Monthly Archives: April 2012

Meet me at the TES Special Needs Midlands 2012 Show

This takes place at the NEC on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 June. I am running a session 12.30 -1.30 on the
Saturday called Helping pupils with dyscalculia engage with the numberness of numbers. It will cover the early signs of dyscalculia and how to assessfor the condition. It will present different techniques and guidance for teaching basic numeracy.

Later in the day at 3.30 I will be running Using computer games in the primary inclusive classroom  with Donna Burton Wilcock, internationally renowned expert on games and CEO of the very successful Immersive Education. We will be looking at the new demand for gaming in the classroom and how games making can help pupils develop self-reliance, problem solving and critical thinking skills. View and book  seminars here

But enough about me. What else will you see? I hope to go to Carol Allen’s session Supporting visual learners in the inclusive classroom on  Friday at 11pm, looking at how to create an inclusive environment using digital media and visual resources and How we created a 21st century special school on Friday at 2pm run by Maxine Pittaway, head teacher of award-winning special school St Christopher’s in Wrexham.

My three ‘not to be missed’ exhibitors are:

ActiVise Software This looks interesting and very timely as we enter exam season. It is a learning and revision software resource for learners of any age and ability studying any subject. The software consists of a framework of six interactive games which can be populated with personalised content.

Texthelp ( ) help will be demonstrating Fluency Tutor which I have seen demonstrated online. It is designed to assess and improve pupils’ reading and comprehension levels and I wrote about it for Special Children magazine in my article on Reading Aloud.

Dore is a Programme ( offered by a company in Stratford upon Avon. It assesses and addresses problems which affect co-ordination, eye tracking and attention span and makes these underlyingskills become more automatic so that children can concentrate better and learn more effectively. Up till now it has only been available for home use but at the show they will be showing schools how they can use their Programme in schools.

Read All About It with Symbol Support

With the Olympics and the Queen’s Jubilee coming up, there has never been a better time to get young people interested in the news. But what if your children are not good readers? They may end up confined to the TV news which is so transitory that children cannot grasp it, let alone recall it.

News-2-You ( is an online newspaper aimed at pupils who need extra support for literacy. It has been created by special needs company Inclusive Technology, comes out fortnightly and costs just £99 for a single licence. It has speech and symbol support and brings over 200 pages of current affairs, features, activities and stories into the classroom.

Teachers can access News-2-You on an interactive whiteboard for whole class work or print it out for individuals. It has four levels of difficulty. The Simplified version gives a basic overview of the week’s key story topic with SymbolStix supported text. This is ideal for young people with learning disabilities who cannot access conventional print. There are three higher levels so pupils can progress.

In addition to the differentiated levels, there is also a text only version and all levels have a ‘speaking edition’. This means that the students follow the text as it is read aloud. Each word is highlighted as it is spoken.

Each edition features the story of the week which is the focus for a host of activities too. Recent topics including the Frozen Planet, Sports Relief Week, Animal Record Breakers and Star Wars – The Phantom Menace. It also has a World new section which has 2 or 3 substantial articles per fortnight and uses Google Maps to show where each story is taking place.

It is packed full of activities including worksheets for comprehension and literacy activities. But News-2-You is not all about the serious stuff. There is always a joke, a recipe for cookery lessons and some games.

My dyslexia book is proving popular

I have just received this lovely comment from handwriting expert Amanda McLeod, “Just to let you know it’s on my table and quite a few parents have looked through and then gone out to buy it. They like its practical nature.”

The book in question is How to Help Your Child with Dyslexia and Dyspraxia which is available from Crimson Publishing and has a foreword by Tom Pellereau who won The Apprentice last year.

Handwriting expert Amanda McLeodThe McLeod Centre for Learning is in Pimlico (London SW1). It is a centre for children who are under-achieving in English and Maths. Children attend mornings and are taught by specialist dyslexia teachers in small groups, or on an individual basis. Children attend up to four days per week and usually stay for two to three terms. They go back to their main schools for the afternoons.

Requiem for a trail blazer

The Oxford ACE Centre is to close this summer unless there is a change in government policy or an investor comes forward. The ACE Centre Oxford was a pioneer in assistive technology for children and young people who need computer support to help them speak, study and lead their lives with dignity.

A girl being assessed for a communication aid at the Oxford ACE centre
If Oxford ACE closes, who will help her?

Oxford ACE has been in the forefront of research, developmental projects, assessments and technology provision since it was set up under a Tory government 28 years ago.

Many young people have benefited from their expertise. One example is Alice who is now 19. She was born with athetoid cerebral palsy. She was a very bright girl but when she started school she could not a pencil or make herself understood. When Alice was six years old she received her first computer. Even so, typing was laborious. She typed very slowly, using just her left hand.

When Alice started her GCSEs she was assessed by the Oxford ACE Centre to see what technology she would need to fulfil her academic potential. She got a laptop with Internet access and voice recognition. This marked a turning point as she could produce work much more quickly and accurately and found the whole process of composition much less tiring. Now she no longer needed a scribe so the school saved money too. Alice is now studying for a degree in Environmental Sciences.

The Oxford ACE Centre was the first organisation of its kind in England and set a very high standard. Its research always focused on the leading edge technologies, most recently eye gaze technology for those who cannot use their hands to navigate a mouse.

former head of inclusion at Becta
Becta was a victim of governemtn cuts, now Oxford ACE

Chris Stevens, formerly Head of Inclusion at Becta, itself a victim of government cuts, commented, “This is very sad news. Oxford ACE was a trail blazer and set very high standards with its assessments and research. It made such a difference to the lives of so many young people. I worry that the next generation of youngsters with disabilities will not get the same rigorous assessments and decisions about technology support will be made purely on the basis of cost”

Oxford ACE