Tag Archive for: SEN

Rough Guide to Dyscalculia

Dyscalculia is a brain-related learning difficulty that affects both children and adultsToday, we look at another condition that can affect children: dyscalculia. This is a brain-related learning difficulty that affects both children and adults. Somewhere between 3 and 6 percent of the UK population is affected and some may also have other conditions like dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism. It’s important to know that the condition can affect individuals who are highly intelligent just as much as it affects those anywhere else on the intelligence spectrum. There is no cure for dyscalculia but there are lots of ways to help those with the condition (we’ll come to some of those later). It’s also important to know that, while children with dyscalculia may have issues with numbers, they can often have wonderful skills in other areas, for example in relation to creativity, problem-solving and intuition.

N.B. For clarification, we will look at developmental dyscalculia here, not the type of dyscalculia caused by brain injury or stroke.

The Effects of Dyscalculia

A simple dictionary definition of the condition defines dyscalculia as “severe difficulty in making arithmetical calculations, as a result of brain disorder.” That is rather simplistic, however. The UK’s Dyslexia Association1 describes it in greater detail:

“Dyscalculia is a condition that affects the ability to acquire arithmetical skills. Dyscalculic learners may have difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers, and have problems learning number facts and procedures.”

Those with developmental dyscalculia have problems making sense of numbers, memorising arithmetic facts and making fluent and accurate maths calculations.The Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), as used by psychiatric professionals in the U.S., describes how those with developmental dyscalculia have problems making sense of numbers, memorising arithmetic facts and making fluent and accurate maths calculations. Clearly, such limitations can have a profound effect, including in terms of education because maths affects so many learning topics.

Signs of Dyscalculia in Children

Due to the nature of the problem, signs of dyscalculia are unlikely to become evident until a child reaches an age when they begin to learn about numbers and mathematical concepts. Once they start, however, dyscalculic children may show one or more of the following signs:

  • They may have trouble processing and understanding number concepts and, because of this, they will find it difficult to build their own skills around numeracy.
  • Difficulties might include confusion over whether one number is greater or smaller than another and even something as simple as understanding the link between, say, a quantity of three apples and the number 3. Even the link between the number 3 and the word ‘three’ could be lost on them.
  • At pre-school age, counting correctly may prove to be quite a challenge, how it applies to everyday life even more so.
  • Even the concept of what the numbers represent may be an issue.
  • Memory skills may also be affected.
  • Those with the condition may be more prone to continue using their fingers to countThey may be more prone to continue using their fingers to count, long after their peers have moved onto mental arithmetic.
  • ‘Number facts’ will not come easily to children with dyscalculia, including perhaps simple ones like two plus two.
  • Mathematical concepts like addition and subtraction (etc.) will be even more of a challenge.
  • Games and other tasks involving numbers will prove difficult. For example, keeping score in a ball game.
  • Because of all of this, children with dyscalculia may even avoid games and tasks involving numbers. The condition may cause them to have decreased self-confidence; they may become embarrassed around their peers because of their difficulties.
  • As they grow older, understanding and managing money may also become a problem.

Perhaps surprisingly, some dyscalculic children also have difficulty with a sense of direction. This could manifest itself in something as simple as a board game where they cannot grasp the rules around whether, say, a particular chess piece can move to a particular spot on the board. Similarly, some children are poorer than expected at judging distances and coordination. A link between dyscalculia and the way the brain and eyesight work together may be behind this.

Is your child exhibiting any of these symptoms?

If so, don’t automatically assume they have dyscalculia, as something entirely different could well be responsible. If you are concerned, though, speak to a doctor who may refer your child to an educational psychologist, paediatrician or other professional. Bear in mind, though, that there is no de-facto test for dyscalculia. Professional research into the condition is at only a relatively early stage.

How Dyscalculic Children Can be Helped

Speak to the childcare and teaching professionals at your childcare nursery, pre-school, school or education settingAlso, of course, speak to the childcare and teaching professionals at your childcare nursery, pre-school, school or education setting. Just like staff at Treetops Nursery, they will be able to offer some support and also keep an eye out for possible signs. It’s always important for parents and childcare/teaching professionals to be in close contact anyway. In this way, we can all have the same goals in mind, share the same learning and development plans and keep each other informed as each child progresses on their learning journey.

There are many ways children with dyscalculia can be helped. For example:

  • We can give dyscalculic children more time to complete tasks involving numbers. Giving them advanced information and assistance about such tasks will help too.
  • One-to-one help will be the most beneficial as explanations can be deeper, taken at a slower pace and repeated if required.
  • We can all give them lots of practise to build skills and confidence.
  • Larger tasks and problems involving numbers can be broken down into a series of smaller steps and tackled one at a time.
  • Visual reference can help. For example printed multiplication tables.
  • When mental arithmetic is not necessary for a task, let them use a calculator if they’re at an appropriate age for such things.
  • Important words and terms can be highlighted on any printed maths-related task. Doing so can help the dyscalculic child understand more clearly and know where to focus the most attention.
  • Special teaching strategies can help, for example using a multi-sensory approach, special tools or softwareUse of lined or graph paper can sometimes help too, so as to keep corresponding numbers in line and steps more clear.
  • Introducing special teaching strategies can help, for example using a multi-sensory approach or using special tools and software.
  • More than anything, though, it’s about catering to each child’s unique needs, including any Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). At Treetops Nursery, we excel at this with a learning and development programme that’s tailored for each individual. Using this approach brings out the very best in every child.

Looking for the Best Nursery in Willesden, or near Harlesden, Kensal Green or Willesden Green?

Treetops Nursery, Willesden, near Harlesden, Kensal Green and Willesden GreenTreetops is an outstanding nursery based in Willesden, close to Harlesden, Kensal Green and Willesden Green. If you have a baby or child aged up to five, do consider us for your weekday childcare. Due to the popularity of our nursery and pre-school, places are in high demand. So, to avoid possible disappointment, let us know as soon as possible if you are considering a nursery place here for your child:

Dyspraxia: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the Disorder

Most people have heard of dyslexia, however the disorder known as dyspraxia is less well known. If you are a parent with children, dyspraxia is something to be aware of, so that you can look out for the possible signs. Today we’ll answer commonly asked questions about the disorder.

Q: What is Dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia is a condition that impairs a person's ability to fully control motor functions, for example coordinating movement and physical activity.A: Dyspraxia is a condition that impairs a person’s ability to fully control motor functions, for example coordinating movement and physical activity. Children with dyspraxia may therefore appear ‘clumsy’. It can be anything from mild to more severe and obviously the mildest variety is hardest for parents to spot. Dyspraxia is classified as a type of Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (‘DCD’) and indeed healthcare professionals may use this terminology for the condition. They may also refer to it as a Specific Developmental Disorder of Motor Function, or ‘SDDMF’ for short.

The condition affects four times as many males as it does females and can also sometimes be found in those with ADHD, dyslexia and autism. However, as with dyslexia, dyspraxia has nothing to do with the level of a person’s intelligence.

Q: What Causes Dyspraxia?

Children with dyspraxia may appear to be clumsy.A: Dyspraxia can be something people were simply born with (that’s the developmental kind) or, for others, it was acquired through brain trauma, for example because of an injury or stroke. In this post, however, we’ll concentrate on developmental dyspraxia in relation to children.

The reasons for developmental dyspraxia are unclear, however children who were born prematurely or underweight are more prone to the disorder. There is also some evidence to suggest that it can be inherited within families who are prone to the condition. Sadly, children are also more likely to have the disorder if their mothers drank alcohol or took illegal drugs during pregnancy.

Q: What Are the Signs of Dyspraxia?

A: Children with dyspraxia may appear clumsier than their peers. They may also be less naturally good at sport and indeed may even avoid it. Picking up other skills may also be a challenge. Concentration and attention spans can be adversely affected. Following instructions can be a challenge.

Babies may exhibit unusual body positions and have trouble learning to roll or sit. Toddlers under one may adopt strange postures. Infants may be slower at learning to crawl too.

Children with dyspraxia have difficulty with a variety of physical tasks and activities.Children with dyspraxia may also have difficulty:

  • independently dressing, buttoning clothes and tying laces;
  • walking, jumping, skipping and running;
  • using writing instruments to draw and write;
  • mastering the use of cutlery to feed themselves;
  • catching, kicking and throwing balls;
  • stacking objects and playing with some toys;
  • carrying out everyday physical tasks and activities in the most appropriate order.

All of this is because they are less able to coordinate movements and physical actions as well as they would without the condition.

One knock-on effect of this is that they may not reach their development milestones as soon as others in their age group. Indeed, this can be an indicator to watch out for. However, DCD/dyspraxia is often hard to diagnose until children are at least 4 to 5 years of age.

Q: What Are the Knock-On Effects of Dyspraxia?

The posture of toddlers may be odd if they have DCD/dyspraxia.A: Due to its nature and particularly in regard to its negative effect on sports and active play skills, dyspraxia can lead to children becoming less naturally fit, with all the ramifications that brings.

The effects of dyspraxia can also make children less able to make new friends. This may make them feel a bit left out, ‘different‘ and therefore feel rather isolated. This can, in turn, also lead to lower self-esteem, reduced confidence, frustration and even behavioural problems.

Q: How is Dyspraxia Professionally Diagnosed?

A: If you think your child may be dyspraxic, contact your GP to ensure the problem is not caused by something entirely different. Also liaise with the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (‘SENCo’) at your child’s childcare setting, pre-school or school, for advice and support. The GP or SENCo may refer your child to a specialist healthcare professional, for example an occupational therapist and/or paediatrician. Assessment and diagnosis is often carried out by both. Learn more about diagnosing dyspraxia and DCD in children here.

Q: Is there a Cure for Dyspraxia?

A: Although a tiny number of children who are deemed to be a little clumsy may grow out of it, there is no cure for dyspraxia for the vast majority. Some children’s challenges will improve with age, however the earlier symptoms are spotted, the sooner parents, carers, guardians and professionals can help the affected child.

Q: How Can We Help Children with Dyspraxia?

Once diagnosed, tailored help is available for children with dyspraxia/DCD.A: Once diagnosed, tailored help is available for children with dyspraxia/DCD, from a variety of specialists. Support may be needed throughout childhood, including at pre-school and school, to help optimise ability around physical tasks and processes. As every child’s challenges will be unique, a support plan will be customised for each. Support may involve a variety of professionals who will aim to help the child overcome their difficulties as far as possible and to build their confidence, self-esteem, abilities etc. The specialists involved may include paediatric occupational therapists, paediatricians, clinical psychologists, educational psychologists or a mixture of several. All will work in tandem, of course, with childcare professionals, teachers, parents and guardians. Learn more about treatment for dyspraxia here.

Q: How Does Treetops Nursery Help Dyspraxic Children?

A: As well as looking out for possible first signs of dyspraxia/DCD — and any other disorder — we will work with any specialists to play our part in any tailored support plans for affected children under our care. This may involve task- and process-oriented activities to help children overcome difficulties. As well as working with any guidance from the specialists it will, of course, involve strategic cooperation with parents, carers or guardians involved in the child’s care. In this way, everyone will be working to the same aims, using the same, shared support plans. Our Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator (‘SENCo’) will also be a crucial part of formulating this plan and, indeed, one of their key roles is to promote equality of opportunity irrespective of any special educational needs or disorders (‘SEND’). In ensuring this, every child achieves personal bests in every area, becoming the very best version of themselves.

Looking for Outstanding Nurseries in Willesden, Near Harlesden, Kensal Green or Willesden Green?

Treetops Nursery, Willesden, near Harlesden, Kensal Green and Willesden GreenTreetops Nursery School is a popular nursery and pre-school in Willesden, NW10 (near Harlesden, Kensal Green and Willesden Green). We offer outstanding childcare for babies and children aged up to 5, Monday to Friday. To express an interest, ask a question, book a tour or pre-register for a place, please get in touch:

Dyslexia Q&A: Answers to frequently asked questions about the condition

Today we’re looking at the dyslexia, particularly in relation to its affect on children, including under-fives. Following are the answers to a series of the most commonly asked questions about the condition.

Q: What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is categorised as a Specific Learning Difficulty ('SpLD')A: Dyslexia is categorised as a Specific Learning Difficulty (‘SpLD’) in the UK. Most notably, it adversely affects a person’s ability to read because of a general difficulty in learning or interpreting letters, words, and often other symbols. Indeed, it was originally referred to as word blindness. There are other ways dyslexia affects people, though, and we’ll come to those in more detail later.

Q: What Causes Dyslexia?

A: The exact cause of dyslexia is unknown, however it tends to run in families, so is most likely to be a genetic issue, i.e. passed down through parents’ genes. It affects the way the brain processes language and this can even be seen brain imaging tests.

Q: Can You Become Dyslexic, or Grow Out of It?

Most notably, dyslexia affects a person's ability to read or interpret letters, words, and often other symbols.A: As it’s a genetic issue, people are born with the condition. Symptoms may begin to show as a child matures during early learning and beyond. As it is something that’s inherent in their physiology, it is not something people can ‘grow out’ of. It is a lifelong issue. It can be managed, of course, with various approaches available to mitigate its effects as far as possible.

Q: Is Dyslexia Linked With Intelligence?

A: No. There is no recognised link between a person’s intelligence and dyslexia. Many dyslexic children are indeed highly intelligent, even gifted in some areas, but sufferers cover the whole range of the intelligence spectrum.

Q: What Are the Early Signs of Possible Dyslexia?

A: Early signs of possible dyslexia may include the following:

  • Someone with dyslexia may describe written letters and words as ‘jumbling up’ or even visibly moving so as to totally confuse their meaning.
  • This often extends to more than just reading, though; some dyslexic children also jumble up words when speaking out loud. This difficulty can impede the speed and depth of their overall speech development.
  • Dyslexic children may be great at answering questions verbally, but poor when asked to do so in writing.They may also have trouble remembering words.
  • Dyslexic children will find learning the alphabet tricky. Because of this, they will not seem interested in attempting to do so and will also have difficulty with writing and spelling.
  • Pronunciation may also be affected. Dyslexic people may switch around syllables without realising. For example, they might say ‘topato’ instead of ‘potato’ and so on.
  • The concept of words rhyming may be lost on dyslexic children. So, they may even have trouble learning simple nursery rhymes.
  • Dyslexia can even affect the speed that children develop fine motor skills. Interestingly, this can extend to difficulty tapping out a regular rhythm on a drum or other percussive instrument.
  • Dyslexic children may also have trouble remembering the order of things like days of the week, number facts (2 plus 2 equals 4 etc.).
  • Taking this a step further, dyslexic children may find following a string of multiple-step instructions tricky to remember. If given in separate instructions one at a time, however, there is no problem.
  • Dyslexic children may also be great at answering questions verbally in class, but poor when asked to do so in written form.

However, just because a child exhibits any of the above symptoms, it does not necessarily mean they are dyslexic. It should also be noted that symptoms of dyslexia vary enormously from person to person. Only a proper test, by a professional, will ensure a correct diagnosis. We’ll come to that later.

Q: How Else Will Dyslexia Affect My Child?

Dyslexia can cause difficulty in writing, spelling, with grammar and even with spoken communication.A: Being unable to easily read will hold children back. If they have trouble reading, they will have trouble reading text books for any of the topics at school. Some classroom and test situations will become more stressful for them as a result.

Difficulty writing, spelling and with grammar will also hold them back and may even make them stand out amongst their peers at school. This could make them feel inferior, even if they’re highly intelligent, and in turn lead to lower self-image and self-confidence.

Such impacts can sometimes also go on to affect whether a dyslexic person later goes on to study in further education. Possible lower grades and degraded communication skills could then go on to impact their life in the workplace once they become adults. As such, dyslexia can be a real vicious circle unless mitigated.

Q: Can Dyslexia Affect Mathematics?

A: Yes it can. Indeed, estimates suggest that up to 90% of dyslexic children have some kind of problem with maths. Because numbers are characters just like letters, they too can get jumbled from the perspective of the dyslexic child. Memorising number facts can also be problematic. This can all make mathematical tasks extremely difficult for some, but by no means all, of those affected by the condition.

Q: How Can Children with Dyslexia be Helped?

A: There are many ways that early years, teaching and other professionals can help children with dyslexia; in fact there is a whole raft of possible measures available. A few examples include:

  • One-to-one help from a teacher, teaching assistant, parent or specialist can really help dyslexic children.One-to-one help from a teacher, teaching assistant or specialist;
  • Allowing extra time to take notes and complete tasks;
  • A system of teaching that might include multiple senses (e.g. sight, touch and hearing together);
  • A different structure to learning and lesson plans, with instant feedback from the supervising adult;
  • Modification of assignments to allow for the difficulties associated with dyslexia;
  • Simple measures like ensuring that a school child has correctly written down sufficient notes for an assignment, before they leave the lesson;
  • Breaking larger tasks down into a set of individual single tasks, to make them easier to follow;
  • Encouraging a child to verbalise is also sometimes fruitful, including for mathematical tasks.
  • Concentrating on phonic skills in a highly structured way, using small, methodical steps;
  • Repetition is also important;
  • Reading together, particularly when it’s fun rather than a chore;
  • Any external dyslexia therapist/professional should also try to work in tandem with nursery, pre-school or school setting professionals.
  • Other possible help can come in the form of audio recordings, audio books, computer text readers and word processing programmes.

These represent just a fraction of the ways in which adults can help children with dyslexia. Special Educational Needs (SEN) support at early years settings and schools, however, is key, particularly if introduced from a young age.

Q: How Can Nurseries Like Treetops Help Dyslexic Children?

A special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCo) can recommend measures or interventions that may help a child with dyslexia.A: Childcare professionals will be on the look-out for any signs of possible dyslexia (see the list of possible signs earlier in this article). Parents can do the same and, because the condition is thought to be inherited, this is particularly important if one or more of the child’s parents is dyslexic. Signs can be hard to spot, but the earlier the condition is recognised, the sooner the child can be helped. If any signs of possible dyslexia are suspected, supervising adults and childcare professionals can initially monitor the child’s progress going forwards. They can also assess the child against benchmarks for the same age or peer group in case it’s just a temporary blip in their learning progress.

Individual support from childcare and teaching professionals at nursery, pre-school or school can be given where a child is thought to be struggling and dyslexia is suspected. A special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCo) at the setting can recommend any measures or interventions that may help the child. An alternative teaching approach can be a part of that if required for the individual. Often, however, the symptoms of dyslexia are not so obvious until children are older i.e. are attending school and reading/writing significantly more.

Q: How Can Dyslexia be Properly Diagnosed?

A: If the presence of dyslexia is unclear, parents can consult with a GP to ensure the problem is not caused by something else, e.g. poor eyesight, ADHD or some other condition. Once dyslexia is strongly suspected, an in-depth professional assessment can be arranged to discover whether dyslexia really is the issue. Learn more about how a professional dyslexia assessment can be arranged here.

An Outstanding Nursery in Willesden, Near Harlesden & Kensal Green

Treetops Nursery, Willesden, near Harlesden, Kensal Green and Willesden GreenIf you live or work in north west London and have any concerns about your under-five’s learning and development, Treetops Nursery School would be happy to discuss your child’s needs and possible attendance at this excellent nursery. We are one of the most popular nurseries/pre-schools in Willesden, near Willesden Green, Harlesden and Kensal Green. We certainly bring out the very best in children under our care and also have wonderful facilities. For these reasons, the nursery is in very high demand, so do express an interest at the earliest opportunity if you are thinking of applying for a childcare place here: