Summer-born children being wrongly classed as having special

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JIM CURRAN
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Summer-born children being wrongly classed as having special

Post by JIM CURRAN » Sun Dec 30, 2012 5:39 pm

Summer-born children being wrongly classed as having special needs
CHILDREN born in the summer are being wrongly classed as having special needs when they are just young for their school year, a major Government-backed study suggests.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/ed ... needs.html

elsiep
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Re: Summer-born children being wrongly classed as having special

Post by elsiep » Sun Dec 30, 2012 6:27 pm

Hmmm... there is some evidence that summer-born children are at increased risk of developmental disorders. It's suspected that because these children are conceived during the winter months, there is an increased risk of low maternal vitamin D levels and of maternal viral infection during the early months of development.

It's important to tease out the different possible causes for this phenomenon, because clearly if teachers aren't taking chronological age into account, that introduces needless complications.

I'm not at all clear what criteria schools use when deciding which children fall into the SEN category anyway. A lot of learning 'disabilities' fall on a continuum across the population.

elsie.

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Re: Summer-born children being wrongly classed as having special

Post by maizie » Sun Dec 30, 2012 7:09 pm

elsiep wrote:I'm not at all clear what criteria schools use when deciding which children fall into the SEN category anyway..
I'm not sure that many schools are, either! The whole area of SEN seems to be a murky muddle...

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Re: Summer-born children being wrongly classed as having special

Post by kenm » Mon Dec 31, 2012 10:27 am

elsiep wrote: A lot of learning 'disabilities' fall on a continuum across the population.
maizie wrote:The whole area of SEN seems to be a murky muddle...
For the reason that elsiep points out, the concept of division between those with and those without learning disabilities is unscientific; it should be considered a temporary fudge for the practical purposes of one-to-many teaching, until artificial intelligences are cheap enough for each student to have one dedicated to his/her education.
"... the innovator has as enemies all those who have done well under the old regime, and only lukewarm allies among those who may do well under the new." Niccolo Macchiavelli, "The Prince", Chapter 6

Rod Everson
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Re: Summer-born children being wrongly classed as having special

Post by Rod Everson » Sun Jan 06, 2013 7:13 pm

elsiep wrote:Hmmm... there is some evidence that summer-born children are at increased risk of developmental disorders. It's suspected that because these children are conceived during the winter months, there is an increased risk of low maternal vitamin D levels and of maternal viral infection during the early months of development.

elsie.
Hi Elsie,

Interesting that you bring up the possibility of a link to vitamin D3 deficiency. Several years ago I read a 2007 paper by Dr. John Cannell in which he theorized that the epidemic of autism we are now experiencing was due to the proliferation of medical advice to avoid direct sunlight that was first promulgated in 1989 in the U.S. His paper is very interesting and I'd bet that he's really onto something, especially given some of his interactions since with parents who've listened to his advice.

Anyway, as I've written here in the past, I've always felt there was more going on with poor readers than just missing phonics instruction, and in particular that many of them are dealing with undiagnosed binocular vision disorders. But, beyond the vision problems, so many of the kids I worked with (teaching them the phonics they'd missed, after vision therapy) also seemed to suffer from other developmental disorders (poor immune systems, very delayed speech, fine motor issues, etc.) that I began to wonder if dyslexia wasn't part of a broader spectrum of developmental disorders.

Pertaining to your remark about birth months, I looked back at my records and found a similar relationship to what you described. The page Vitamin D and Dyslexia on my website at OnTrack Reading discusses it, and also contains a link to Dr. Cannell's paper, one that I recommend anyone who is at all interested in autism should definitely read.

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Re: Summer-born children being wrongly classed as having special

Post by Rod Everson » Sun Jan 06, 2013 7:26 pm

I would add, somewhat cynically, that this is any government's response to a problem created by government (or at least by the authorities in charge.) That is, don't reverse the initial decision that caused the mess, but use the opportunity to place blame elsewhere and then add to the regulatory burden they already bear.

That is, the authorities created the autism epidemic (along with an epidemic of dyslexic, vision-challenged, disease-prone children who don't qualify as being on the autism spectrum) with the advice to avoid direct sunlight, and now they're blaming the burgeoning special ed problem on schools not sorting out the fact that they're taking on children 9 to 12 months younger than their peers and failing to realize that they're just younger, that's all.

Yet, schools have been doing exactly that (taking on all children born in a 12-month window) for over a century now. Why suddenly are they failing to categorize their students properly?

Rather than change the original advice, advice which likely caused the problem in the first place, they'll just load the schools down with more regulation as to who can and can't be classified as in need of special help, probably taking away the special help needed by those affected by their initial decision. (And, yes, my opinion of government "help" is normally that cynical.)

Rod

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Re: Summer-born children being wrongly classed as having special

Post by elsiep » Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:10 am

Rod Everson wrote:
elsiep wrote:Hmmm... there is some evidence that summer-born children are at increased risk of developmental disorders. It's suspected that because these children are conceived during the winter months, there is an increased risk of low maternal vitamin D levels and of maternal viral infection during the early months of development.

elsie.
Hi Elsie,

Interesting that you bring up the possibility of a link to vitamin D3 deficiency. Several years ago I read a 2007 paper by Dr. John Cannell in which he theorized that the epidemic of autism we are now experiencing was due to the proliferation of medical advice to avoid direct sunlight that was first promulgated in 1989 in the U.S. His paper is very interesting and I'd bet that he's really onto something, especially given some of his interactions since with parents who've listened to his advice.
Link didn't work and couldn't find Cannell's paper, unfortunately, but I have read Michael Holick's review paper in the NEJM http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra070553. Haven't been able to access the pdf for a while now, but it's worth looking out for if you can't get access via the NEJM website.

I think a more likely explanation for vitamin D3 deficiency is a change in lifestyle in the developed world over the past few decades - we spend less time outdoors than our predecessors did. Children certainly spend less time outdoors, although hats and suncream wouldn't help either.

I don't subscribe to the 'autism epidemic' idea personally, though I'm open to persuasion. Many children diagnosed with autism now simply wouldn't have been considered autistic between the 1940s and 1980s. I think two factors are involved in the 'epidemic'; one is the 'normalisation' of education. Schools and governments pre-occupied with national and international league tables have a vested interest in 'labelling' children whose performance is below the normal range, to prevent it skewing performance indicators. TIMMS dates back to 1995, PISA to 2000 and PIRLS to 2001, although it was preceded by literacy tests from the 1970s; educational league tables are a fairly recent phenomenon and have spawned an industry. The second factor is the increased circulation of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Developmental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association. Sales doubled between 1980 and 2000. Another industry, of course.
Anyway, as I've written here in the past, I've always felt there was more going on with poor readers than just missing phonics instruction, and in particular that many of them are dealing with undiagnosed binocular vision disorders. But, beyond the vision problems, so many of the kids I worked with (teaching them the phonics they'd missed, after vision therapy) also seemed to suffer from other developmental disorders (poor immune systems, very delayed speech, fine motor issues, etc.) that I began to wonder if dyslexia wasn't part of a broader spectrum of developmental disorders.
Agree completely. Unfortunately, if a disorder is diagnosed on the basis of behavioural symptoms, physical symptoms are often overlooked because they are considered part of the child's 'autism' or 'ADHD' or whatever.
Pertaining to your remark about birth months, I looked back at my records and found a similar relationship to what you described. The page Vitamin D and Dyslexia on my website at OnTrack Reading discusses it, and also contains a link to Dr. Cannell's paper, one that I recommend anyone who is at all interested in autism should definitely read.

Rod Everson

A refreshing change to come across a mention of visual disorders. I think it might be worth adding something about auditory processing problems. These are widespread across many developmental disorders. Can provide more info if you'd like.


Elsie

elsiep
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Re: Summer-born children being wrongly classed as having special

Post by elsiep » Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:14 am

Rod Everson wrote:I would add, somewhat cynically, that this is any government's response to a problem created by government (or at least by the authorities in charge.) That is, don't reverse the initial decision that caused the mess, but use the opportunity to place blame elsewhere and then add to the regulatory burden they already bear.

That is, the authorities created the autism epidemic (along with an epidemic of dyslexic, vision-challenged, disease-prone children who don't qualify as being on the autism spectrum) with the advice to avoid direct sunlight, and now they're blaming the burgeoning special ed problem on schools not sorting out the fact that they're taking on children 9 to 12 months younger than their peers and failing to realize that they're just younger, that's all.

Yet, schools have been doing exactly that (taking on all children born in a 12-month window) for over a century now. Why suddenly are they failing to categorize their students properly?

Rather than change the original advice, advice which likely caused the problem in the first place, they'll just load the schools down with more regulation as to who can and can't be classified as in need of special help, probably taking away the special help needed by those affected by their initial decision. (And, yes, my opinion of government "help" is normally that cynical.)

Rod
Absolutely. It's what John Seddon calls 'failure demand' - additional need for resources due to problems created solely by poor systems design. I've posted this link before and I'll doubtless post it again, because the video is well worth watching http://vimeo.com/11896519 (might look as if it's about hospitals but it's not - it's about educational targets).

elsie

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Re: Summer-born children being wrongly classed as having special

Post by Derrie Clark » Mon Jan 07, 2013 5:18 pm

I would add, somewhat cynically, that this is any government's response to a problem created by government (or at least by the authorities in charge.) That is, don't reverse the initial decision that caused the mess, but use the opportunity to place blame elsewhere and then add to the regulatory burden they already bear.
So very very true. Perhaps this is why they are going over to Academies and giving schools more 'freedom'?

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Re: Summer-born children being wrongly classed as having special

Post by Heather F » Mon Jan 07, 2013 10:58 pm

I fully see that having children a full year apart in age in the same cohort causes problems but the last posts seem to be implying this is due to crass decision making by governments of the past. I've never come across a good solution to this problem.

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Re: Summer-born children being wrongly classed as having special

Post by elsiep » Tue Jan 08, 2013 5:19 am

Heather F wrote:I fully see that having children a full year apart in age in the same cohort causes problems but the last posts seem to be implying this is due to crass decision making by governments of the past. I've never come across a good solution to this problem.
The solution is called 'teacher training'.


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Re: Summer-born children being wrongly classed as having special

Post by Heather F » Tue Jan 08, 2013 6:04 pm

Ah, I thought the discussion was about the problem of the achievement gap itself. Yes perhaps that would solve some of the problem of children being labelled wrongly.

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Re: Summer-born children being wrongly classed as having special

Post by Rod Everson » Fri Jan 18, 2013 6:35 am

elsiep wrote:
Link didn't work and couldn't find Cannell's paper, unfortunately, but I have read Michael Holick's review paper in the NEJM http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra070553. Haven't been able to access the pdf for a while now, but it's worth looking out for if you can't get access via the NEJM website.

I think a more likely explanation for vitamin D3 deficiency is a change in lifestyle in the developed world over the past few decades - we spend less time outdoors than our predecessors did. Children certainly spend less time outdoors, although hats and suncream wouldn't help either.

I don't subscribe to the 'autism epidemic' idea personally, though I'm open to persuasion. Many children diagnosed with autism now simply wouldn't have been considered autistic between the 1940s and 1980s.
Elsie
Hi Elsie,

First, I apologize, but I lost track of this thread and didn't realize you'd commented on the inoperable link at my site to Dr. Cannell's paper. I fixed it, so you should be able to get to it now. In fact, here's a direct link to his page. (When you get there you have to click the additional link under his picture.)

As for the Vitamin D3 linkage, Dr. Cannell makes a pretty convincing case that the specific recommendation by pediatricians that pregnant women should avoid direct sunlight, and should also keep their babies out of direct sunlight, promulgated in 1989, was what set off the autism epidemic. And yes, I do believe we have an epidemic on our hands. I'm on a local school board, and have been since 1989. When I got on the board, sure we had kids considered dyslexic and ADD, but no children considered autistic. Now we have several (in a school of less than 1,000), some of whom require nearly full-time aides to deal with their issues. This simply wasn't the case 20 years ago.

The reason I think Dr. Cannell is correct in his assertion is that expectant mothers are the one group of "patients" who are most likely to closely follow a doctor's recommendations. A doctor can tell us to change a bad habit until he's blue in the face, but tell a pregnant woman that she needs to do something for the future health of her first child, and there's an excellent chance that the advice will be followed. (And I speak as a grandparent who has had a devil of a time convincing my kids to let their kids get some direct sunshine without having to be lathered in sunscreen first because of that very same advice.)

But what I really like about Dr. Cannell's explanation of autism is that he diligently tackles each of the reasons others give for the rising incidence, explaining how each of those reasons is subsumed by his theory. His paper is well worth reading. (Again, I apologize for being so late with the corrected link.)

Incidentally, I was also intrigued by a comment someone made to one of his articles, a comment that served to tie together the fish oil studies that showed reading improvement, Dr. Cannell's vitamin D theory of autism, and my own theory that a rising incidence of dyslexia could also be due to the vitamin D3 deficiency that has become widespread only recently. That gentleman pointed out that both vitamin D3 and the Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids in fish oil are strong inhibitors of an enzyme (5-LO, or 5-lipoxygenase) that is capable of causing many of the problems currently being associated with a vitamin D3 deficiency, including autoimmune diseases. I realize this last comment is even more "out of left field" than much of what I write, but I suspect there's something to it and that we'll figure it out eventually. Incidentally, I know nothing about enzymes, including that particular one, so, fair warning.

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Re: Summer-born children being wrongly classed as having special

Post by Rod Everson » Fri Jan 18, 2013 6:51 am

elsiep wrote: A refreshing change to come across a mention of visual disorders. I think it might be worth adding something about auditory processing problems. These are widespread across many developmental disorders. Can provide more info if you'd like.

Elsie
Regarding auditory processing problems, yes, if you have a specific recommendation on reading material, I'd like to take a look at it. I'm sort of in the same position on auditory issues as you appear to be on autism. That is, I tend to think they're oversold.

Here's my reasoning (and I'm open to reconsidering it, by the way): I worked with nearly 200 kids one-on-one, over a decade, and a good 50% of them would have qualified as dyslexic, though in retrospect most of them also failed developmental vision exams. With each of those 200 kids, I administered the blending, segmenting, and phoneme deletion tests I lay out on my website. And yes, many of those kids did not score well initially on those tests. However, I really only worked with one or two kids out of the entire bunch who didn't score perfect scores on all three tests within a month or so of starting lessons with me. I think they just needed the practice and the exposure; it wasn't an innate inability to blend, or to manipulate phonemes. They'd just never been trained to do it. If it was an innate inability (like vision problems, for example, most certainly are), then the minimal training that I did in those areas surely wouldn't have sufficed to correct the issues.

I know there are auditory programs out there, and I do suspect there's something to them, at least in some cases. Perhaps the auditory issues lie behind the fluency problems that would persist with some even after vision issues and phonics issues had been addressed?

For years though, the reading research was geared to the sort of "phonological deficits" indicated by blending, segmenting, and phoneme manipulation testing. This was done to the point of excluding all other explanations, and especially the vision skills explanation that I think is central to the issue of "dyslexia," and I believe that attitude was injurious to the very people it was designed to help. I say this because I now know that I could teach almost any child to blend, segment, and manipulate phonemes flawlessly, but as long as their vision problems went unaddressed, they would struggle to read.

So, that's where I'm coming from, but I'd like to read more on the matter. I concede on my website that I know very little about the auditory issues (other than the ones I discussed above.)

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Re: Summer-born children being wrongly classed as having special

Post by maizie » Fri Jan 18, 2013 11:19 am

Rod Everson wrote:Here's my reasoning (and I'm open to reconsidering it, by the way): I worked with nearly 200 kids one-on-one, over a decade, and a good 50% of them would have qualified as dyslexic, though in retrospect most of them also failed developmental vision exams. With each of those 200 kids, I administered the blending, segmenting, and phoneme deletion tests I lay out on my website. And yes, many of those kids did not score well initially on those tests. However, I really only worked with one or two kids out of the entire bunch who didn't score perfect scores on all three tests within a month or so of starting lessons with me. I think they just needed the practice and the exposure; it wasn't an innate inability to blend, or to manipulate phonemes. They'd just never been trained to do it. If it was an innate inability (like vision problems, for example, most certainly are), then the minimal training that I did in those areas surely wouldn't have sufficed to correct the issues.
This is what many of us have been saying for quite some time; phoneme manipulation is taught, not innate.

This interim report on an Australian study seems to confirm this:

http://www.speld-sa.org.au/images/Artic ... 202012.pdf
The pre-test used to assess students at the beginning of this study was a school entry level test known as SPAT-SE which is a version of the Sutherland Phonological Awareness Test (SPAT) developed by Neilsen (2010).
The purpose of the pre-test was two-fold:
1. To establish whether the 2010 cohort is representative of the wider population. If not, any positive results from the Waddington tests might in part be attributable to the particular student sample.
2. To provide a baseline measurement of skills known to predict achievement in literacy. This would enable the researchers to identify any relationships between students’ skills at school entry and subsequent reading and spelling scores.
>
>
>
Subtests of the SPAT-SE pre-test as good predictors of Waddington results
(text & table omitted)

It can be concluded that none of the pre-test scores were useful in predicting the scores obtained in the Waddington tests at the end of Reception or Year 1.
I have a feeeling that 'dyslexia' might be more usefully associated with Rapid Automatic Naming (RAN) deficits. Maryanne Wolf touches on this in Proust and The Squid, it would seem to correlate with Wimmer's charctarisation of German speaking 'dyslexics' as slow readers and in my own experience the children who have the greatest difficulty are those who find it hard to learn letter/sound correspondences to automaticity. Of course, memory is also implicated. I have not yet encountered a child who had no phonemic awareness, even after instruction.

This isn't saying that there are no other causes of reading difficulties, I just suspect that 'other causes' are quite rare in relation to the population as a whole.

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