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.
Local councils and schools must offer a certain level of special educational needs (SEN) support. This can include things like:
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.
Some examples of when you might need to speak up or act on your child’s behalf include:
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.
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:
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:
Follow up every conversation with an email confirming what you agreed and any timeframes.
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.
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.