I am constantly reading in forums that mums are having to battle with primary schools over basic provisions for our special children.
As you may know I am a teacher as well as a mum with a son with ADHD. So I can see what’s going on from both sides. Whilst there are many excellent teachers who are going the extra mile for our kids, I see also that unless a parent knows the system then a child could go through school underachieving with their self-esteem plummeting.
So today I give you a 16 point checklist of what you can gently insist should be happening in school. I say gently because if you do actually go in screaming and demanding, then the Head can actually ban you from the premises. So be forceful in a gentle way.
Ready? Here goes………
- Ask to see your child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP). It may be called something different in your school but it is a document outlining your child’s needs, describes which strategies are being used, sets and reviews targets. You also should be invited to attend a meeting to draw up a new IEP at least once a term.
- If you have concerns that his needs are not being met by every day classroom practices, you can request an assessment by an Educational Psychologist(EP). This will be provided by the council so you do not need to pay for a private assessment.
- You can then request your child to begin the process of applying for an Educational and Health Care Plan (EHCP). These have replaced Statements and there are still many, many teething problems and delays with the system. But don’t give up. The benefit of your child having an EHCP is that he will get funding for extra support and provisions.
- If your child already has a 1:1 assistant, make sure your child is not ‘velcroed’ to their side and has plenty of opportunities to make mistakes and learn independently. An assistant should be hovering nearby – definitely not sitting next to them in class and absolutely not standing with them during break. Of course the assistant may need to be constantly vigilant but must give your child freedom and space to explore, make friends and figure out a problem for himself.
- Make sure the teacher understands your child’s learning style – how does he best learn and concentrate? Maybe it is in a quiet atmosphere, gentle music, with his shoes kicked off, leaning over the page, using pictures and visuals. Maybe it’s listening to instructions using headphones or a sound button. Whatever helps your child, the classroom should be set up to accommodate his needs.
- Is the teacher aware of any sensory difficulties? Does your child need fiddle toys, a wobble cushion? Will he listen better with a weighted lap belt? Does he lose focus when it’s near lunch time and he’s hungry and is he allowed movement breaks? Ask if there have been any adaptations to the classroom set up.
- If your child has difficulties with reading and writing then ask what provisions are being put in place. Is he able use a laptop with predictive text such as Clicker. (Remember if you or the school purchase this, mention Yellow Sun at checkout and get a 5% discount)
- Does your child have easy access to word lists, common spellings, coloured overlays which help with ‘jumpy’ letters?
- Is the reading book appropriate? If is too difficult – ask for one that will engage your child rather than be a chore.Reading should be fun and purposeful.
- Is there a possibility that an adult can scribe for your child in some lessons? Often he may have fantastic ideas and think in a clear and imaginative way – but this doesn’t match what he is able to write on paper. For some lessons such as Topic a scribe takes away the pressure of writing.
- Is the work differentiated for your child? If he cannot access the curriculum then he should not be given the same work. We promote inclusion in our schools – but that doesn’t mean he should be struggling with negative numbers if he is unable to confidently count to 10. Look at his books and look for evidence of achievable tasks.
- Homework should be independent work to consolidate learning. If it is taking longer than 20 minutes then stop, go back to school and ask for simpler, more achievable homework. It shouldn’t be an intolerable chore. Your time together at home is more fruitful spent playing together – not battling over homework.
- Is there practical equipment available to help with maths? Apparatus to help with tens and units (now called tens and ones), place value and number bonds. Ask for a demonstration how your child is taught the basic concepts of maths so that you can practice at home.
- Ask what opportunities are there for your child to be given positions of responsibility. Every child likes to be chosen for something special, but it is vital that our children are made to feel valued.
- Get him to join as many clubs during school time as possible to develop his social skills. Are there clubs that you can suggest that would benefit your child?
- Does your child have opportunities to develop or promote his strengths? He may be a fantastic artist or magician. Does the teacher know of his talents and are they being promoted at school?
So that is a long list. I don’t propose that you go armed to school demanding every one of the 16 is adhered to. But it does give you a glimpse of what outstanding education should look like for our special children. We all want this to be successful partnership; you and the school – so go gentle and see if you can educate them!
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DID YOU KNOW THAT NEW TEACHERS DO NOT RECEIVE ANY SPECIFIC TRAINING ON ADHD? THEY ARE TAUGHT ‘SPECIAL NEEDS’ AS A WHOLE SUBJECT WITH PERHAPS AS LITTLE AS A FEW HOURS DEDICATED TO THIS VITAL AREA. IT’S NO WONDER OUR CHILDREN ARE NOT SUPPORTED CORRECTLY IN SOME SCHOOLS.
I HAVE SET UP A PETITION URGING NEW TEACHERS TO HAVE SPECIFIC TRAINING IN ADHD. I’D LOVE YOU TO SIGN IT AND SHARE IT.
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