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Getting My Child The Additional Help In School He Or She Needs

By Noel Swanson

The British government promised "that a child with special educational needs should have their needs met" (sec. 1.3, SEN Code of Practice, 2001). Even though it's printed for all to see, they won't be able to keep the promise, as they don't have the resources.

The British government has promised that "a child with special educational needs should have their needs met" (sec. 1.3, SEN Code of Practice, 2001). This is a pretty rash thing to promise, since there is no way that they have the resources to back this up. However, there it is, in black and white!

So, how do you make sure that your child with special needs gets the help they need in school? First, understand how your school is set up. Second, even with governmental promises, there is still a limit to the resources. You need to develop a good working partnership with your school so you can state your concerns and be confident that they will be resolved.

Typically, a child's educational needs can be met in the normal classroom (commonly called mainstreaming). If it does become evident that the child is not making progress as expected, the school has the responsibility to take some action. Progress delays are evaluated in the following areas:

If you have concerns about your child's educational progress, talk to her teacher and/ or the SEN Coordinator (SENCO) at her school. If they think she's having problems, they will add her name to the Special Education Needs Register, if they haven't already done so.

If you have concerns about your child, discuss them with your child's teacher and/or the school's SEN Co-ordinator. If they are in agreement with your concerns, they may place his or her name on the Special Educational Needs Register. In fact, they may have already done so.

If the school does determine that there are special needs present in your child, they have the responsibility to meet those needs. This can be done in a variety of ways, but the most important thing is that everyone (parents, teachers, and school staff) should have clear and realistic goals that your child can achieve.

The goal-setting process is usually accomplished through the development of an IEP (Individual Education Plan).

On this IEP certain targets are identified and worked on, with these targets being reviewed every six weeks or so. These targets might be academic such as reading or writing, or there may be behavioural such as putting a hand up to ask a question, they might be social such as getting along with other children at play time or indeed they may be physical if the child has any particular physical or medical needs or disabilities.

Parents are normally involved in the IEP process - both in drawing up and reviewing IEP targets. Most children gain the most when their parents are involved because they can reinforce the concepts and skills in the home.

Occasionally it will become apparent that the school alone does not have sufficient resources to solve the problem. In that case, outside experts are brought in to assist. Often times this will consist of an educational psychologist or some other type of professional. These experts may extend their advice to the school, which is called "School Action Plus".

Finally, if even this is not enough, then either the school, or you, may apply to have a Statutory Assessment of SEN, which is done by the Local Education Authority (usually the county council). If they agree that the needs are severe, they may issue a Statement of SEN which spells out just what the needs are, and what the school (and others) are legally required to do to meet those needs. If the LEA refuses to do a statutory assessment or issue a statement then you, as a parent, have a right to appeal.

Just because the LEA grants a statement, that doesn't necessarily mean that the school will receive any extra money to do provide the services as indicated in the statement. The school will continue to be put in an awkward position of determining how to divide up their limited cash amongst all the SEN children in their school.

This is why close co-operation between home and school is essential The school is not your enemy, so fighting with them is unlikely to get your child the help she needs. Do try to be polite and friendly, and listen to what they say about your child. At the same time, don't be afraid to speak up if you are worried that something is being missed or not dealt with. After all, if you don't speak up for your child, who will?

Hopefully, if the educational needs can be appropriately identified and targeted, then your child should find school to be a less stressful environment and, therefore, be more settled, not just in school, but also at home.

The SEN Code of Practice can be ordered, free, from 0845 602 2260

About The Author
Dr. Noel Swanson is a child psychiatrist who specializes in child behaviour problems. He has a fascinating website with lots of parenting help that is well worth a visit, and also a must-read book, The GOOD CHILD Guide.


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