How can I get the right support for my child’s special educational needs? 

If your child has special educational needs (SEN) you may need to be their advocate as well as their parent or carer. Being an advocate means making sure their rights are respected and their needs are met. Sometimes you may need to speak on their behalf. 

Understand your child’s rights

Local councils and schools must offer a certain level of special educational needs (SEN) support. This can include things like:  

  • Adjustments to help your child reach their potential while learning.  
  • Extra training for staff.  
  • A plan of support for those with more complex needs.  

It may help to understand the different types of support that can be offered by schools. Try to stay up to date with the policies and procedures of your child’s education provider. These might include the special educational needs and disability policy, the inclusion policy, and behavioural policies.  

Check your local council’s special educational needs and disabilities offer too – you can usually find this on their website. You can also get guidance from your local Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Services. 

Spot when your child might need extra support

Some examples of when you might need to speak up or act on your child’s behalf include: 

  • Making sure your child has appropriate support at school. 
  • Raising awareness of their needs. 
  • Getting a diagnosis. 
  • Making a request for extra support (for example, with an Education, Health and Care Plan) 
  • Identifying possible discrimination. 

    Listen to and involve your child

    Over time, you will notice where your child’s strengths lie and where they need some extra support. If you have found that certain approaches work, share your thoughts with professionals. 

    It’s also important that your child has a voice. Always listen to them and involve them in the process where you can. Take note of their wishes and respond to their feelings. 

    Build relationships with people who can help

    Try to build good relationships with professionals supporting your child. This could be teachers or a special educational needs coordinator (SENCo). The SENco is the person who oversees special educational needs support at your child’s school.  

    It can help to:  

    • Note down any day-to-day issues so you can discuss them. 
    • Ask for regular meetings and updates.  
    • Tackle issues as they come up to stop them from growing into problems.  

    Keep a record of conversation

    It’s a good idea to keep records of any conversations about your child. This means you have something to refer to later. It might be helpful if you have agreed to support that then isn’t put in place. You can include: 

    • Any communications such as phone calls, emails or letters.  
    • Notes of any discussions and agreements. 
    • The dates and who took part. 

       Follow up every conversation with an email confirming what you agreed and any timeframes.  

      Communicate in a positive way

      When talking to someone about your child’s needs, try to take a positive approach. If you can, be clear what your intention or goal is. Ask questions, listen to answers and identify solutions. Above all, focus on the needs of your child. 

      Get support

      Being concerned for your child is an everyday part of parenting. Everyone needs support, and someone to chat things over with. Talk to your friends and family when you need to. You may know someone who can come with you to meetings, for example. You may also need to take legal advice, depending on your situation.  

      Some organisations that can support with special educational needs include:  

        You can also read more about how to support your child’s specific needs at home and school. 

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        This advice was written by our experienced Parent Talk coaches. Parent Talk is a free online service for parents and carers, provided by the charity Action for Children. For more advice, message our parenting coaches with our online chat.

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