Professor Diane Montgomery, PhD is a key speaker at this year’s nasen Live, which takes place on 7 July in Birmingham. Here she describes its core subject of Dual and Multiple Exceptionality and the seminar she will present on the day.
Dual and multiple exceptionality (DME) is becoming a significant topic in gifted education and special education worldwide as we discover that we have often been making provisions for special needs, but missing the giftedness, and vice versa.
Giftedness or high ability is frequently masked by the presence of a learning difficulty, disability or disorder and causes underachievement in school and life, although, there are always a few significant exceptions. Often, the pupil may simply function at the level of peers but the talent is missed.
Co-occurrence masks multiple difficulties
Exceptional children may be twice exceptional (2E) that is they are gifted and have a special need; some have more than one special need, a multiple exceptionality. In 30 per cent of learning disabilities/difficulties, there is a co-occurring difficulty such as Dyslexia with Asperger’s Syndrome or ADHD, and sometimes all three are present. This makes diagnosis and intervention more complex and difficult to undertake without specialist support.
A high IQ is regarded as just one of many talents an individual might have, with an IQ of 120 being the threshold level or mild ‘giftedness’ on the continuum, to exceptionally ‘gifted’ at 155, and profoundly ‘gifted’ at 180+. Long-term studies in the US and UK show that there is poor prediction from a high IQ to high achievement and success in life. Of the 930 exceptionally gifted in UK schools today, only three or four will become national figures and not one will be likely to be remembered in 100 years time. Other factors such as resilience, persistence, interest, advantage and chance play a part and show how we need to use other more important identifiers.
Good provision can overcome underachievement in all learners
Provision by the schools is also important and the best provision observed covered seven different levels from developmental differentiation in every class, to setting in some subjects if differentiation was not possible, clubs and societies across all areas, mentoring and buddy systems, extension and enrichment that should reach all children, acceleration for a few and some distance learning for exceptional talent where necessary. It was then possible to identify talent through high quality provision. The essence of the provision was that it was designed to develop thinking and problem solving in all areas of the curriculum and thus it raised the performance of all learners.
Specific learning difficulties/disabilities (SpLDs)
During my seminar at nasen Live, I will focus on four specific learning difficulties that have the most impact on school achievement, these are: Dyslexia, handwriting problems, Asperger’s syndrome and ADHD, together with managing the behaviour problems that can arise from needs that are not met. In addition, attention will also be directed to managing the social, emotional and behavioural difficulties that pupils can bring to the learning situation and that result in disruption and lower achievement if not addressed.
The ‘Three Educational Faces’ of dyslexia will also be identified based on Frith’s psychological model; these are the Logographic, Alphabetic and Orthographic faces and their recovery programmes will be discussed. As an overview, a ‘phone’ strategy can help schools identify dyslexia and provide support in Reception; commercial programmes that give two years’ uplift in one year can be used for the Alphabetic phase, e.g. Hickey Multisensory Language Course and Teaching Reading Through Spelling; and a new Cognitive Process Strategy for Spelling with a detective problem-solving approach that can be used in the Orthographic phase as mini-tutorials for individuals or input for whole classes.
The Reception research showed how class teachers can identify dyslexia in its Logographic phase as part of their normal work and ‘fix it’ before the children move into Year 1. In the process it benefited the disadvantaged and resulted in 30 per cent uplift in Key Stage 1 SATs. Schools can join this PEARL Project (Promoting and Enhancing Achievement in Reception Learners) and the other projects here.
Handwriting difficulties and dysgraphia
Using a writing test, 18.6 per cent of pupils in Year 7 (11 years old) were identified as in the dyslexic zone in disadvantaged areas and one-third had some handwriting difficulties. It is handwriting difficulties that are found worldwide to contribute most to underachievement among the gifted.
Dysgraphia is a silent difficulty in plain sight and Dyslexia, Aspergers and ADHD are all associated with high incidences of co-occurring handwriting problems, multiple exceptionalities. In the UK, some of the handwriting difficulties seem to be created by the methods used to teach it. Current guidelines appear to lack an understanding of children’s developmental needs in motor skills and in particular those of boys’. There are six areas in which handwriting problems can arise — speed, style, form, legibility, pen-hold and motor coordination (dysgraphia). However diagnostic tools and simple strategies that teachers can use to diagnose the difficulties will be outlined with strategies that effectively deal with them.
The significant new role of handwriting discovered by neuroscientists for reading as well as writing and school achievement will be explained during the seminar and I will outline why word processing is not a good substitute for academic purposes.
Asperger Syndrome or High Functioning Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
The less frequent difficulties are Aspergers (1 per cent) and ADHD (3 per cent), but they create wide concern in classrooms. Case examples, identification strategies and key indicants will be discussed and the different profiles of girls.
With Aspergers the deficits include poor social and communication skills and literal comprehension. They have rigid routines and behaviours. It is becoming clear that girls with Asperger are frequently missed because they can often learn social interaction skills and protocols but they are rigid in their use and are equally vulnerable and naïve as boys. Examples of general classroom techniques will be given as well as specific visual and story strategies that can be developed by the SENCo.
In the case of ADHD research shows that there are more boys in the hyperactive group, but equal numbers in the predominantly inattentive group suggesting here too girls have a different profile. They may also have a late diagnosis suggesting more are affected than are currently identified. Attention gaining and maintaining techniques and behaviour management will be discussed.
In all four SpLDs a high level of ability can mitigate some of the difficulties because more able children may learn to manage their condition with support especially as they grow older and become more experienced.
Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties (SEBD)
The frustration of being dyslexic or dysgraphic may give rise to anger or desperation every time a writing task is set. The pupil may avoid it by all sorts of subterfuges, become disruptive or just refuse to work. Pupils with Aspergers may read very well but write very poorly and pressure to be neater can cause ‘melt downs’ and set up ritual hand-flapping and distress. They may refuse to go to school because of it. Equally distressing to more able pupils is that because of the concern to meet their special needs they are not given a challenging enough curriculum and this can make them bored and frustrated. They may also ‘act out’ this distress in attention-seeking and disruptive behaviours. Others ‘act in’ and can become depressed or daydream their time away.
Disorganised families, neglect and inconsistent rearing techniques can lead to SEBD in children of all abilities. Oxytocin levels and brain development are affected in crucial self-control and empathy areas. Bright children from these families are less likely to be identified as talented because attention is focused on their disadvantages and their problem behaviours.
In dealing with these general behaviour problems in classrooms a ‘5 Star Plan’ linked class management, lesson tactics, the cognitive and talking curricula, and assessment for learning. This approach promoted self-regulated and lifelong learning across the ability range and age levels and it retrieved failing teaching performance contributing to school improvement.
Teachers who were successful in stopping the low level noise that finally would lead to disruption and lack of control were found to use a set of tactics. These were CBG (Catch them Being Good) not only for answering questions but also for social behaviour; 3Ms (Management, Monitoring and Maintenance), eg the teacher made an attention gaining noise followed by quiet naming instead of repeating instructions more and more loudly and then got on with the lesson; the lesson plan was based around a problem to solve or resolve and informative feedback was given to every child during the lesson-management period, eg PCI (Positive Cognitive Intervention). Built into the lessons were ‘Think-Pair-Share’ opportunities for legitimising pupil talk so that busy and interested pupils had little time or inclination to chatter and misbehave. They became active participants in their own learning not passive listeners.
The subtext of the DME presentation raises seven main issues and tries to expose the current zeitgeists in research and education:
- Why do we try to teach subjects and not pupils to learn subjects?
- Why do we value good communication skill and make so little provision for it?
- Why is reading research so dominant when it is not the core difficulty in literacy learning?
- Why do we allow dyslexics to become three-time failures when we could fix it in Reception?
- Why rely so much on handwriting in classrooms and not realise many children have difficulties and need help?
- Why not establish a coaching system to develop classroom management skills?
- Why is teacher training not recognised as a third order set of higher cognitive skills and train the trainers?
The DME field covers seven large areas of research, theory and practice. A fuller account can be found in Teaching Gifted Children with Special Educational Needs. Supporting dual and multiple exceptionality by Diane Montgomery.
Dyslexia-friendly Strategies for Reading, Spelling and Handwriting by Diane Montgomery expands on the dyslexia studies.
The insights gained from making provision for more able and gifted pupils’ needs have shown how teaching methods can be improved to raise the achievement of all learners. In the process it has enabled the identification and clarification of the special needs.
The session will end with a listing of tactics that teachers can employ to create the DME friendly classroom and school.
For more information, please visit nasen Live.