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How are the individual learning needs of young children reflected in the range of educational provision? Taking as an example a particular area of need, discuss the merits and disadvantages of different educational provision, and critically reflect on the

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Introduction

This essay will look at how the individual learning needs of young children are reflected in today's education system, examining the continuum of provision within this system, looking at inclusion and the debate surrounding this issue. It will discuss the continuum of need, concentrating more specifically on the experience of children affected by Autistic Spectrum Disorder, in order to demonstrate and discuss the merits and disadvantages of the continuum of educational provision available, critically reflecting on the learning environment that would best meet the needs of this group. This essay will evaluate current policy and practice in mainstream and specialist provisions and the challenges and implications for early year's practitioners, examining how multi agency working and interaction between practitioners, children and families supports individual children's learning needs. It is important firstly, to define the terms 'continuum of need' and 'continuum of provision'. The former refers to the concept that special educational needs occupy a range of difficulties, from the minor and temporary to the profound and permanent and it is now increasingly accepted that the special educational needs of individual children may not remain static, but may change with growth, maturation and educational progress. Children, seemingly with the same difficulties, may occupy different points on the continuum of needs and may require different forms of provision to enable them to gain the greatest benefit from their education. These differences in provision for individual learning needs', can be referred to as a 'continuum of provision' and include mainstream, mainstream with specialist adjustments, co-located, comprising of both mainstream and specialist provision on the same site, and specialist settings, (Scottish Executive, 2008). Official recognition of the existence of a continuum of needs, incorporating mild, moderate, severe and profound needs, and provision required to meet these needs, came in the form of The Code of Practice and the Identification and Assessment of Special Educational Need (DfE, 1994) ...read more.

Middle

However, of this twenty per cent, only three per cent will have a statement (Coles and Richardson, 2005). The figure for children experiencing some form of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is estimated to be around one in a hundred, this translates to approximately 134,000 children. (Wing and Potter, 2008). Autism is a complex neurological developmental disorder that typically appears during the first three years of life. ASD is a continuum condition and describes individuals that fall onto a spectrum of symptoms and characteristics of Autism, ranging from mild to severe. Asperger's Syndrome is on the high functioning end of the spectrum. Children with ASD can exhibit any combination of behavioural characteristics in any degree of severity. Consequently, two children with the same diagnosis can be affected in very different ways. Some are able to live relatively 'everyday' lives while others will require a lifetime of specialist support. Children and adults with ASD experience difficulties in three main areas known as the triad of impairments, they are, difficulty with social communication, both verbal and non-verbal, difficulty with social understanding and interaction, and difficulty with imagination and flexible thinking (Sunfield, 2006). Social communication difficulties can manifest themselves in many forms on the Autistic Spectrum, some children with ASD may have no or very limited speech, preferring or relying on alternative means of communication themselves, such as signing or visual symbols. Others may have good language skills, but may have a very literal understanding of language, and can find it difficult to use or understand facial expressions, tone of voice, and metaphoric phrases. Socialisation is not a natural process for those with ASD, and difficulty recognising or understanding other people's emotions and feelings, and expressing their own is characteristic and poor social interaction skills can mean difficulties in forming friendships. Difficulties with social imagination can cause a lack of understanding and interpreting others thoughts, feelings and actions and an inability to engage in imaginative play. ...read more.

Conclusion

This view asserts that children should first be allowed to achieve in an environment where this is made possible, the special school, in order for them to make educational progress. The implications of a continuum of provision for children with ASD are quite complex, and like the inclusion debate it's self, the pendulum swings backwards and forwards. On one side, a continuum of provision provides wider choices for parents and children and a greater likelihood of satisfaction (Audit Commission, 2002), but may result in inconsistent practice and a lack of cohesive multi agency working. With the drive towards including as many children as possible into mainstream schools, comes the challenge of adequately providing for increasingly more complex and diverse needs of all children, and according to Paton (2008) teachers are finding it increasingly difficult to support children with special needs in mainstream primary schools with special schools sometimes being seen as standing outside of inclusion rather than being part of it. With the closure of many special schools, a 'u-turn' in inclusion policy, to provide more specialist provision, could be expensive, but no more expensive than continued investment in the current commitment. Finally, a reversal in government policy would also imply admission of failings in the resolute pursuance of the ideal of inclusion over the past three decades. To conclude, this essay has examined how the individual learning needs of young children are reflected in today's education system, the policy and legislation that has lead the way to current practice, and the debate surrounding inclusion. It has also discussed the continuum of needs and provision specifically relating to children affected by Autistic Spectrum Disorder, discussing the merits and disadvantages of provision available, and has critically reflected on the learning environment that would best meet the needs of this group. It has reflected on the implications of proving for individual learning needs within the continuum of provision, for practitioners and schools and also for current and future policy and practice. ...read more.

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