Many children with an additional need – whether or not there is a formal diagnosis – will also have special educational needs. That means that they need educational provision which is additional to, and different from that of their peers. This could range from a bit of extra phonics work to support a child’s reading, right the way through to specialist provision for children with complex needs in a special school. Whatever your child’s need(s), and whether or not they have a Statement or Education, Health and Care Plan, schools should be doing their absolute best to meet your child’s needs, and to communicate with you about any extra help they are having.
A whole range of support
Children with additional needs are likely to benefit from classroom techniques such as: visual timetables, fiddle toys, reward charts, emotion boards and movement breaks – to name but a few! Teachers are increasingly becoming skilled at incorporating these techniques, and many others, into lessons.
Some children will need extra help with retaining and processing information and getting their ideas down on paper; others will need social stories to help them better understand social interactions; some may need art or play therapy or help expressing their emotions (often from an Emotional Literacy Support Assistant – ELSA). Other children will have trouble concentrating and will benefit from support for their sensory needs. Some children will need readers or scribes and may need extra time and support when it comes to exams. Others who have challenging behaviour may need support to manage their anger, and others will need to know that there is a quiet place they can retreat to when the hubbub of school life becomes overwhelming.
Why communication is key
Schools can therefore be a great way to discover useful tips about how to support your child. You may be parenting a child with additional needs for the first time, but your child’s school is likely to have supported other children with needs similar to yours. And of course the opposite is true – your child is an individual and you know him/her better than anyone. The key here is communication: do talk to the teachers at your child’s school and share your knowledge of your child so that you can work in partnership to secure the best possible educational provision for him/her.
Parenting a child with additional needs can be stressful and this stress increases if a parent/carer is not fully aware of how their child is supported in school and/or is concerned that their child may not be getting the right support.
- DO – arrange a meeting to talk to your child’s school SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator).
- DON’T – feel you have to go into meetings alone. Take a friend or ask your local Information, Advice or Support Service to accompany you (West Berkshire SENDIASS, Reading IASS for SEND, Wokingham SENDIASS).
- DO – talk it through with someone who can explain your legal rights and help you come up with a way forward (West Berkshire SENDIASS, Reading IASS for SEND, Wokingham SENDIASS).
Education Health and Care Plans
Some children with SEN need support that is beyond the scope of the school to provide without the back-up of the Local Authority (LA). In this case the child may need an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP), previously a Statement of Special Educational Needs.
An EHCP is a legal document that describes a child’s needs in full and specifies the educational provision necessary to meet those needs. It places a legal responsibility on the LA to secure the provision set out in it.
If you are worried that your child’s needs cannot be met by your child’s school it may be worth discussing whether to apply for a Needs Assessment (for an EHCP) with a trained professional. Again, your local Information, Advice and Support Service, or IPSEA, would be great places to start.