Recognising the individual talents of people with SEND

The education system is failing many young people with SEND and we need to seriously consider different ways in which to turn failure into success. Why is it that we are so focused on the basic skills of education, those that are more easily assessed and judged, that we fail to recognise and reward talents that are different? Do schools, and society, need to think out of the box? Do we need to think about education from a different perspective? Do we often waste talents that are there – unseen?

A parent has been telling me about her son. He is diagnosed with ADHD and has difficulty in learning, mainly because he cannot focus, concentrate and engage with school topics for a long enough length of time. However, Nathan has a special talent in IT. His mum told me that when his tablet had broken down they took it back to the store. The assistant said that it was beyond mending and that they would need to replace it with a new one. No way. Nathan set to, and promptly put the problem right when he got back home. His mum returned to the store and showed them the repaired tablet, whereupon the assistants were duly amazed that a thirteen year old boy had done what they had not. Consequently, Nathan was offered a free gift of his choice by the store. A lovely gesture. What a positive and heart-warming tale!

Remember Stephen Wiltshire? The artist who, after a 45 minute helicopter ride over New York, then sketched an amazingly detailed outline of the city, using his photographic memory. Stephen is diagnosed with autism.

There must be numerous examples of children and young people with SEND having exceptional talents of one kind or another. Where are they? I would love to know how these talents materialise: how certain parts of the brain must be wired up to produce them. These are talents that do not show up on the regular standardised tests often done by Educational Psychologists: tests often designed to show deficiencies rather than talents because they are done after children have demonstrated failure in one or more areas of school learning.

What can we deduce from this? Firstly, society needs to think outside of the boxes we use to judge what children can do. My last blog considered the labelled boxes into which we place children, and the common strategies used to address the learning difficulties of children whose needs are placed inside the same box. I am not suggesting that we discard SEND labels altogether, but both schools and society need to search carefully beyond what we initially see. Dig deep into the talents of each individual with SEND and we may be surprised at what they can do.

« Back to Blog