A team approach – getting input from your child’s specialists

acd resource learning together 54

The support system for students with disabilities is designed to enable schools to consult with both families and with expert consultants.

On this page:

Many of the parents and carers we spoke with had gained valuable support from therapists and other professionals outside the school environment, to help the school better understand and meet their child’s learning and support needs.

Below we talk about how you can raise the issue with school, and share other families’ experiences of using external specialists as part of their child’s education support team.

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Reinforcing your messages

Many parents and carers we spoke with used external experts to back up or reinforce suggestions that they might already have made, about how to meet their child’s learning needs or address problems:

External experts can often offer particular resources, or many years of experience in the field, that schools will often respond to:

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Sharing strategies that help at home

Sometimes you might have engaged a therapist who has made a real difference in your child’s life at home, and can suggest that they might also offer strategies to benefit your child at school.

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Observing and offering new insights

Sometimes an external professional can observe your child at school, and give you and the school new insights into their needs, or the underlying cause for some aspect of school that your child is struggling with:

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A team approach – and more support for you

Sometimes you might seek specialist input when you have particular issues to resolve. For some parents and carers, working closely with their child’s therapists is central to their approach in the long term.

Mel and Anthony take an explicit ‘team’ approach to planning their children’s learning and supports. They ask the school and their children’s therapists to work together, in consultation with them, and have found this to be a very successful approach.

Involving therapists or other specialists in a ‘team’ approach might also mean ensuring that they can speak to each other and share information about your child’s needs, when appropriate. As your child’s parent or carer, your permission must be sought for information to be shared:

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Raising the idea

If your child is in a mainstream school where staff might have not have much experience of getting specialist input, it might feel a bit daunting to suggest it. Staff might feel concerned that their teaching skills will be criticised, or that a therapist might make suggestions that are difficult to incorporate in a busy classroom.

However, many strategies that therapists suggest are quite straightforward, or simple to manage once introduced. In addition, adjustments that help your child – such as a visual timetable, sensory support tools or a quiet space – can often also help their classmates, including any with undiagnosed additional needs. When students’ additional needs are met, often behaviours that can be challenging for teachers will settle down, benefiting the whole class.

If your child is in a specialist school, staff might feel that they already have the expertise to meet your child’s needs without further input. Do not be put off. If you feel that your child’s needs could be better met, you have every right to raise that, and to suggest resources that could assist, including input from other specialists.

If your child is already seeing a therapist, you could talk with them about how best to raise the idea; they might be able to help, for example by writing a letter or getting in touch with the teacher directly. A support person or advocate can also help to describe the benefits of expert input, or you could suggest that the teacher look at Learning Together or our Inclusive Classroom School Resource on this website.

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