills, poor spelling and handwriting, is disorganised in his class- work and the giftedness compensates for his learning disability, which might be one the reasons why his disability is not recognised. He is also viewed as ‘underachieving’ in English, as stated by his English teacher. His English teacher attributed his consistent underachievement to care- lessness or lack of effort. According to Hooper (2000), many teachers of dyslexic children misinterpret their observations in a similar way. One of the other descriptors that I cannot verify in his specific case is whether the discrepancies between strengths and weakness widen as he grows older. In the following, it will be outlined how specific strategies can be based on this diagnosis, that promote the learner’s strengths, but also work on the weaknesses. They have been first proposed in Bisland (2005).

1.4. Diagnosis challenges.

Sah and Borland (1989) estimated that the gifted and learning-disabled subgroup is the largest of all subgroups of gifted and disabled students; however, they also stated that many students in this group remain unidentified because their gifts mask their weaknesses. Based on this they slip under the radar and thus go though education undiagnosed. According to Brody and Mills (1997), gifted students with subtle learning disabilities (e.g. students with ex- ceptional verbal skills, but poor spelling and handwriting) are usually never identified as learning disabled. It is crucial to identify these dif- ficulties early on, given that the gap between what is expected of these learners and their actual performance often widens, as they advance through school (Fetzer, 2000). The hidden gifted/learning-disabled group is even more challenging to identify, as their high intelligence works to compensate for their learning disability; however, their disab- ility prevents their high intelligence from shining.

2. Method and Rationale

The rationale of the intervention is fundamentally based on identi- fying the pupils’ strengths and weaknesses in order to promote his strengths and work with his weaknesses. According to a survey per- formed by Robinson (1999), there are two factors that successful adults with learning disabilities feel have contributed to their success: a) knowledge of their own strengths and weaknesses and b) change in the perception of themselves and their learning characteristics from one of failure to a more positive, balanced view of having strengths as well as weaknesses. Hence, their own attitudes and feelings toward themselves and their abilities were the most important factors leading to their ulti- mate success. Little (2001) concluded that self-efficacy and independ- ence of learning should be emphasised in promoting gifted/learning- disabled students. Moreover, Bisland (2005) outlined key strategies that improve memory, organisation and written expression. Regarding his written organisation, we decided to mainly work with the written expression strategy called DEFENDS, brought forward by Deschler, Ellis and Lenz (1996). The steps are to decide on goals and theme, estimate main ideas and details, f igure out best order of main ideas and details, express the theme in the first sentence, note each main idea and supporting points, drive home the message in the last sentence, and search for errors and correct.

2.1. The importance of phonological abilities.

One of the key skills we worked on was his phonological abilities, as he himself was concerned about those and the baseline assessment also showed that he had deficits in this area. Moreover, Martschinke et al. (2001) found the ability to analyse and synthesise phonemes seems to have the largest influence on later reading and spelling successes. O’Connor and Jenkins (1999) showed that simple phonological strategies such as segmenting phonemes and rapid letter naming qualified as primary discriminators of reading disabilities, more reliably than more complex interventions.

2.2. Promoting interest in Science.

The Society for Science & the Public (SSP) publishes Science News for Students that consist of a wide variety of articles, accompanied by an indication of the appropriate reading age and power words that aid the STEM literacy. The read- ing scores are calculated according to the Flesch-Kincaid algorithm, that weighs the number of syllables and words in each sentence and accounts for the punctuation used. It represents the anticipated num- ber of years of education required to readily understand the article as a whole. Hence, only articles with reading age 7 were chosen for the pupil that was part of the intervention. Hence, there was a strong focus on literacy, since this has been the main focus of this intervention.

2.3. Intervention Timeline.

The intervention was planned to consist of seven weekly, half-an-hour long sessions with one pupil. Due to time contraints, the intervention had to be contrained to six sessions, as outlines below (see Figure 1)

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1. Intervention Timeline

2.3.1. Baseline Assessment. In order to test his reading and spelling ability and aiming to promote his interest in Science at the same time, the pupil was given a choice of three different science articles (Science News for Students) of reading age 7, that were followed by a list of power words. The three topics of choice were ‘Gravitational Waves’, ‘Black Holes’ and ‘Cool Jobs: Exploring the Solar System’. The pupil was asked to read through his article of choice (‘Gravitational Waves’) out loud to control specifically for reading speed and pronunciation of words. He was then given 10 min to summarise the article in his own words. During this summary exercise, he was given access to a list of key words, as they were very challenging, e.g. ‘interferometer’. After this exercise, he was asked to check his spelling. I then intervened and circled all the misspelt words according to the school’s marking policy. He was then asked to improve his spelling with my assistance (see Figure 2).


Excerpt out of 19 pages


Special Educational Needs. Intervention to promote pupils in their learning
University of Manchester  (University of Manchester’s Institute of Education)
Teach First Leadership Development Programme
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ISBN (Book)
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special, educational, needs, intervention
Quote paper
Laura Imperatori (Author), 2016, Special Educational Needs. Intervention to promote pupils in their learning, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/341961


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