Starting school is a major milestone for any child, but for a child with special needs, chronic illness and/or disability, the transition phase will carry extra tasks.
At the beginning of each school year it is advisable to meet with the Principal and/or classroom teacher to discuss how your child’s needs can best be catered for in the educational setting. Through staff training, professional development, and other appropriate resources [e.g. an Emergency Medical Plan] you can be assured that any and all staff coming into contact with your child will be informed of his/her individual needs.
Regular and ongoing Parent Teacher Meetings , Case Meetings (or Parent Support Group PSG Meetings) with all staff involved in your child’s education to discuss issues relating to your child’s overall development and progress can be incredibly helpful and reassuring. These meetings are equally supportive of staff in their role, as some may have limited contact with your child. Even if they only see your child while doing yard duty, it is no less important that they know how to respond to your child’s needs.
In providing information to the school and its staff, it remains important that your child and family’s confidentiality is respected. Ascertaining the ‘need to know’ versus the ‘want to know’ can act as a helpful guide. Where possible, involve the child in this process.
Children of all ages, whether they have special needs or not, do not like to be perceived as different. How respectfully they are treated, and how sensitively their personal health information is managed within the school setting, will influence the child enormously and ideally in a positive manner.
For adolescents in particular, we need to identify and acknowledge their mechanisms for coping and their resilience with illness/disability, as it is important in order to foster self-esteem and a sense of independence.
It may be worthwhile to identify a significant other as a mentor whom your adolescent child can confide in without fear of discipline and/or judgment. In the school setting this person may be the counsellor, classroom teacher or school nurse.
One of the most effective ways of exchanging information between the home and school settings is by way of a Communication Book, which is separate to a school diary. This book can be ideal for letting the teacher know of any extra relevant information regarding your child, whether it be changed patterns of behaviour, specific observations or accomplishments made throughout the day.
A Communication Book can also be important in recording if and when a child has had medication administered. Details of the time a medication is given and its dosage, particularly if it has been a result of a medical intervention, provide essential information for parents and caregivers.
The Non-Primary Carer
Meetings with educational staff may feel quite intimidating, especially with two or three teachers. If possible, ask your non-primary carer to attend with you. It is beneficial for the staff to meet both parents/carers of the child. The confidence that you gain in having a support person with you usually results in a productive meeting, with successful outcomes on both sides and an increased understanding about your child’s specific individual needs.
Siblings of children with special needs will experience their own personal and emotional needs. It’s important their needs are recognised and validated. Consideration of the sibling experience within the school environment and implementing appropriate supports is warranted.
From book There’s No Such Thing as a Silly Question
Courtesy of interACT.
Disclaimer: Articles are general comment, not advice. The information is believed to be accurate and reliable, but no responsibility is taken for any opinions expressed or for errors and omission. Readers should never act on the basis of the material without taking professional medical advice relating to their particular personal circumstances.