Potential Story – Thea
Teaching a child with High Learning Potential: what I wish someone had told me when I started my teaching career.

Why telling real stories about children and young people with Dual and Multiple Exceptionality is so important.

Children and young people with Dual and Multiple Exceptionalities (DME) are highly able and also have special educational needs and/or one or more disabilities (SEND). They are often not easy to identify and their needs even harder to determine both inside and outside the classroom. Amongst other things, their abilities can mask their SEND and they can ‘disappear’ in the system; they can be misdiagnosed or labelled lazy, badly behaved or troublemakers or they can develop a range of social, emotional, mental health and other problems which provide the focus for intervention without looking at their holistic needs as a child or young person with DME.

Every child is an individual and their abilities and needs even more so. To best illustrate DME, The Potential Trust is seeking stories about children and young people with DME, their journeys, how their needs are met and what happens to them at home and in their learning.

Our series kicks off in GTN Awareness Week with some real stories extracted from The School Handbook for Dual and Multiple Exceptionality by Denise Yates and Adam Boddison (published by Routledge in 2020) reproduced in part here with the kind permission of the authors. For more information or to order a copy of this book, please go to: https://www.routledge.com/The-School-Handbook-for-Dual-and-Multiple-Exceptionality-High-Learning/Yates-Boddison/p/book/9780367369583

If you have a personal story about DME which you would like to share with others, please email this to potentialtrust@gmail.com Please change the names and details to preserve anonymity. The Potential Trust reserves the right to edit the story and not to publish it on our website. Sending us your story implies consent for us to send it out on social and other media to raise awareness and support others in this important area of work.

Jack’s Story

About Jack

What are Jack’s specific strengths? General high ability.

What are Jack’s specific learning challenges? Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder along with a discrepancy between verbal and non-verbal reasoning.

Schooling: Nursery and State primary school.

Introduction to the child and the context

Right from when he first started nursery Jack’s behaviour has been difficult for the school to deal with. He would stand still and scream, making it very hard to divert his attention away from any task he wanted to undertake.

Jack had low social awareness and interaction with peers. Instead, he talked to adults as equals and on occasion tried to demand their attention regardless of the time or place. It was also difficult to gauge Jack’s true ability as he frequently refused to complete tasks without one-to-one support. Whilst still at nursery, Jack was put on the SEND register for behaviour support and strategies. 

 After a difficult time at nursery, Jack continued to display challenging behaviour at the start of primary school. However, Jack was imaginative, loved playing board games and learning facts, and he had a boundless passion for mathematics. Jack’s parents recognised that they needed to have a better understanding of his areas of strength, as they didn’t want all the focus to be only on his difficulties at the expense of other things.

Identification of DME

The need to identify Jack’s strengths, led his parents to seek out Potential Plus UK, a charity with expertise in supporting children and young people with High Learning Potential, including children and young people with DME. With support from Potential Plus UK’s advisory service and following an in-depth assessment, it was soon established that Jack has DME and that his High Learning Potential combined with some form of disability.

In Jack’s case it combined cognitive functioning on the 99th percentile with diagnoses of Autistic Spectrum Condition and Sensory Processing Disorder. In addition, there was a significant difference between his ability in verbal and non-verbal reasoning, which impacted upon his motivation and consistency of attainment. 

Description of DME provision

Jack is now 10 years old and in Year 5 of a state primary school. Over the years, Jack’s parents and school have formed a close, supportive relationship. His parents were relieved when his school took note of the information provided about Jack’s cognitive abilities and the recommendations made by Potential Plus UK.  They have continued to have confidence in his school:

“even when they haven’t known what to do, they have listened, understood and worked with us to find a way forward.”

Jack’s school has implemented a variety of strategies and adaptations to offer him suitable accommodation and challenge, ranging from older children acting as buddies in the playground and study partners; to ear defenders and fidget toys; chess club and maths acceleration. They have involved outside agencies like the Special Educational Needs Advisory Service (SENAS), speech and language therapists (SALTs) and an occupational therapist. They have also helped Jack’s parents to apply for and receive an Education Health and Care plan (a statutory SEND support plan in England) with funding for a part-time teaching assistant from Year 2 (approximately age 7).  

At home, his parents have actively sought out opportunities for Jack to mix with similar ability peers and develop his strengths, as well as the areas with which he struggles.

Despite all the support in school, Jack still struggles when there is a lack of challenge in his work, particularly in maths. Having now “outgrown” primary level maths, this lack of challenge has had a negative impact on his mental health.  His school is now looking into options with the local secondary school and a dedicated ‘more able ‘maths tutor.  

Adding to Jack’s mental health issues is his developing awareness of the differences between himself and his classmates, which has led to a reluctance to mix with his school peers. With continued engagement from Potential Plus UK, Jack’s parents and his school are exploring ways they can support him intellectually and emotionally. 

Impact of DME provision

Both Jack’s teachers and his parents are aware of the need to build on Jack’s strengths as well as to address the challenges he faces. They are aware that this is not a one-off intervention but an ongoing dialogue between school and home and, increasingly, with Jack himself. This is seen as important by everyone because of the recognition that, as Jack gets older, his needs and issues will change. This will be particularly the case as he transitions from one school to the next.

Identification of his strengths and challenges still made possible an EHC plan application to provide an ongoing framework for the dialogue between school and home and parents have had a strong input in passing on their knowledge and findings about Jack to the school which has proved a positive experience for everyone.

To read more about Jack and his journey and the other DME stories, go to The School Handbook for Dual and Multiple Exceptionality by Denise Yates and Adam Boddison.

About The Potential Trust.

The Potential Trust is a registered charity (charity number 326645) whose aim is to provide, promote and encourage whatever makes education and learning more interesting for children and young people (up to school leaving age) who have High Learning Potential (sometimes called more able, highly able or Gifted and Talented) or Dual or Multiple Exceptionalities (sometimes called DME, Twice Exceptional or 2e, neurodiverse or gifted with learning differences). We want to support all those children with more than the average share of curiosity, creativity, perception and persistence and to enable them to have access to events and experiences that facilitate their personal and social development and their creative, artistic and practical abilities as well as their intellectual abilities. We do this by:

  • Providing Potential Bursaries
  • Running Potential Conferences
  • Developing Potential Collaborations
  • Being a catalyst for Potential Change.

For more information about how to get involved or to support us, please log onto our website at https://thepotentialtrust.org.uk or follow us on Twitter @PotentialTrust

Names and details have been changed to preserve anonymity. Any views are those of the authors.

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