Supporting your child’s input and independence

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Whether a child is starting primary school or in their final years at high school, supporting their growing independence is a key goal for families and schools.

On this page:

Encouraging your child to speak up

As children and young people mature, the adults around them can offer them more choices, and more chances to have a say in decisions that affect them. This is a key part of their learning – the knowledge that they have rights, and the confidence and skills to speak up, and to seek support to do so.

  • If your child is experiencing difficulties at school, it is particularly important to seek their input. Find out more in Raising a concern with school.

Sometimes you might need to model a greater degree of consultation with your child to their teachers and other staff:

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Many ways to give input

Even non-verbal children and young people can make their preferences known, in ways that their parents and carers understand. It’s important to ensure that all of the relevant school staff know how to offer your child choices, and understand how your child expresses their preferences. Digital tools like iPads and specialist communication aids are making it much easier for many children and young people to make themselves understood:

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Engaging your child through their interests

Whatever your child’s abilities, encourage the school to explore age-appropriate interests or activities for your child, to engage them in learning:

Many schools devote part of the day or week to individual projects, where students can pursue a particular interest. Encourage your child to think about what they’d like to explore, and encourage the school to extend this by encouraging your child, for example, to write or do a presentation about their project.

Through the SSG and individual planning, you can have input into your child’s learning goals. Explore ways to base your child’s learning on their interests or passions – many types of activities can be extended into different areas of learning, including organisational skills, literacy, mathematics or social skills:

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Encouraging more motivation for learning

As Suzannah says, if your child is involved in setting their own learning goals, and can focus their learning on an area of interest or passion, they will be much more motivated to learn, and more willing to take responsibility for their learning. Sometimes it might take time to find their area of interest, but its important to give them space to try different things.

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Independence as a learning goal

Developing independence is a strong focus in every school setting. Depending on their abilities, some children and young people might always need some assistance with certain tasks, but it is important that they are active participants in their learning. Adults assisting children with physical and intellectual disabilities need to understand the importance of providing assistance without creating dependence.

What independence looks like is of course very different at different ages. And every child’s needs will continually change, as they mature and gain new skills and attributes to their personality. Share your insights about your child’s emotional development and skills with their teachers and other staff. This will help ensure that their supports and learning goals are right for now. Reflect and review your child’s progress regularly, to ensure their goals and supports assist with their ever-growing independence, as learners and in everyday life.

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Secondary school and the transition to adulthood

As your child moves from primary to secondary school, it’s a good time to reflect on how far your child and family has come, to think about achievements and any obstacles you have overcome, and to plan for your hopes and dreams for the future. It’s also a time to look forward and to start thinking about how you will adjust your thinking and planning for your child, and for yourself, as the parent of a young person becoming a teenager.

Going to secondary school is a big step for all students. It is a move into the teenage years, with less reliance on parents and increased independence. The teenage years represent a transition from childhood to adulthood, and with this comes many changes—to physical development, emotions, behaviour and attitudes.

All young people deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential and secondary school plays an important role in their development. Parents and carers constantly adapt to the developmental changes that occur from the time their children are babies, then toddlers, through to kindergarten, then as primary school children.

One of the biggest challenges for parents is adapting when their child becomes a young person at secondary school, with oncoming adolescence and the emergence of independence. While this time can be challenging, by teaching your child to develop skills that build independence you can increase their self-esteem and confidence in their own abilities. This can help your child as they adjust to life at secondary school with a new learning environment and larger numbers of students and teachers. As your child gets older, your role as a parent will become one of guiding and supporting them with their own decision-making, while still acting as their advocate.

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