SEN Jigsaw Conference - 21st April 2018

Following hot on the heels of the BDA conference, the SEN jigsaw conference, now in its third year, had an interesting line up of speakers.  The day started with psychologist Sally Goddard-Blythe explaining the “Draw a Man” test, which enables non-verbal assessment.  Children often leave out the bits that they don’t feel so good at, such as no hands if their motor skills are weak.


Sally investigates how movement and physical activity have impact on learning.  Many young children starting school have immature neuromotor skills, and Sally explained that this can have a significant effect on their learning outcomes and behaviour.  She would like to see schools implement a daily exercise programme and physical developmental testing of children at school entry and key stages.

Later in the morning, Libby Hill spoke about the links between bad behaviour, language and communication.  She is a speech and language therapist, and works with many bright children who do not understand how to behave in social conditions.  The impact of speech, language or communication difficulties on children can have a huge negative impact on many aspects of their lives.  She demonstrated how behaviour is a not just language, but a method of communication.  We were introduced to the ABC of behaviour:

-     A for Antecedent, you need to know what was happening before

-     B for Behaviour

-     C for Consequences. 

Children who need the most help often ask for it in the least helpful way!



In the afternoon we learnt about visual stress and dyscalculia.

Bob Hext, from Crossbow Education, explained how visual stress is often associated with special learning difficulties.  It can manifest in many ways: movement of letters, blurring and fading, rainbow blobs, letters changing size or space, glare, colour and skipping lines.  But luckily there is help to hand.  Simple measures can make a huge difference, such as using rounded fonts - they create a more fluid experience, and then using colour overlays can have a magical effect by relieving the symptoms of visual stress.

Judy Hornigold finished the day by decoding dyscalculia, which is a specific learning difficulty for mathematics. While many people and children struggle with maths, they are not necessarily dyscalculic.  If you have dyscalculia you cannot understand whether 9 is larger or smaller than 6, you cannot assess if there are four apples on the plate without counting them one by one (subitising), you cannot spot patterns, you may have left/right confusion, and an inability to understand the passage of time.

Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 14.58.12.png

There are strategies that can help; creating patterns with Cuisenaire rods can allow a child to explore and develop understanding. Diagrams can also be invaluable, as they encourage visualisation and a way to ‘model’ the maths.


Several of the speakers from the SEN Jigsaw conference will be coming to Bell House over the next few months, bringing their insights to Dulwich. We can’t wait to welcome many of them to our inaugural Dyslexia Fair on 22nd September – stay tuned for more info!


If you’d like to see what dyslexia support Bell House has been offering in the last few months, be sure to check out our YouTube channel, where we post the highlights of our most useful talks: