By Sally McKeown

Lorraine PetersenLorraine PetersenLorraine Petersen has been awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for her services to education. Lorraine is chief executive of nasen (National Association for Special Educational Needs) and has worked in mainstream and special schools both as a teacher and head.

With over 25 years’ practical experience, she is widely recognised as an expert on special needs and is a well known keynote speaker, campaigning for the most vulnerable children in the education system.

Martin LittlerMartin LittlerGood intentions for special needs provision in the Government's Home Access scheme quickly soured when providers of the technology for learners discovered - by accident - that they had just a week to come up with suitable assistive technology.

This has left the scheme "mired in muddle and discourtesy", says Martin Littler, chairman of leading SEN company Inclusive Technology, and a member of Becta's Expert Reference Group on Inclusion. The scheme is exected to help around 270,000 learners, a significant percentage of whom may require additional help - possibly as many as 54,000.

Sally McKeown catches up on ICT for special needs with Inclusive Technology
My Board softwareInclusive"How often do children choose between milk and juice in a day?" asked Sandra Thistlethwaite, specialist speech and language therapist. "Not very often, so we need to give them more useful vocabulary. What’s the first word a child says to express an opinion?"

‘No!’ we all chorused. You could spot the parents among us. All agreed that a good way of getting children to talk is to program the words "No" and "More" into their communication aids. We also found that the average two-year-old has a vocabulary of 278 words so  children with speech and language problems should have access thesm as early as possible. This core vocabulary will also also reflect current obsessions from football to Iggle Piggle and the characters from the BBC's In the Night Garden.

Jonathan ThomsonJonathan ThomsonBy Sally McKeown

The SEMERC brand is alive and kicking and could be coming to a centre near you. SEMERC was famous for providing software and hardware solutions for early years and special needs pupils and its most famous product was probably the My World series which covered everything from design and technology to French vocabulary to the famous Dress the Teddy pack.

Jonathan Thomson, brand director of SEMERC, is about to sign a deal to set up SEMERC centres across England. ‘When we relaunched SEMERC, there was tremendous enthusiasm from our customer base," he says.

Malcolm Bruce and Cate CalderMalcolm Bruce MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness, launched Phoneme Machine 6 at BETT 2009, writes Sally McKeown. The software is part of the suite of programs developed by THRASS (Teaching Handwriting, Reading and Spelling Skills), a very popular synthetic phonics system used by many schools.
The project is a joint scheme between THRASS (as part of its corporate social responsibility programme) and SMART Technologies.

The program will be free and can be downloaded from the THRASS website.