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Achievement for All (AfA)
The Achievement for All (AfA) programme is a tailored school improvement framework, delivered in partnership with leaders, teachers, pupils and support professionals. It aims to raise the aspirations, access and achievement of pupils identified as having SEND. The programme was launched with a two-year pilot over the 2009/10 and 2010/11 academic years and is run by the charity Achievement for All 3As in a public-private partnership with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), with the support of the DfE.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a developmental disorder with behavioural symptoms that include a short attention span, restlessness, being easily distracted, and constant fidgeting. Many children with ADHD also have other difficulties such as learning difficulties. ADHD can be helped by medication and educational and social interventions. Between 3 and 9% of school-aged children are thought to have ADHD in the UK.
Alphabetic principle
This is the concept that letters each represent speech sounds of language and are systematic and constant. Combinations of letters, or words, also have predictable relationships with their speech sounds. The alphabetic principle is acquired when a beginner reader understands that letters can be mapped onto sounds in a regular way.
Assessment framework
An assessment framework assesses whether a child has special needs and identifies what they are. The framework is a system for collecting and analysing information about the pupil in question, typically integrating input from different sources such as teachers and parents.
Autism spectrum
The Autism Spectrum is a term that is meant to capture the wide variability of characteristics of people that have been diagnosed as autistic. It includes people with very different patterns of behaviour.
Autism Triad
This refers to the triad of difficulties often associated with those diagnosed with autism: social understanding and relating, social communication, and imagination and flexibility of thought.


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Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are part of the NHS and specialise in providing help and treatment for children and young people with emotional, behavioural and mental health difficulties.
Choice board
This is a visual tool which gives an individual two or more possible choices that can be expressed using pictures, photographs, symbols or written text. The choice board allows the child time to look at all the possibilities before they make a decision. The idea is that the visual display of options supports the comprehension of the choice.
Circle of Friends groups
The Circle of Friends approach can be an effective way of providing peer support for pupils who are socially isolated. It involves bringing together a group of volunteers who agree to meet on a regular basis (usually once a week), to explore with a pupil with autism the key areas in which the group may be able to offer that pupil guidance and support. The group members decide on targets and means of supporting the ‘focus’ pupil. You can learn more about Circle of Friends groups on the National Autistic Society website.
This term describes the presence of one or more disorders occurring in addition to the primary disorder. There is often a pattern of comorbidity where two disorders are frequently found together.
Connective words
Connective words are used as transitions between clauses to avoid run-on sentences. Examples include ‘so’, ‘but’, ‘since’, and ‘because’.


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The name of the Department for Education has changed a number of times since the 1960s. Where the action of a department that preceded the DfE is referred to in the materials, the acronym for that department’s name is used. When you hover your cursor over the acronym, the full version will be displayed.


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Emotional competencies
According to Goleman (1996), there are five emotional competencies, which are crucial to social and emotional development: awareness of self and others, mood management, self-motivation, empathy, and management of relationships.
Emotional regulation
This is the capacity to self-monitor levels of physical arousal and emotional states in terms of self-regulation and mutual regulation.


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A grapheme can be any symbol in a language’s writing system. This includes letters and punctuation marks. It is the smallest unit in written language and carries no meaning on its own; but when they are added to each other, graphemes form words.


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Higher-order thinking
Higher-order thinking is a process which involves more complex cognitive abilities, including critical thinking and problem-solving skills. These skills are highly generalisable, which is why they are important to acquire, as they allow the learner to apply concepts learned in one context to another.


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I CAN is a charity which aims to ensure that no child who struggles with communication is excluded or left behind. It trains teachers to help children with SLCN, develops programmes and interventions to support those children, conducts assessments to help identify pupils’ SLCN, and runs two special schools.
An intervention is the implementation of a therapy or technique to change behaviour.
Irregular words
Irregular words are those in which one or more letters do not represent their most common sounds, as opposed to regular words, in which each letter or combination of letters refers to its most common sound. Irregular words are difficult to sound out and must be remembered.


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Joint attention
Joint attention is a skill that allows young children to communicate and learn new things by following the gaze of others and by using eye contact to communicate what they want. Joint attention is essential for cognitive skills such as social referencing, language acquisition and learning through modelling the behaviours of others around you.


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Lesson study
Lesson study is a process of observation and planning that’s designed to help teachers and others in schools develop lessons and innovate new practices in order to solve classroom problems and improve the quality of teaching, learning and achievement.


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Miscue analysis/running record
A miscue analysis is a way of discovering what is causing reading difficulties. The teacher should keep a careful record of a pupil reading a piece of text aloud, and then analyse the errors to drive intervention.
Molecular genetics
Molecular genetics is the study of genes at a molecular level, with focus on how genes are passed from one generation to the next.
Typical individuals are able to divide and shift attention and multi-task. Those on the autism spectrum, however, are more likely to be monotropic – much less able to divide and shift their attention and likely to be very focused on a single activity or interest.
A morpheme is the smallest semantically meaningful unit in a language. It is not the same as a word because, while a word stands alone, morphemes often don’t. For example, in the word, ‘dogs’, ‘dog’ is a free morpheme that can stand on its own, but ‘s’ is a bound morpheme that cannot.


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Phonemes are units of sound that make up words, formed by either single or multiple letters. These should not be confused with syllables, which may contain more than one phoneme. For example ‘teacher’ consists of two syllables but four phonemes: /t/ /ea/ /ch/ /er/.
This is the term used to describe how typically developing individuals use and divide their attention, with the ability to multi-task and pay a moderate amount of attention to several interests at once.
Pragmatic language skills
According to Hyter (2003): “Pragmatic language includes the ability to use one’s knowledge of language meaning and structure in socially appropriate ways in various contexts.” People on the autism spectrum can struggle with such skills and the semantics of phrases such as ‘on the house’ and ‘fold your arms’, which make little sense or can be daunting if taken literally.
Prosthetic environment
This is an ‘autism-friendly’ environment provided in the TEACCH programme, which is created to minimise the effects of autism at home, school, work and in other settings, thus helping to build on the strengths of the pupil.
‘Provision’ refers to the special educational preparations or services given to SEND students that require them.


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Reading comprehension
Reading comprehension is the concept of understanding and absorbing the meaning of what you are reading as well as just reading the words.
Reciprocal interaction
Reciprocal interaction is socially acceptable and meaningful interaction between two people. This can be difficult for children on the autism spectrum, and they may need to be taught how to interact in this way.
Retrieval is the process of accessing information from memory.
Reynell test
The Reynell test measures language skills in young or developmentally delayed children. The materials used in this are interesting and colourful to maintain attention, and utilised to test children aged 1 to 6 years.


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Sally-Anne test
The Sally-Anne test is a false-belief test that utilises two dolls – Sally and Anne – who have different perspectives on an outcome of an event. Sally puts a marble in her basket and then leaves the scene. While Sally is away and cannot watch, Anne takes the marble out of Sally's basket and puts it into her box. Sally then returns and the child is asked where s/he thinks she will look for her marble. Most autistic children (of older ages), will answer, ‘Anne's box’, seemingly unaware that Sally does not know her marble has been moved.
Scaffolding is a kind of educational support that is mentioned in Vygotsky’s theory of learning, wherein a teacher or more skilled other supports a child in learning something they need help with, and then gradually reduces support as the child becomes more capable in the task.
Social Communication, Emotional Regulation, Transactional Supports (SCERTS) is a multidisciplinary educational approach designed for children on the autism spectrum. It is not exclusive of other treatment approaches and methodologies, but instead provides a framework for assessing a child’s competence and designing a programme to support the development of skills.
School Action and School Action Plus
School Action (SA) is the first phase in helping children that are having problems in school and may have SEN. This can include help from other teachers, different learning materials or teaching strategies. School Action Plus is a phase that occurs when the SA has not helped the student overcome their difficulties, so external help is sought. This can include a speech and language therapist, an occupational therapist, or possibly an educational psychologist.
School Census
The DfE compiles data on schools and students to inform policy makers, local authorities, and the public about the education system. The data they collect monitors existing policies and influences the development of new ones; it can also be used to establish funding for local authorities and monitor student progress. Find out more about the School Census on the DfE website.
SEAL programme
The social and emotional aspects of learning (SEAL) programme is a government programme designed to develop children’s and young people’s social and emotional competencies. The SEAL programme focuses on improving self-awareness, managing feelings, motivation, empathy, and social skills.
Segmenting is when readers hear a word and are then required to break the word down into individual sounds, or phonemes.
A special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) is a trained professional in charge of the school’s SEN policy. Their duties include providing advice for teachers with students with SEN, coordinating provision, liaising with external agencies and parents, and helping to assess children that may have SEN.
Special Educational Needs Joint Initiative for Training (SENJIT) is the national leader in provision of not-for-profit SEN short courses and masters-level courses. The SENJIT team is committed to leading continual development of SEN training and inclusion through its not-for-profit partnership work, backed by its unique research that drives improvement of its diverse range of services.
Series problems/tasks
These exercises involve identifying or predicting sequences or number patterns, for example a learner may be asked to put numbers in order or identify missing numbers in a sequence.
Socially constructed learning
This refers to theories of learning that are based on the idea that all knowledge is socially constructed and that individuals and groups create knowledge and understanding through dynamic interaction.
Solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT)
This behaviour therapy is based on the idea that it is better and quicker to identify an individual’s strengths and previous successes to solve a problem, rather than focusing on talking about the problem.
Speech and language therapist (SALT)
A therapist qualified to at least degree level who assesses and treats speech, language and communication difficulties. Most used in school settings will be NHS-registered.
Structured teaching
The purpose of structured teaching is to reorganise the visual information surrounding a pupil and to visually and sensitively present the information which the pupil needs in order to understand what to do, when, where, how, for how long, with whom, what next and so on.


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Talking therapies
These are therapies employed by a trained therapist, based on talking through issues and solutions to reduce or deal with distress and negative feelings. They include counselling and many psychotherapies.
Treatment and education of autistic and related communication handicapped children (TEACCH) is a programme for children and adults with autism where approaches are developed and evaluated. Its methodology is that of 'structured teaching', which claims to deal specifically with the issues experienced by people on the autism spectrum in understanding, predicting and controlling the typically arranged environment. The rationale for the approach is based on research, with the purpose of developing new ideas and evaluating their effectiveness.
Therapeutic input
This involves psychological services or interventions provided by specialist staff such as therapists.
Therapist drift
Therapist drift is a phenomenon that involves the therapist drifting from 'doing therapy' to 'talk therapy', and thereby undermining the effectiveness of evidence-based treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy.
Thinking Skills
The processes involved in a variety of thinking such as memorising, questioning, planning, reasoning, problem solving and decision making.
Transactional support
Transactional support refers to the ways in which parents and staff can help pupils on the autism spectrum achieve success and develop skills through becoming competent social communicators. The key elements are modifications to home and school environments, adapting staff and parent approaches, and the use of visual supports.


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Word analogies
Word analogies are often used as a way to build vocabulary. They are useful because teachers can use a variety of categories to teach children about the relationships between words. An example is: wet is to dry as rough is to smooth. They can also be used to in maths: one is to two as two is to four.
Work systems
Work systems are an element of TEACCH, in which the pupil has an organised space (set up by a teacher) where they can practise already mastered skills on their own while being supervised by an adult. The structured space conveys to the student what they should do, how much they need to do, and how to assess progress. Work systems have been shown to increase independent performance and academic skills, as well as task completion and on-task performance.