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Getting it right for SEND Children

I’m delighted to have Cristina Gangemi, disability consultant, as my guest blogger. Cristina holds a master’s degree in this field and is director of The Kairos Forum, which focuses on enabling communities to be places of belonging for people with a disability. She has extensive experience in Special Educational Needs (SEN), offering training across a range of settings including schools and Early Years as well as parental support. Cristina has undertaken innovative and creative research with the University of Aberdeen in collaboration with people with an intellectual disability. Her research ‘EveryBody Has a Story’ (2010) has produced approaches to SEN that involve and celebrate the whole person, body, mind and spirit. Cristina is a national adviser to the bishops of England and Wales and works closely with Vatican Councils. She has also worked closely with Baroness Sheila Hollins, both on her advisory board and the series ‘Books beyond words’. Her work is recognised and valued both nationally and internationally.

Cristina writes:

“As Early Years providers we find ourselves at a unique point in history, where we are invited to make a real difference to the lives of disabled people and their families. This new approach to Special Educational Needs marks a fundamental shift towards parental choice and pupils’ rights and takes a holistic approach to a child’s life from 0–25 years of age: enabling a person’s skills and meeting their needs begins at birth! The fundamental shifts within this new practice has cemented the importance of Early Years provision in the life and educational journey of a SEND child. In the past, assessment, practice and provision have been segmented – divided into age groups that separated providers rather than giving them an opportunity to practise effective transition. However, what does it mean to be a service provider at the very start of a child’s life and education? Is our role to teach and reach attainment targets, or to enable a child to grow and flourish within who they were born to be? When we begin to identify children’s needs, skills and possibilities how do we provide a service that will truly make a difference?

I feel that the task of the Early Year’s provider is not simply to impart information or to enable skills but to be part of the very formation of the human person, equipping him or her to live life to the full. In short, it is also about imparting wisdom and setting them and their family on a road to growth and fulfilment.

With changes in legislation and approaches to SEND the provider of education has become one of the most important professionals in this journey, it really is a make or break position. A young child will spend many hours within our activities and provision. The first signs a child has special needs will probably be observed in their early years and how we respond will have a significant influence on that person’s life. What language should we use, therefore, in these moments? Is it correct to speak of ‘things being wrong’ with this child and their life? Have we ever stopped to reflect upon how the language we use, in such important moments, can set the child and their family on a road that leads, for example, to anxiety or is there a way to approach this time that is both positive and helpful? ‘Fostering good relations’ is one of the requirements of current codes of practice and this asks us to consider these questions seriously within our practice… but what language should we use and what approach and why is it so important? How can we enable a whole person approach and where do we begin?”

Please contact Cristina, for your SEND professional Development needs: cgangemi.kairos@gmail.com

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