EMS (Enhanced Mainstream School) SpLD

Overview of EMS

Barlby High School has access to NYCC provision for Enhanced Mainstream Schools for Specific Learning Difficulties (EMS SpLD). The core purpose of the EMS SpLD is to provide specialist support to schools and to build capacity in mainstream schools. The EMS SpLD based at Sherburn High School provides support to 45 schools in the Selby/Tadcaster/Sherburn area and works closely with other specialist providers in the area. The school as a whole is building expertise in SpLD to support students and to share knowledge with colleagues from other schools.

Brief Description of SpLD

Specific Learning Difficulties is a term which covers such learning difficulties/differences/preferences as dyslexia, dyscalculia, development coordination disorder and dysgraphia. More details of these can be found on the links below. Other difficulties which may be supported in conjunction with colleagues from other services are: Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Speech Language and Communication Difficulties (SLCN) and Moderate Learning Difficulties (MLD).


Anne Talbot: Teacher in Charge
Sue Coward:  Specialist teacher

SpLD Explained

Dyslexia (literacy)

  • Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent reading and spelling.
    • Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory
    • Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities.
    • It is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category and there are no clear cut-off points.
    • Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor co-ordination, mental calculation, concentration and
    • Personal organisation, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia.
    • A good indication of the severity and persistence of dyslexic difficulties can be gained by examining how the individual responds or has responded to well-founded intervention.

Dyscalculia (numeracy)

  • Dyscalculia affects the ability to acquire arithmetical skills. Dyscalculic learners may show some or all of the following characteristics:
    • Difficulty understanding number concepts.
    • Lack an intuitive grasp of numbers.
    • Problems with learning number facts and procedures.
    • Struggle when sequencing numbers in reverse especially in twos and threes.
    • Struggle with computation of numbers over 1000.
    • Find learning and recalling number facts difficult.
    • Challenges with basic concepts such as money (i.e. calculation of prices and handling of change) as well as ‘telling the time’.
  • Such children and young people often lack confidence even when they produce the correct answer. They also fail to use rules and procedures to build on known facts. For example, they may know that 5+3=8, but not realise that, therefore 3+5=8 or that 5+4=9. Lack of an intuitive grasp of number magnitudes makes checking calculations especially difficult. When solving problems dyscalculic children and young people often don’t understand which type of arithmetical operation is asked for.

Developmental Coordination Disorder (dyspraxia, dysgraphia)

  • Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD) is a medically diagnosed condition for someone with specific co-ordination problems. The term dyspraxia has been superseded by the term DCD but it is still used by GPs. DCD affects around 5% of school-aged children and young people. It has a varying but significant impact throughout an individual’s lifespan and can affect social relationships and have medical and psychological consequences. A child or young person with DCD/dyspraxia may (in addition to those shared characteristics common to many SpLDs) exhibit some or all of the following characteristics:
    • An impairment or immaturity in the organisation of movement, often appearing clumsy.
    • Difficulty in learning, retaining and generalising gross motor skills (related to balance and co-ordination) and fine motor skills (relating to manipulation of objects).
    • Find writing is particularly laborious.
    • Difficulty acquiring keyboard skills.
    • Difficulty organising ideas and concepts.
    • Difficulty with pronunciation.
    • Over / under sensitive to noise, light and touch.
    • Poor awareness of body position.
    • Misread social cues.



BDA Tech








  1. General advice or a Pre-Request  Informal  Discussion: Contact us via email or telephone. We can discuss current provision and suggest some other strategies to try before making a formal Request for Involvement or whilst you are waiting. At this point you do not necessarily have to have parent/carer permission, as long as the child is kept anonymous.
  2. Request for Involvement: Inclusive Education Service – Single Point of Access

The attachments provide detailed information and forms for requesting involvement. These are now all on the local offer website insert link and will also be available on the Inclusive Education page on CYPS info.

There is a single email address to send in Requests for Involvement insert link Tel: 01609 534010

Useful downloads

Request for involvement form 2015-16 insert link

Request for involvement form (young person consent) 2015-16 insert link

Single point of access – request for involvement process maps 2015-16 insert link

3.  Request for Training

Please contact the EMS by e-mail insert link or phone 01757 241 468 to discuss requirements.

Dyslexia Quality Mark

  • The North Yorkshire Dyslexia Quality Mark has been reviewed and this highly valued accreditation has been redesigned to make it simpler for schools to follow. All previous documentation is now no longer in use and updated versions of the documents below will be released in response to user feedback.
  • This specialist award is an additional quality mark that builds on the inclusive practice celebrated by the North Yorkshire Inclusion Quality Mark. The impacts of making schools dyslexia or SpLD friendly are huge for children and families.

Parents/Carer and Young People

After a review of the Parent Network Meetings, we do not currently have any planned dates for the rest of the year.  We are reviewing the situation and may provide awareness sessions in the future.

If you are looking for any further information, please have a look at our website or give us a call. 

We will keep everyone up to date of any further developments.

Thank you very much for your  support and attendance.

Links to other parent networks


Co—occurring Difficulties


  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a term applied to children and young people whose behaviour is impulsive, overactive and who cannot sustain attention. It can exist with or without hyperactivity (ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). In most cases children and young people with this disorder display the following characteristics:
    • Often ‘off task’ and have particular difficulty commencing and switching tasks.
    • A very short attention span and high levels of distractibility.
    • Fail to make effective use of the feedback they receive and have weak listening skills.
  • Those with hyperactivity may act impulsively and erratically, have difficulty foreseeing outcomes, fail to plan ahead and be noticeably restless and fidgety. Those without the hyperactive trait tend to day dream excessively, lose track of what they are doing and fail to engage in their studies unless they are highly motivated. The behaviour of children and young people with ADD / ADHD can be inappropriate and unpredictable; this, together with the characteristics common to many SpLDs, can have a significant impact on their ability to succeed in school. The initial diagnostic assessment of ADD / ADHD would be carried out by a medical professional.

Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN)

  • Children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) have difficulties communicating with others. They may not be able to express themselves efficiently and / or they may have difficulties in understanding what is being said to them. Approximately 10% of school-aged children and young people have SLCN significant enough to affect progress in education and school life.

Handwriting Help

Handwriting; as a sensory-motor/perceptual skill

Lois Addy (former SpLD Lead, NYCC)

The following suggestions provide some practical advice to alleviate some of the anxiety and concerns brought about by poor handwriting.


It may seem simplistic to mention posture but it is very important that children are seated with feet securely on the floor and knees and hips bent at a 90º angle. The height of the table should equate to the elbow height when seated. In classrooms today furniture is standard; however we do not have standard-sized children so foot blocks or different furniture may be required.

Positioning of paper

The paper should be positioned at a slight angle in alignment with the child’s arm be this a left or right diagonal. Children should be encouraged to hold their paper with the opposite hand, if this proves difficult buy a sheet of thin non-slip matting (Dycem) to position the paper and encourage the placement of the opposite hand by drawing a stencil of the ideal position using a permanent marker pen.

Pencil Grip

It is common to see children with dyspraxia holding the pencil awkwardly, and struggling to achieve a tripod grip which incorporates the thumb, index and middle finger. This is often due to poor sensory feedback and motor planning difficulties. To help to achieve this grip try:

  • Pencils with triangular barrels such as hand huggers
  • Pencil grips available from LDA, Early Learning Centre
  • Mould individualised pencil grips to aid finger position using FIMO clay, or elastic bands which hardens when in the correct position
  • Consider acquiring a range of ergonomic pens/pencils to trial with children (see attached)
  • Try this alternate position; place the pencil between the index and middle finger with the main shaft of the pencil on the upper surface of the hand, the pencil is then controlled by the thumb while positioning the wrist on the writing surface. This is effective and comfortable.

Heavy Pressure

Heavy pressure through the writing instrument can slow writing output significantly. We know that many children struggle to monitor pressure through their limbs due to what is termed poor proprioception, therefore we need to help the child to develop an awareness of the amount of pressure placed through the limbs, the upper limbs in particular.

The following will help:

  • Regularly undertake a series of exercises whereby pressure is placed through the upper limbs, i.e. crawling games, wheelbarrows, ladies press-ups, elephant walks etc. These should ideally be incorporated into a daily schedule
  • Provide a light-up pen which can be bought cheaply from stationary shops or are available from LDALtd or Special Direct. Challenge the child to write so that the light does not come on.
  • Play a game of MI5 available from Special Direct. Ask the child to write a secret message so that only one agent can read it. Initially the pressure may make the child write so that the message can be seen on 3 or 4 copies but by encouraging the child to self-monitor pressure will reduce.
  • Use a hard leaded pencil such as HB so that writing is not easily smudged.

Light Pressure

Some children will have the opposite problem to that described above in that they will not apply enough pressure through the writing instrument. This will affect control and will make writing appear ‘spidery’ and poorly formed. To help with this:

  • Provide an angled board. The angle should be approximately 25º this will ensure that the wrists are positioned on the writing surface.
  • Provide weighted wrist-bands which would provide additional sensory feedback to the wrist area, increasing the child’s awareness of their hand, wrist and arm position.
  • Lower the table slightly so that the hips are flexed more than 90 . This enables the child to obtain the assistance of body weight to assists with pressure through the writing instrument.
  • Use softer leaded pencils such as 2B so writing appears darker

Fine Motor Control

The combination of poor sensation, inadequate tactile sensation and poor pressure awareness will result in poor motor control and the child may need to practice simple motor tasks to develop an ability to track and scan ahead

To develop this:

  • Introduce puzzles such as mazes; grade these in complexity
  • Use electronic tracker games where a buzzer sounds if the wire is touched, these usually come with 3 levels of difficulty
  • Use dot to dot puzzles
  • Button and bead threading games
  • Cutting out complex outlines with scissors
  • Construction activities such as Lego and Knex
  • Encourage creative activities such as collage, papier-mâché.

Writing alignment

Many children struggle to plan and organise their movements, they will also find writing across the page in a left to right horizontal direction very difficult. Guidance is therefore needed to help them with writing alignment:

  • Always use lined paper rather than a line guide which easily moves.
  • Mark a margin at the left hand side in a clear colour or place starting points at the left margin to reiterate where each line of writing should start.
  • Create coloured lines on plain or pastel coloured paper encouraging the child to write on a different colour each line (this can be done easily using a computer with colour printer)
  • If a child has significant difficulties in this area, created coloured bands across the paper (rather than lines) encouraging the child to write within each band before proceeding to the next.
  • Provide ‘Right line’ or ‘hint-print’ paper which incorporate lines which are slightly raised giving a tactile reference when writing each letter.

Letter Formation

It may seem incomprehensible why certain children cannot seem to reproduce familiar letter shapes and forms even when these are placed directly in front of them. This is due to poor form constancy, a vital perceptual skill. To develop an appreciation of form it is important to use variety of multisensory activities to reinforce the child’s appreciation of shape and size:

  • Play games which reinforce shape and size i.e. sorting boxes, ball games, shape stencils.
  • Create shapes using dough or clay encouraging the child to mould and knead the material into a clear shape (this reinforces tactile sensation).
  • Create letter forms out of play-doh and see if the child can detect what the shape or letter form is with their eyes closed (this reinforces proprioception and tactile sensation)
  • Encourage the establishment of individual shapes before introducing new ones i.e. clearly produce a circle before an oval or square.
  • Use ‘Rol n’Write Alphabet’ sensory forms to help with direction of form
  • Using an index finger create letters and shapes in trays of sand, shaving foam, or silly soap.
  • Write letters on rough sandpaper using a variety of medium i.e. soft leaded pencils or wax crayons (the fine vibrations reinforce kinaesthetic sense)
  • Develop an appreciation of form using sections from the ‘Write from the Start Perceptuo-Motor Handwriting Programme’ especially sections 1A-2A.
  • Encourage sequencing in respect to size (jigsaw puzzles can be bought from LDA Ltd)
  • Use outlines to reinforce letter shapes i.e. broken lines, dot to dot.
  • Use the Charles Cripps ‘A Hand for Spelling’ programme to reinforce letter shapes

Letter orientation

It is often a common complaint that children frequently invert or reverse letter forms so that confusion arises between p/d, b/d, p/q, t/f, m/w, u/n. In addition letters may be formed in reverse with the letter ‘o’ being produced in a clockwise direction rather than anti-clockwise. To help this;

  • Use ‘Rol n’Write’ forms which help the child to appreciate the direction of writing
  • Introduce Finger Phonics books from the Jolly Phonics series which provides an indented image of each letter to help formation
  • Provide a starting arrow to show which way a letter should be produced ie the letter c is orientated in an anticlockwise direction and the letter b requires a clockwise orientation.
  • Join letters as early as possible (even in Reception) this significantly helps with orientation
  • If the p and b continue to be used interchangeably open the formation of b to b
  • Use odd one out games to help the child to determine discrepancies in orientation.
  • Write letters in the air using whole arm movements with eyes closed to reinforce kinaesthetic appreciation of letter orientation.
  • Develop a sense of directional orientation using games such as ‘Bop it Extreme II’ available from most Argos Stores

Spatial Organisation

Children who struggle to judge distances and assess space, will not only effect gross motor skills but will also have a bearing on handwriting. Spaces between words may be omitted or placed erratically. This results in text becoming increasingly illegible. It is therefore crucial to teach the child how to provide adequate spaces between words and to space letters appropriately. To do this:

  • Use the ‘Write From the Start Perceptuo-Motor Handwriting Programme’ especially section 2B.
  • Practice writing on grid paper placing each letter in a square and a space between each word.
  • Introduced joined writing very early in the child’s education, this is guaranteed to improve spatial organisation
  • Place a finger tip after each word before writing the next word.
  • Play games which involve judging distances i.e. obstacle courses
  • Use board games which involve spatial organisation such as connect 4, peg board patterns etc
  • Play ‘How many steps?’ standing with the child, ask ‘how many steps will it take you to reach that chair? The child then guesses. They are then encouraged to take those steps and monitor their own movement. Initially the child may grossly under or overestimate the distance, but with time the estimations gradually become more accurate.

Writing Flow

Children who do not have adequate feedback as to their body position will lack a sense of rhythm. This will be apparent in their walking which may be heavy and awkward. Poor rhythm will also have a bearing on handwriting and many children may be so intent on forming the letters correctly that writing lacks flow, becomes very laboured and is increasingly slow resulting in limited output. This becomes an increasing concern when the child progresses through Key Stage 2 and onto Key Stage 3 where there is an increased expectation in the volume of written work and speed of output.

  • Introduce a variety of letter patterns i.e.   cccccccccc and attempt these to music, alternately follow a programme such as Callirobics™
  • Introduce programmes such as ‘Joining the ABC’ by Charles Cripps, ‘Movement into Handwriting’ By Prue wallis Myers or ‘Structured Cursive Writing’ by Chasty and Phillips.
  • Enjoy the activities in the ‘Write Dance’ programme by Ragnhild Oussoren Voors
  • The Speed-up!’ kinaesthetic handwriting programme is specifically designed to increase fluency and speed up handwriting for children aged 8 years and above.

Augmentative technology

As the expected volume of handwriting increases each school year so too will the child’s level of anxiety. It is at this time when a computer may be considered. This may be around the age of 8 or 9 years. At this point word-processing can be introduced in parallel with handwriting. The child may eventually become more proficient at using a computer over hand skills or vice versa. It is important that the computer or keyboard is carefully selected and that the right scheme is introduced to help the child develop new skills. It is not important that touch typing is achieved with all fingers but that the child’s abilities are utilised fully to appreciate the technology available to him/her. The following contacts and references will help with this process.

  • www.AbilityNet org.uk will provide an assessment and impartial advice to ensure that the right technology and software are available to the individual.
  • Voice-activated word processing such as Dragon Naturally Speaking
  • Text-to-speech software such as Read and Write, Dolphin Say So
  • Planning software such as Mind Manager, Inspiration
  • Predictive software such as Penpal, Co-Writer
  • Digipads
  • Read Penso, D.E. (1999) ‘Keyboarding Skills for Children with Disabilities’ Whurr Publishers

The recommendations provided above are not an exhaustive list by any means and there are numerous other sources where information can be gained. In particular the Handwriting Interest Group specifically address handwriting issues in school’s today, they offer information on handwriting programmes, research relating to handwriting, and materials which can assist in improving handwriting.

Further Information

  • EMS SpLD Barlby High School: individual programmes and training for schools




A Hand for Spelling’
by Charles Cripps
Programme which teacher spelling and handwriting together.

Bop It Extreme II
Argos Stores

Callirobics ä by Liora Laufer Available from Amazon

These are a unique concept in handwriting exercises. They consist of repetitive simple writing patterns (straight and curved lines) to music. The music relaxes the participants and adds rhythm to their exercises. With music the exercises become fun instead of tedious penmanship chore. Music also benefits participants who learn better through auditory, instead of visual means.

Disney Wrist Sweat Bands (can be weighted to encourage wrist to be placed down on paper) Available from: Toys R Us

Dycem Matting
Nottingham Rehab supplies
Ludlow Hill Road
West Bridgford
NG2 6HD      Tel: 0115 936 1911

Hand huggers
Triangular barrel pens, pencils and crayons
Available from: Sanford UK
Oldmedow Road
Kings Lynn
Norfolk PE30 4JR
Tel: 01553 761221

Hand and wrist weights

Handwriting Without Tears
by Jan Olsen
Psychological Corporation
Freepost WD147
Harcourt Place
32 Jamestown Road

Hint Print Paper

Joining the ABC
by Charles Cripps

Jolly Phonics
By Lloyd, Wernham and Jolly
Formative Fun Stores and many Early Learning Centre outlets

Light-up Pen

Loops and other Groups
by Mary Benbow

Movement into Handwriting
by Prue Wallis Myers

Privacy boards

Right Line Paper with raised lines
Available from Taskmaster Ltd or Pro-Ed
Morris Road
Tel: 0116 270 4286


Structured Cursive Writing by Chasty and Phillips.

Tri-go grips
Uniquely designed contoured pencil grip

THRASS (The handwriting, reading and spelling system)

4 double sided A3 sheets: A word-spelling copy book, a sound-spelling copy book, a word-spelling form, a sound-spelling form, 2 tapes and course notes.

Write Dance by Ragnhild Oussoren Voors
Lucky Duck Publishing Ltd
Website: www.luckyduck.co.uk

Writestart Desktop

Write from the Start
By Ion Teodorescu and Lois M Addy

Write on Target
by Suzanne Tiburtius.
A structured fast and effective way to teach cursive handwriting.
Manchester: Dextral Books

Writing Slope

Useful References:
Addy L M (1995) An evaluation of a perceptuo-motor approach to handwriting. Unpublished Masters Thesis, York University.

Addy L M (2004) Speed-Up! Cambridge: LDA.

Balas M, Roitenberg N, Giladi N, Karni A (2007) When practice does not make perfect: well-practiced handwriting interferes with the consolidation phase gains in learning a movement sequence Experimental Brain Research, 178 (4), pp. 499-508.

Banks R, Rodger S, Polatajko H J (2008) Mastering Handwriting: How Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder Succeed With CO-OP OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health. 28(3), 100-109.

Bezrukikh M (2005) Psychophysiological mechanisms of writing difficulties in school children, Human Physiology, 31 (5), 539-544.

Connelly V, Gee D, Walsh E (2007) A comparison of keyboarded and handwritten compositions and the relationship with transcription speed British Journal of Educational Psychology, 77 (2), pp. 479-492.

Erdhardt RP, Meade V (2005) Improving handwriting without teaching handwriting: The consultative clinical reasoning process. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 52 (3), pp. 199-210.

Feder K P, Majnemer A, Bourbonnais D, Blayney M, Morin I (2007) Handwriting Performance on the ETCH-M of Students in a Grade One Regular Education Program Physical & Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics, 27 (2), pp. 43-62.

Feder K P, Majnemer A (2007) Handwriting development, competency and intervention. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology. 49 (4), pp. 312 – 317.

Freeman, A R.; MacKinnon, J R. (2005) Keyboarding for Students with Handwriting Problems A Literature Review Physical & Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics, 25(1-2), pp. 119-147.

Goyen TA, Duff S (2005) Discriminate validity of the test of visual motor integration in relation to children with handwriting dysfunction. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 52 (2),109-115.

Harris S J, Livesey DJ (1992) Improving handwriting through kinaesthetic sensitivity practice. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal. 39. pp 23-27

Mandich A, Miller LT, Polatajko HJ (2003) A cognitive perspective on handwriting: cognitive orientation to daily occupational performance (CO-OP). Handwriting Review, 2, 41-47.

Marr D and Cermak S A (2002) Predicting handwriting performance of early elementary students with the Developmental Test of Visual-Motor integration. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 95, 661-669.

Medwell J and Wray D (2007) Handwriting: what do we know and what do we need to know? Literacy, 41(1), pp. 10-15.

Missiuna C, Rivard L, Pollock N (2004) They’re bright but can’t write: Developmental Coordination Disorder in school aged children. Teaching Exceptional Children Plus. 1 (1), Article 3

Mogey N, Sarab G, Haywood J, van Heyningen S, Dewhurst D, Hounsell D, Neilson R (2008) The end of handwriting? Using computers in traditional essay examinations. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 24 (1) pp. 39-46.

Olsen J Z (1998) Handwriting without Tears (8th edition). Potomac, MD: Author.

Oussoren Voors R (2000) Write Dance. Bristol. Lucky Duck Publishers

Rosenblum S, Parush S, Weiss PL (2003) The in air phenomenon: Temporal and spatial correlates of the handwriting process. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 96 (3), 933-954.

Sudsawad P, Trombly C, Henderson A, Tickle-Degnen L (2002) Testing the effect of kinesthetic training on handwriting performance in first-grade students. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy. 56 (1), pp 26-34.

Summers, J (2001) Joint laxity in the Index finger and thumb and its relationship to pencil grasps used by children. Australian Journal of Occupational Therapy. 48. pp132-141

Teodorescu I, Addy L M (1996) The Write from the Start Perceptuo-Motor Handwriting Programme, Cambridge: LDA Ltd.

Wallen M, Goyen T, Duff S (2007) Kinaesthetic training was no more effective than handwriting practice or no treatment in improving kinaesthesis or handwriting speed and legibility in grade-one students Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 54 (3), pp. 240-242

Wallen M, Froude E (2007) Therapeutic practice resulted in moderate improvement in handwriting ability for children with poor handwriting when compared with sensorimotor intervention, but not when compared with a control group Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 54(3), pp. 239-240

Woodward S, Swinth Y (2002) Multisensory Approach to handwriting remediation: perceptions of school-based occupational therapists. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy. 56 (3) pp 305-312

Lois M Addy
Specialist Lead for SpLD
November 2012