Engaging Learners with Complex Learning Difficulties and Disabilities: A resource book for teachers and teaching assistants

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This excellent book describes a project started in 2009 involving special schools and special needs practitioners, mostly from the UK but some from overseas, who trialled a set of observation and assessment resources called ‘The Engagement Profile and Scale’.

Engaging-Learners-with-CLDDThe methodology, as defined by the authors, supports a collaborative and solutions-based approach to overcoming learning barriers for pupils with complex learning difficulties and disabilities (CLDD). The book provides a definitive explanation of ‘Engagement for Learning’ for children ‘who do not fit neatly into an understandable category’.

These learners are described as a new generation of children with complex learning needs, requiring innovative approaches and a personalised curriculum. There are many useful examples and top tips from classroom practitioners throughout and all resources are freely available to use and clearly referenced.
Contributors include prominent authors in the field of special education and researchers from neuroscience.

Together they describe a way forward for practitioners to ‘personalise engagement and learning for the individual child and track a child’s journey towards sustained engagement and deep learning’ (p23).
Their argument is made more compelling through the plentiful use of powerful statements, such as ‘without engagement, there is no meaningful learning’.

Of particular merit is their emphasis on including the child’s family network in the observation process.
Among the highlights is a thought-provoking chapter on ‘Mental Health and Children with Complex Learning Difficulties and Disabilities’.The book is mindful too of the need for school staff to maintain their professional development in this specialised field.

As the authors state: ‘There comes a time when every educator’s experience runs out’ (p127). At first the vision of ‘new professional capacities’, drawing on neuroscience and developed through a process of school-based inquiry to develop innovative learning approaches, may seem daunting. However, clarity is provided through step-by-step instructions of how to implement the materials.

To an extent, this book has the look and style of a degree course textbook, so after a day’s teaching I was, in all honesty, reluctant to start it. However, having taken the plunge during a school holiday I found the style of writing engaging, with the content encouraging and motivating. I believe I will keep coming back to it to reinforce my classroom practice for a long time to come.

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Barry Carpenter et al – Routledge – ISBN: 9780415812740

Reviewed by Anne-Frances Royle

9.0 Awesome

An excellent book which was engaging, encouraging and motivating. A book that I will keep coming back to over and over.

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