Is SEND at breaking point?

archieYesterday’s article in the Observer, talks of a 26% increase in the number of court appeals, a total of 6374 appeals lodged in 2018-19. Full text below.

So we have a “perfect storm” for special educational needs;  parents are desperately trying to do the best for their children, but this can be very expensive for them. They are exhausted battling various educational systems but the needs are exploding, all amongst more and more limited funding for schools.

As Einstein is reputed to have said: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results “? It is clear to me that we can’t continue to do the same thing amongst skyrocketing need. And then today’s Guardian says that 1 in 3 people in prison have learning difficulties.    So what else can we do?  Clearly something different to what we are doing!  

As someone, who by today’s standards would be diagnosed as Dyslexic, ADHD and a bit of Aspergers, several years ago I “tripped over” a key to much of this chaos.  I call it the Elephants in the Classroom.  Those things that everyone knows about but few discuss:

  • the vital role of mental imagery in learning, that some call visual imagery; those pictures that even our youngest children hold in their heads to assist recognition, your memory, literacy, numeracy, concentration, comprehension, etc.
  • keeping calm, feeling safe and grounded so that your images are stable and a major asset, rather than developing into a sensory overload nightmare for our brightest neurodivergent students.
  • unpicking the students’ strengths to assist with their challenges.
  • we must start young, preferably pre-school and include improving parents’ understanding, who may share some of the same challenges.
  • the damage that is happening to our children’s mental health amongst continual testing and failure.

And when SEND is finally broken what are we going to do about it for future generations? We need to change the system for our youngest students and in parallel implement those same changes in an age-appropriate way for our older students.  The costs of teaching students these skills are minimal and the results are exceptional.

For more information go to (part of the International Association for Health and Learning).

This is all documented in a new book, called “The Elephants in the Classroom: uncovering every student’s natural power of mental imagery to enhance learning“.  To find out more, order your own copy here, or more than 10 copies here or on or

#school #theelephantsintheclassroom #grounded #visualimagery #mentalimagery #safe #sensoryoverload #strengths #neurodivergent #observer #guardian #insanity #parents #einstein



About olivehickmott

I am a Forensic Learning coach, showing people how they can improve their own learning and change their health. Working with creative neurodivergent students is a joy, as they learn new skills to overcome many of their learning challenges.
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