Gifted and talented (G&T) pupils are entitled to 'differential provision' to ensure they achieve their potential. BSA education officer Cherry Hughes feels that schools may be failing to spot when a child who stammers is G&T.
A major concern that runs through all my work on stammering in education is that children and adults who stammer are frequently a subject of prejudice even by professionals, and there is some research on this to back that up. Consequently I always fear that teachers will underestimate the ability of children who stammer (CWS). I believe that generally our children can have their ability overlooked because there is so much emphasis now on oracy. Assessment in the classroom frequently begins with that skill, and stammering speech may adversely influence a teacher's judgements.
Assessment in the classroom frequently begins with oracy, and stammering speech may adversely influence a teacher's judgements.
Failure to identify?
The Department for Education (DfE) figure of G&T children averages out at about 11% overall of the school population in England. CWS who do not have other more complex needs, such as Downs Syndrome, have the same range of abilities and personality traits as non-stammering children. It would be logical to infer that within our population of school children who stammer there would be the same proportion of G&T children. My only knowledge here is anecdotal but in the 13 years I have been at the BSA, I have never come across a parent or teacher telling me that a CWS was identified as gifted or even exceptionally able. Is this a general picture? National statistics only provide overall figures; they do not break them down other than by gender so we have no evidence to offer.
If CWS with high potential are not being identified, as I suspect is the case, then it could arise from the process of identification. This depends very considerably upon the possession of the exceptional speech and language skills that would impress a teacher at the pre-school or primary stage when ideally identification should take place. That is not helpful when a child is unable to say what s/he wants to say, and can lead to his ability being overlooked. In the resource for parents that I am currently working on, there will be detailed advice on how to make some judgement on one's own child and how to approach the school aware of one's entitlement to identification and support if a child is gifted. In the meantime, a useful starting point is the website of The National Association for Gifted Children: www.nagcbritain.org.uk
Parents also need to make sure that their child's potential is being measured against his attainment. Schools are supposed to do this, but it is time consuming and standards can slip.
Attitudes to children with SLCN
It worries me that in the literature that I have read on this subject, the question of children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) achieving their potential is never made. Emphasis is on achieving basic language skills (functional language), so that the child can cope practically with his world.
I regret this tendency to consider only functional language capacity for SLCN children including ours, whether in speech or writing, as the main goal of intervention in schools.
I regret this tendency to consider only functional language capacity for SLCN children including ours, whether in speech or writing, as the main goal of intervention in schools. I continually urge parents and teachers to consider the need for all children to be given a rich language experience and have written about this frequently. A recent survey demonstrated that a child's academic achievement is directly positively affected by access to good reading material. I believe that this is especially important for our children, because if they have the imaginative language to make sense of their world, to explore diverse experiences through literature and the arts, not only will their lives be enriched but they will be able to develop the thinking capacity to work through and understand the complex emotions that stammering generates, and find it easier to engage in their own speech management programme. Language is also the key to learning and achieving all that they are capable of.
Our children have the same right to differential support that would allow them to access the curricular opportunities and development that maximise their potential. A stammer must not be allowed to mask the child's level of potential. Parents who have concerns that their child's G&T needs have not been identified should take this up with the school. We should expect as many of our children to be identified as G&T as in the non-stammering population.
Cherry can be contacted on tel 01606 77374 or firstname.lastname@example.org