There are many common myths regarding learners with SEND learning to read using a phonics approach:
Having these perceptions is not only damaging to children’s education but also, if we have such low expectations of children with additional learning needs and remove their opportunity to at least have a go, we will never ever know if they could have achieved the learning or completed a task, because the chance was never provided due to negative assumptions.
The main question that we need to ask ourselves is not “What do we teach our pupils with SEND?” but “How are we going to adapt our teaching, lesson structure and learning activities to make this accessible to all?”
The Reading Framework (DfE, 2021) discusses the requirements for the delivery of phonics in school and also looks at the specifics for children with moderate to complex educational needs. The report discusses how schools need and should be making suitable adjustments to the curriculum in order for all children to be able to access and participate in it.
Ensuring inclusivity within the classroom is not just about keeping children with SEND in the classroom environment around their peers. It is about creating a curriculum, an environment that is accessible to all, which provides the right amount of challenge to move children's learning forward.
What does phonics look like when teaching children with SEND?
Firstly, the pace of the phonics programme should be adapted to suit the learners’ needs. The majority of children will complete a phonics programme in 2-3 years, however, children with additional needs may need longer and this is ok. Having the attitude of ‘They aren’t there yet’, rather than ‘They haven’t got it’, is a much more positive way of looking at things.
Creating and sustaining a consistent instructional routine that is familiar to the children is beneficial. When children know what their phonics session will entail, where they will sit, which adult is supporting them and the resources that they will be using, they can begin to relax and enjoy the session. Consistency is also key when it comes to teacher language; it should be simple and easy to understand.
The length of the actual phonics session may vary according to the child’s specific needs. For some children with very complex needs, the session may only be a very short window of opportunity, however providing that opportunity to learn is paramount. Others may be able to work and hold their focus for longer - it is about knowing your children and what they are comfortable with doing.
Phonics should be taught every day. The length of the session depends on the child’s capacity to focus as discussed above, however every child deserves to be taught to read and this is only possible when these skills are practised every day.
The resources and equipment used when teaching children with SEND phonics may need some consideration on how it is used, how it is presented to the children, the purpose of the resource and how it will support the learning. Sound mats, wall frieze, flashcards etc. all may need to be enlarged and/or laminated, reading books may be better accessed as an eBook to incorporate an interactive aspect. There are many ways that resources can be adapted to suit learners’ needs; the important thing is making sure it is purposeful and adds value to the session.
There shouldn’t be a question as to whether or not to use phonics to teach our SEND learners to read, the main thing to really consider is how to make the phonics learning content accessible. The one and only question should be ‘How are we going to adapt this phonics programme to fully support this learner?’ and the rest is history.
by Grace Kleanthous, AST phonics consultant
Don't forget to connect with us on social media
Copyright © 2021 Abigail Steel Training Ltd. All rights reserved.
Abigail Steel Training Ltd (UK registered company no. 13201167)
8 Coppington Gardens, Hungerford, RG17 8NH
01488 491 028 / 07983 608 195