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SEN and gifted = awkward

(21 Posts)
bigmouthstrikesagain Mon 28-Nov-16 13:40:08

Ds is 12 and currently in yr 8. He has been assessed and diagnosed with Autism, Anxiety, Tics and sensory processing difficulties. He is also in the tops sets at school and is considered gifted in English, History, Maths and is doing a GCSE level course this year in Thinking and Reasoning skills (will do the exam in the summer it is equivalent to 1/2 GCSE).

He struggles with group work and organisation and cannot write very legibly as his sensory anxieties about wrists and veins and touch means he holds he pen awkwardly and forms his letters and numbers oddly. He types quickly and prefers to do homework (and pretty much everything else!) on the PC.

I have concerns that he is going to struggle to produce enough legible handwritten work as the demands increase in years 8-11 and for the exams. Particularly as exams are marked externally and someone who hasn't got several years experience in deciphering ds spidery scrawl will have no hope of marking his work.

I have raised this issue with the Senco and they have said the English teacher believes ds did well enough in his mock exam for it not to be a concern. I am still concerned but when I speak to teachers about this I feel bloody awkward as I am advocating for my son, I know that ds is doing well, but could he be better? He is disadvantaged by his Autism, he finds many things difficult, but he is highly motivated and enjoys learning, he sees the teachers as his friends and most of his fellow pupils as loud and annoying, often distressing, always getting in the way of his learning experience.

I am not sure what I am meant to do as I feel I am considered a pain in the arse for raising issues about a very able child - the teachers know he struggles in school - I think sometimes though they compartmentalise it - 'he struggles with noise and crowds and organisation but he is perfectly fine academically' - it is much more complex than that. His writing skills are going to get to a tipping point with his writing skills and a 'handwriting club' (as has been suggested) is not going to solve anything.

Mary21 Mon 28-Nov-16 14:15:12

My older ds used a laptop for all his work and exams at secondary. Younger one exams only. Both touch type. Is that an option

Lapinlapin Mon 28-Nov-16 14:21:18

Yes, can you apply to exam boards for special dispensation so he can type his answers? Speak to the exam's officer at your school if you can - maybe via the Senco, but it sounds like your son might meet the criteria. He would then be in a smaller room with a different invigilator probably, and if he hates crowds, a small exam room might suit him much better anyway.

bigmouthstrikesagain Mon 28-Nov-16 15:49:25

Thank you - We actually have made a request that ds be allowed to word process - but have been told that ds did well in his mocks so it is not necessary - I am concerned that the marking was done by someone familiar with his writing. I have queried whether ds will actually be ok in the final test, but have yet to hear back.

It is difficult as ds is in middle school and the thinking and reasoning skills course is the only 'GCSE' they do. It is all ad hoc and they don't generally have to deal with SN for it. Ds is going to be going to High school from year 9 on so a whole new set of teachers and procedures...

MargotsDevil Mon 28-Nov-16 15:53:32

Ask for the mocks to be remarked (with the original marking blanked out as far as possible) by someone completely unfamiliar with his handwriting. Also/or ask for him to sit an assessment using word processing to show comparison. If he does better with the word processing or worse with the unfamiliar marker you would therefore have evidence that he needs the support.

bigmouthstrikesagain Wed 30-Nov-16 10:16:00

I suspect that a request for re-marking would be greeted unfavourably Margot. It is a small school and I am not sure they will have a teacher both unfamiliar with ds work and qualified to mark the test. Ds has been there since yr 5 and will have been taught by a large proportion of the staff by now. It is an interesting idea though. Thank you.

chocolateworshipper Wed 30-Nov-16 14:11:52

I would recommend really pushing for the school to apply to the exam board for him to be able to use a computer. If he takes one GCSE without it, it is likely to make it harder for the next school to get permission for him to use a computer for his main set of GCSEs. As the work gets harder and harder, the closer to Y11 GCSEs he gets, the chances are that his difficulties are going to get more profound, especially as he has anxiety issues.

itsawonderfulworld Wed 30-Nov-16 14:26:38

Where in the country are you? Send me a PM, I may be able to help as have been through something very similar.

BertPuttocks Wed 30-Nov-16 14:37:59

I had the same issue with my DS and his handwriting.

He has ASD and his handwriting is barely legible even on the best of days. He was allowed to type his work in most of his lessons (maths and languages were a little more problematic) so I'd hoped he would be able to do the same in his GCSEs.

Unfortunately they test for speed rather than legibility and DS apparently wrote more than a certain number of words during the test. He had to write his exam answers by hand.

ReallyTired Wed 30-Nov-16 14:38:52

Does your son have a paediatrian? Ds is seeing an OT? We experimented with pens. Ds cannot write with a biro as it hurts too much. He writes with one of these pens.

Ds is dyspraxic and has recently benefited from seeing a private physio. He has been working on improving his coordination and core strength. Ds has used a bosu ball to work on balance. It's a combination of training the brain and developing core body strength.

Children with dyspraxia can learn skills, but it takes huge amounts of effort and professional help.

Lunde Wed 30-Nov-16 14:42:36

DD1 had a similar problem owing to ASD/hypermobility but she didn't want to be seen as "different" and use a computer - she did a hand training course devised by an OT that improved her situation a lot

bigmouthstrikesagain Wed 30-Nov-16 15:09:16

The problem is not due to hypermobility (I am hypermobile ds is not) his issues are sensory, and anxiety based, which make them more difficult to manage as he has huge phobias around things touching his wrist and veins - even mentioning the words 'blood' and 'veins' make him shudder and start exhibiting tics. Maybe OT would help but there is no facility for accessing help for sensory issues through ds paediatrician in this area - the paediatrician said as much and gave us a book recommendationhmm

I am not sure how the school is going to act on my concerns but ds mentioned this week that his maths teacher (who is also the headteacher) had said that he thought ds would benefit from using a keyboard in lessons so I have emailed the school again with the head included to see what response I get. Thank you for the suggestions - I shall have to investigate how OT can help with sensory/ anxiety based handwriting issues.

The other thing that keeps coming back to me is the lack of handwriting in 'real life'. Aside from christamas cards shopping lists and post cards how much handwriting does anyone do now? It seems insane to cling to handwritten exams when life is online? But that is a much bigger question obvs!

bigmouthstrikesagain Wed 30-Nov-16 15:14:35

dd 1 is 10 and also hasASD, has poor muscle tone and dyspraxia so she uses a writing slope and easy grip pens etc. but her handwriting is much better than ds. She tends to tire easily and has poor concentration/ coordination so is going to be allowed extra time and will be sat in a separate room with a TA when she does her SATs this year.

She is not as academically high achieving as ds but is v good at English so we will have to go through all this again in a couple of years if she is entered into the GCSE course as well.

IcedVanillaLatte Wed 30-Nov-16 15:19:50

Your son sounds a lot like me at that age (top sets, awful organisation, terrible handwriting).

My handwriting is a lot better as an adult (when I was 14 I taught myself a new handwriting style from scratch, and by that time I had better fine motor control) and I've just started using a new, better poem grip, which also helps with exam hand pain. One thing that's really helped me, of he experiences pain in exams, is taking several different pens into an exam so my hand isn't in the same position throughout.

Exam markers tend to be really, really good at reading exam scrawl.

It annoys me that it's considered perfectly acceptable for an able child to not fulfill their potential, just because their performance, while hampered by their needs not being met, is still at an acceptable standard.

Would he enjoy calligraphy? It uses a completely different set of muscles and skills and might make him feel more confident about being able to produce something nice-looking. I loved it at that age, especially since I made my own quill pens (crappy ones, made from crow feathers, but still fun to make).

Heirhelp Wed 30-Nov-16 15:26:50

The Sen cover/ exams officer only has to prove to the exam board that using a lap top is his usual way of working.

bigmouthstrikesagain Thu 01-Dec-16 10:24:23

Well I have managed to sort a meeting with the English teacher to discuss his progress/ exam concerns - which is v good. I would have been contacted sooner but for the fact I got the email address wrong!

IcedVanilla - actually you sound like my sister - she was considered as academically gifted at school and very sensitive and also taught herself calligraphy using fountain pens (not homemade quills I don't think) which was hard as she is left handed!

I agree it is hard when you are gifted and have a SEN - I had concerns about ds emotional and social development long before his teachers ever did but without a supporting statement from the school my concerns were dismissed by a GP and it was a struggle getting him diagnosed. It all seems perfectly obvious now though.

I hope I will be able to get agreement to introduce keyboard use into his lessons as a matter of course as unfortunately I cannot see ds as he is at the moment showing any interest in penmanship or making quills.

Also thank you itsawonderfulworld I will pm you.

IcedVanillaLatte Thu 01-Dec-16 10:32:06

The calligraphy was separate from teaching myself a new handwriting style - quite a bit earlier - but I think it influenced me in that I saw I could produce something beautiful with my hands that didn't require any particular artistic ability grin And of course I was focusing very closely on what my hands could do, rather than the hand themselves, and since the pen grip and techniques were so different, I didn't bring with me any of the insecurities and frustrations linked with my ordinary handwriting. But yes, I think you're probably right that it's unlikely you'll manage to get him out there whittling feathers with a penknife grin

TBH laptop sounds the best way to go; good luck with it smile

ReallyTired Thu 01-Dec-16 23:14:21

I don't think that calligraphy would work for a resistant teenage boy. Calligraphy worked for the previous poster because it was her idea and she was moviated to do it.

Many teenage boys don't give a damn about messy writing or particularly care that they will fail theair GCSEs.

ReallyTired Thu 01-Dec-16 23:18:35

My son would severely injure himself if tried to carve anything with a pen knife. He was a liability when he had to do food tech, textiles or resistant materials in key stage 3.

bigmouthstrikesagain Fri 02-Dec-16 01:16:15

I have to agree really tired grin my children, the older two anyway, have inherited my physical awkwardness, particularly dd1. I am a liability with sharp objects and am amazed I still have a full set of digits as I have sliced my fingers so many times when preparing veg. I will never learn to whittle! Ds has only recently mastered the shoelace.

IcedVanillaLatte Fri 02-Dec-16 08:40:56

No, I agree, really, I guess grin but mostly because teens will generally not start whatever hobby you want them to.

Stabbing yourself is part of the fun!

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