Honesty and Openness
The key to working with schools is developing a good working relationship with them. Honesty and openness not only help to develop that good relationship but it also allows staff to better support you and your child.
Your concerns and aspirations
Talk about what you want your child to achieve while they are at school. Discuss with teachers what might be realistic achievements and what are your biggest hopes and aspirations for your child. You must be honest about your concerns and any factors you think might hold your child back. Together you can find realistic goals and work to remove any barriers. There might be some very simple things they can put in place to support and address those concerns, if you do this make sure you both agree time lines.
Talk about home
What happens at home can influence a child’s behaviour at school. When you are happy and relaxed, your child is more likely to be cheery. If you are stressed then your child may be more irritable. An upcoming holiday may cause your child to be more excitable than usual, a family argument can cause tearfulness.
The impact of new events or emotions at home can have a particularly significant effect on children with SEND. Children who prefer set routines can be severely distressed by sudden changes or even just the idea of something new. They can also be very sensitive to other people’s emotions and reflect that in their responses.
The siblings of children with SEND are also susceptible to these things. Their lives can be dictated by how their brother or sister needs to live their life. It is easy for parents and teachers who are concentrating on one child’s needs to miss how it impacts on another.
It is important to let the school know about:
Who is at home? – let the school know who the primary carer for your child is. They might talk to you but it might be a grandparent who does all the caring while you are at work. It will help with consistency of message if everyone involved in the care of your child gets the same information from the school. It will help the school provide the right information if they are clear on who is involved in your child’s care.
Major events – let the school know if there have been any major events at home – both good or bad. The death of a relative or pet, a house move, a family dispute, a holiday or the birth of new sibling are all the types of event that could alter a child’s behaviour at school, especially if it disrupts your child’s routine.
Children might become distracted or more emotional. It is important that the children’s feelings are addressed. It can be helpful for students to talk about what is going on for them, so you might ask the teacher if there is an opportunity for your child to do that at school.
Culture – If you are from a different culture to the majority of the staff or parents at the school, it might be worth letting them know a little bit about your culture. For example, being able to eat with a knife and fork is often a developmental goal in a UK school. However, if you regularly eat with your hands at home, this would be normal for your child. This is where misunderstandings can occur.
Example: Eye contact – a child looking you directly in the eye when they speak is a sign of honesty in many cultures, but it is a sign of defiance and rudeness in others. The opposite is also true; a child looking down at their feet when being spoken to by an adult is considered respectful in many cultures, but dishonest and sly in others.
Special Needs and disabilities in the family – Let the school know if you or other members of the family have any special needs or disabilities. This will help contextualise the situation and if you have any additional needs, it enables the school to make sure they support you by providing information in the right format, or making sure you can access meetings, for example.
Health issues – let the school know if you or any family member has any significant health issues, especially if it means a lot of time spent in hospital/ impacts on your daily life.
Example: Helen and Paul’s daughter had a brain tumour at 2 years old. For a year the family’s schedule was dominated by hospital trips and nurses’ visits. Even after treatment ended, their daughter continued to need regular scans, assessments and check ups every few weeks. Settling back into ‘normal’ life was bumpy for everyone, including their young son, who was 2 years older than his sister. He would often come home from school angry and frustrated by run-ins with classmates. The parents would have regular conversations with the teachers.
Then one day Helen and Paul realised that these conversations with the teacher were coinciding with their daughter’s hospital visits, in particular, her MRI scans. These scans were especially stressful because of the fear that another tumour would show up. This anxiety was affecting their son’s behaviour, which meant he was more irritable, less able to concentrate at school and more likely to get into arguments.
Simply warning the school that a scan was coming up and that their son was likely to be feeling the family’s stress allowed teachers to alter their response to the boy. Instead of getting told off, he was given opportunities to talk out his anxiety and given alternative activities to distract him. The result was a boy who knew he was being listened to and was able to tell an adult when he was stressed instead of acting out and battling schoolmates.
You may not be used to sharing
You may not be used to sharing your business with other people but it can make a real difference in how the school works with your child. You don’t have to go into great detail but just telling a teacher that your family is under stress can help.
It is important that you explain how you think a situation may affect your child’s behaviour. You can ask for their thoughts on what actions they should take or give suggestions on what you think they should do. In the example given above, the young boy needed the opportunity to express his concerns about his sister. The parents and school worked together. The parents made sure the school knew when a scan was due and the school could ensure that someone was around to talk to.
~ What happens at home can impact the child at school
~ Alert the school to upcoming events and family situations.
~ Create an open and honest relationship with the school to make sure your child gets the right support
Need to talk to someone about how to approach the school? Visit our discussion boards.