Sylvia Cullen

St Mary’s Menston High School 

I would write a fun programme to be taught in primary schools to help children gain understanding about learning disabilities to help inclusion and understanding.

I have first-hand experience of the difficulties faced by children and young people with complex learning disabilities due to my job and have seen the damage that can be rendered by lack of inclusion, funding and even general education about their specific needs. However, it doesn’t have to be a challenge to have a society where we are all treated equally regardless of disabilities, and I would hope to make steps to achieve this.

When I talk of inclusion I don’t just seek the enrolment of children with disabilities into mainstream schools, but the seamless integration of them into all activities, such as sport, music and drama without drawing unneeded attention to the fact that the child has different needs to their peers. The key to inclusion is education, without which it is impossible to fully provide the appropriate measures. I would hope to construct an education-based scheme for primary schools to be rolled out across the city that would teach not only teachers, but students about various learning disabilities, the difficulties these children face and how these can be combatted and normalised.

For example, a very useful training tool that can be understood by young children is the ‘Sally-Anne experiment’ which teaches those using it how people with autism can have a different thinking process to their own. With this knowledge in place it would be much more likely that children would be able to integrate a child with learning disabilities into their play time and would have a higher tolerance and understanding for the differences between them. 

Having already delivered and explained this particular experiment to a class at my own school I have seen the impact that simple activities such as these can make on the understanding that we have, with feedback such as ‘I hadn’t ever thought of it like that before’. Personally, I felt it was a clear indication that this sort of training is vital in order to develop understanding and thinking around learning disabilities. 

This is an example of one activity that would be in the training scheme and as well as the obvious benefits to both children with disabilities and without, it would also further Leeds City Council’s work to make Leeds a child-friendly City, ensuring that the work across the city has a positive impact on the life chances of all young people.