UKIP are in trouble again because they can’t keep their big mouths shut. This time they are saying that kids with such conditions as dyslexia and ADHD are largely fine and nothing is wrong with them; that it’s an excuse for bad behaviour and bad parenting.
Kathleen Garner, secretary of Ukip’s Croydon branch, suggested on the message boards that young children suffering from ADHD were merely “naughty”, and blamed any signs of ADHD or dyslexia on parents not feeding them properly or poor teaching. She wrote: “We had the odd ‘naughty’ child in class, but that was usually just the one and it was clear their parents neglected them. The same goes for dyslexia. Despite having a son diagnosed with the condition, I consider it to be solely the result of poor teaching in primary school.” – Huffington Post Website.
There are a couple interesting things here – one that she has a son with Dyslexia and two that they are so stupid to be publicly throwing these sorts of opinions about (the full article can be found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/01/17/ukip-adhd-psychobabble-message-boards_n_4609441.html?utm_hp_ref=uk )
But sadly there is something about all these queries about the huge rise in recognised conditions it raises a few options – is it all rubbish and the majority are fine and just not bright or well behaved, or there is a serious problem with the current generation of kids and their learning ability. So which is it, is it as simplistic as that or is there a third option? When I was teaching in schools there were so many pupils with additional needs that their need for separate rooms was overwhelming the building. From those with dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, autism and Asperger’s syndrome through to those who needed extra time for a variety of other reasons the numbers are growing each year – something is wrong but because it is a delicate area people are scared to ask the challenging and difficult questions.
I’m not for a minute dismissing or denying the existence of any of these conditions, there is more than enough evidence to show that the conditions are real and cause issues for those with the learning difficulties, their parents and the teachers who look after them, but it shouldn’t be a finger-pointing exercise that the UKIP members have started blaming people for the conditions. This is the way these people were built and we need to support them as best we can in the “inclusive” system we run in Scotland. The question still remains though why are the numbers of those being diagnosed so high – are we getting better at picking up on the issues and pinpointing the additional needs, are we making excuses for those who just aren’t clever enough in fear of the repercussions or is there a genuine problem that needs to be addressed in our children?
Are we getting better at picking up the conditions? Yes we are. There is more understanding and awareness about all the learning difficulties in both classroom teachers and in the specialists who have great resources and knowledge to help those students. We do need to be careful though that just because someone is on a “spectrum” doesn’t mean they need any additional help. Technically we are all on the spectrum it’s a matter of where not if. Also the tag dyslexic or autistic doesn’t actually help the situation – like any illness or condition it is the way it manifests itself in that person which is important. Understanding how we can help is important and I would argue that the current written test format doesn’t suit the growing percentage of students who struggle with these conditions. School teaching methods and testing are limited by the SQA in Scotland as to how best measure success – yes there is oral feedback instead of written but we need to do better than these archaic models. Interactive websites, e-learning and audio-visual options must be moved forward in the thinking and drag things into the present.
Secondly are we making excuses? Again I’d argue yes we are. There is a fear in teaching and the institutions of education that if we deny anyone then there will be negative publicity and potential repercussions so if it means that a whole section of the school get extra time or a separate room or breaks that’s okay isn’t it? Well not really because business and the real world doesn’t work like that. There’s a difficult balance between supporting pupils and mollycoddling them and it’s a tough call. I understand the decision to allow many who probably have little wrong with them to get the additional support to ensure the teachers and schools have an easier life. The accusation that it’s an excuse for the teacher for not achieving is a non-starter as these kids will appear on the stats in the same way as every other child in the country and no special dispensation is made at that point so don’t be fooled by that lie.
Finally is there a problem with this generation of pupils and children that numbers of cases are rising year on year? Possibly. There’s no hard and fast case but the stats can’t just be explained away by the first two options. Yes we understand the conditions better and yes we probably allow more into the fold than we should but there must be an increasing number of people with conditions full stop. Diet? Environmental? Medical? I’m not qualified to say, but if it’s not suspicious then it’s alarming that so many are struggling with reading, writing and arithmetic.
Or there is that other option of course that we didn’t consider. Perhaps constantly changing the focus within education, using it as a political football and here in Scotland to rewrite the whole thing in a foreign language to reality perhaps it’s that we’re just not teaching the basics anymore and the kids aren’t struggling with “additional needs” – it’s “basic needs” where the system lets them down. Unfortunately this is not a simple yes/no, black/white situation but ignoring it won’t solve the problem either. We need to address the issues head on by reconsidering the “inclusion” lie we’ve had to live with and the closing of fantastic units across the country, that had the time and resources to help those in serious need of support, to get it full-time. We need to ensure the basics are taught in primary as there are times where the issue is that kids just haven’t been taught literacy and numeracy. But most of all stop pointing fingers and blaming each other because that allows those in a position to do something about the problem to hide from their responsibilities. Don’t challenge the teachers, challenge the Local Authorities and the Politicians because they can do something tangible to make our kids education work better in the first place.