Communicating your child’s needs

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A key part of your role is to communicate your child’s needs, as they change over time. There are many ways to do this.

On this page:

The main tools: the Student Support Group and plan

Your child’s school should talk regularly with you (and your child) about how they can adjust their programs to meet your child’s needs. This consultation aims to help the school to understand your child’s learning and support needs. The school should then plan, implement and monitor your child’s educational program based on that consultation. Schools should also assess and re-assess your child’s needs and abilities at appropriate points, find resources to help meet their needs, and regularly monitor their progress.

The main way this consultation, and the planning, monitoring and adjustment of your child’s learning and supports is through your child’s Student Support Group (called a Program Support group in many Catholic and independent school). The main tool for planning and documenting your child’s needs and supports is your child’s individual learning and support plan. This is a ‘living document’ that is adjusted as your child’s needs and supports change.

All students with disabilities are entitled to a Student Support Group and an individual plan, not only those who meet the eligibility requirements for supplementary funded support, for example through the Program for Students with Disabilities.

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At transition points

Parents and carers also use many other tools and strategies to communicate their child’s needs to school staff. Many of these are included on the page Keeping in touch with school.

A key point for communicating your child’s needs is when they come into a new school environment – often referred to as ‘transition’ – when special attention is needed to ensure staff at the new school understand your child’s needs, and getting supports in place from early on.

There are various supports available to assist with transition, including orientation activities and the transition plan, which is summary of your child’s learning needs and strengths, prepared by the kindergarten or previous school, with input from parents and carers.

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Putting it in writing

There are many ways that you communicate your child’s needs in person, including informal chats and more formal meetings. But many parents and carers reflected on the importance of having their child’s needs written down. The main formal way that this should happen is in your child’s Individual Learning and Support Plan, in other plans such as for your child’s personal care, medical care or behaviour support, and in transition plans when coming into or leaving a school environment (see above).

However, there are other written ‘tools’ that parents and carers can use, to make sure everyone has correct and consistent information about your child’s needs:

Other parents or carers would summarise key information about their child’s needs and strengths one document, for giving to any staff member who had contact with their children. This has become a key strategy for one parent, for ensuring that all of the subject teachers at her child’s secondary school have read some basic information about her daughter:

  • We provide a template for this kind of tool that you can use and adapt for your own child and school setting. Visit the Tools and resources section to download.

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Sharing information from specialists

Many parents and carers collect key information from therapists and other specialists about their child’s needs, and give copies to teachers and other staff, as needed:

Many parents and carers spend a lot of time finding out more about their child’s disability, and new approaches to supporting their learning and development. For example, some attend workshops held by organizations such as Amaze or the Down Syndrome Association, or do their own research. You can share this information with school by sending it to them, encouraging them to attend workshops, or as Janet did, summarizing key information:

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