Understanding the child

Create a child summary

We often wish the children could come with instruction manuals! So, why not create one?

It can be really helpful if you work with parents to create a summary sheet about their child for teachers, teaching assistants, headteachers and even substitute teachers, to use. 

No matter how tempting it is, do not write pages and pages! A long document will not get read or be remembered. You need to be able to glance at the sheet quickly at the start of a lesson or if you notice a child is looking distressed. So ask parents for a few key points that will help you make a child’s learning experience positive and fulfilling. 

When working with parents, ask them about particular times of day or activities where you have noticed their child getting distressed or struggling. They might be able to suggest a solution or suggest a different approach that works for them at home.


Key Information

You should include key information such as:

  • things their child likes and responds well to
  • things that may trigger a negative reaction
  • ways to calm the child if they do get upset or overexcited.
  • ways to communicate with their child
  • answers to questions you have
small blue child is scream and crying

Below are two examples of child summaries provided by their parents for use by the class teacher:

Helpful hints about Cynthia – provided by parents September 2021

  1. I get very tired suddenly and need breaks in quiet places
  2. If I am tired or stressed, I might not tell you but I will get very quiet and wring my hands
  3. Acting things out with dolls helps me to understand things better
  4. I get very stressed if the timetable suddenly changes. Please make sure I know what is going on and why
  5. It is OK to ask me about my medical condition, I want people to understand me better and am happy to talk about it.

Helpful hints about Pepe – Provided by the parents January 2022

  1. Pepe has difficulty writing but a triangular shaped pen or pencil helps
  2. Please give Pepe extra time to complete a piece of written work
  3. Pepe has difficulty reading large amounts of text. Please give him work broken down into smaller sections.
  4. Pepe will get distressed and cry if he is touched or squashed in a crowded space. Please allow him to leave the classroom 5 minutes before the bell so he can avoid crowded corridors.
  5. If Pepe gets distressed he will need 15-20 minutes quiet time in an empty room to calm down.

You can see from the examples above that you only want to include a few essential things. Ideally no more than five or six points. You want staff to be able to read and understand the list quickly and easily. 

Don’t forget to include a date.

Children grow and their likes and dislikes change. You don’t want staff using a list that is years out of date! Update the list at the start of every academic year and make sure any new staff have seen it. You might even decide to update the list each term.

Work with parents.

If you talk through list with a child’s parents at the end of every term, you can discuss what has been helpful and where you need more information, or a different solution. Doing this will help you keep information up to date and also help you to remember what support you should be providing! 

Create an indestructible list

Finally, create a tough version that the child can carry around with them. Put it on card and maybe cover it in a plastic coating so it survives an average school day. This can be particularly useful for students in high school or college as it ensures all teaching staff have access to the information. It also provides validation for students who may struggle to communicate their needs. 

Key learning points

~ write down key information about a child for staff.

~ make points short and clear, so they can be read and understood quickly and easily

~ make sure the information is up to date and that new staff always see it

A blue character kneels down to talk to a blue child. He has his hand on the child's shoulder. Both characters are smiling and looking relaxed.
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