The SpLD Committee was formed in May 2019 with members comprising Directors of the Main Literacy Programme (MLP) as well as Specialist Education Services (SES), psychologist, speech and language therapist and educational therapists (MLP & SES Preschool). The aim of this committee is two-fold:
(i) to better understand the needs of the SpLD learners at DAS so as to better support them and assist the educational therapists teaching them
(ii) to investigate and review the current context in teaching approaches and provide recommendations on:
(a) curriculum changes so as to effectively support our learners
(b) training and resources required for educational therapists and paraprofessionals to facilitate this support within DAS.
DAS receives varied profiles of learners each year. It is imperative that these learners be given skills that meet their learning needs. In addition, educational therapists would require relevant proficiency to guide our students. As such this committee conducted a survey and thereafter a study, from October ’19 – January ’21, to determine the area of SpLD for the committee’s first study. Results from the survey revealed that educational therapists are concerned with students who display significant language difficulties and poor language acquisition. Hence, the first study that this committee puts forth will be looking at the group of students who display these traits. The study intends to gather the perspectives of educational therapists with respect to the challenges they face in supporting these children in their literacy attainment.
Students with dyslexia and language difficulties
Results from the survey indicated that educational therapists found students with dyslexia and language difficulties face more challenges acquiring literacy skills especially in the areas of vocabulary and written and verbal expressions. This study was conducted during the period of October ’19 – January ’21. 18 students who were given the A1 banding in 2019 through the DAS psychological assessment were identified. Feedback was gathered from the educational therapists teaching these students and they were invited to participate in this study via a face-to-face interview (remote) or a questionnaire. Questions for both methods were the same.
Some of the questions posed were:
○ How long have you been teaching children with dyslexia?
○ How often do you encounter students who may have an oral language weakness?
○ With reference to your student, could you describe what a child with oral language weakness struggles with?
○ What do you observe (e.g. speech, language etc.) of this particular student when you first got him/her under your charge?
○ As this student’s EdT what skills do you possess that enabled you to identify his/her learning needs?
The figures below give an example of how data is organized.
5 educational therapists responded via the face-to-face interview which were recorded and transcribed while 2 educational therapists responded via the questionnaire. Outcomes from the interviews and questionnaire responses pointed to educational therapists employing various teaching methods and materials to engage their learners in vocabulary learning. In this study, the educational therapists mentioned these factors which helped teach their learners:
- Use of pictures/videos/games to show meaning of words/phrases
- Provide opportunities for verbal responses (e.g. share opinions)
- Introducing phonics in different ways (e.g. word families)
- Adapt teaching resources to student’s needs
This tells us that students with language difficulties require more than phonics skills to acquire literacy knowledge and language learning and that educational therapists have to be adept with teaching resources and materials as well as possess the know-how to create a meaningful lesson for their students.
Thus, in line with the objectives of the committee, learners with SpLD have to be defined strictly so as to provide better classroom support through enhancements made to student profiling, teacher training and education, as well as curriculum and the creation of resources. With these objectives in mind and together with the results obtained from the study, this committee aims to put forward recommendations to the organization for the changes identified and monitor the outcomes of the implemented changes.
Hani Zohra Muhamad
Lead Educational Therapist / Educational Advisor
Main Literacy Programme, DAS