This article so incensed me the other day I wondered if I could change it.
So here is my version all fixed!
One of the best ways for a school to support young people with special educational needs and disabilities is to collaborate with parents/carers. After all, no one knows the young person as well as they do.
But what happens when you are faced with parents or carers who do not believe the school is giving the right support? Unsurprisingly, there is no magic solution to this problem without a willingness to step outside our comfort zones or to fight for access to extra funding. However, there are a number of steps you can take to improve outcomes for the young person.
Here are three common types of
challenging SEN parent, and how to work with them.
The angry parent The Frustrated Parent
It is worth bearing in mind that parents whose children have additional needs may be very disillusioned after years of meeting without any significant success getting the support their child desperately needs. Anger therefore, is understandable and it up to us to prove to them that things will be different this time by listening to their experiences and working out a plan going forward with them.
These parents may also be frustrated and anxious they will need reassurance and validation for the difficulties they have been through, If the parent continues to be angry try reacting as a human being instead of using standard responses.
It is important that you show the parent that you are listening and that you care. Try to leave the conversation with some positive next steps that can be implemented immediately so that they know their child is getting some help straight away and not left waiting indefinitely for longer term support/funding to arrive. These can be simple steps like a time out or asking for help card or change in seating plan, be creative and make the change even if it is only in staff member attitudes to the child, extra time given or more understanding of difficulties in class.
The pandering parent The Concerned Parent
The majority of parents have the best of intentions, are understandably protective of their children who may of been repeatedly let down or deprived of support by the system.
It is important to develop a relationship with these parents, particularly if they are anxious about a strategy not working for their child and doing them harm as a result. They need to know that they can trust you and your colleagues to listen and understand your child, even though they may feel that they have been let down by others in the past.
Again, empathy is important, but the issue must be tackled. Lack of appropriate support can be a huge problem, particularly at the point of transition between primary and secondary school.
I believe the key to solving this one is to empower the young person to be part of making decisions about their own support. We assign students a mentor, who will meet with them on a regular basis to discuss the quality/appropriateness of the support they are receiving and any problems or worries they may have.
Respect the young person when they say they need extra support with any area and reassure them that there will always be someone ready to listen and help if they need it.
Communicate the effectiveness of any support to the parents and ask them to do the same, encourage the use of effective strategies across settings so you can have a unified approach.
The non-engaging parent The overloaded, frightened or broken parent
Winning back parents who are reluctant to engage are our biggest challenge by far. Sometimes a lack of engagement can be a result of a fear of being blamed by school for their child’s behaviour, worries about their child being labelled or shut down after being let down multiple times. Making it clear that the parents are entitled to an advocate at meetings as well as outlining what a parent can expect, who will be attending, its aims and how long it has been scheduled for may help it be less daunting.
Give the information for local organisations who can provide an advocate if required, offer parents genuine support and also contact through a local group for children with additional needs, or through the local authority’s family support service. if they wish it.
Bare in mind parents may work, have illness or bereavement or a multitude of other issues going on, they may see their child’s time at school as respite from the high levels of care they have, they may even be sleeping after having been up all night with that child and may not realise the significance of your call or have not been able to get back to you yet.
Try contacting the parent at different times and using different methods, do not assume that the parent is disinterested just because they do not return your calls immediately. Use sensitive, non accusatory language. Make it clear you are their to support them and the needs of their child and not to judge.
It may reach a point where you have to think about how you can make meetings more accessible to parents or provide facilities such as out of hours meetings, meetings in the home or video conferencing
Whatever the challenges, remembering that by far the vast majority of parents only want the best for their children and that parents/carers should be assumed to be doing their very best unless their is irrefutable evidence to the contrary. All schools have a legal obligation to appropriately support the child and to make the adjustments necessary for a SEN child to have the same opportunities as their peers and that must be at the forefront of our minds when dealing with vulnerable children and their often hard pressed families.
Now doesn’t that sound a whole lot more constructive?