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Interview with Ellen Power – Part 5: My Top 5 Back-to-School Tips for Parents of Children with SEN

This is the final installment of a week-long interview with Ellen Power, mum to two children with Special Educational Needs and author of the new how-to book Guerrilla Mum: Surviving the Special Educational Needs Jungle (August 2010, Jessica Kingsley Publishers), which describes how she worked with – and in some cases challenged – the authorities to get the right education for her children.

Today, Ellen shares her Top 5 Back to School Tips for parents of children with SEN.

My boys go back to school next week. I can’t believe how quickly the holidays have passed by! In addition to all of the usual preparation, next week I will be performing some extra tasks to make sure that the school year gets off to as smooth a start as possible. Here are my Top 5 Back-to-School Guerrilla Tips:

  1. Prepare your child for the start of the new term! Implement a new (early) bedtime at least a week before school starts.Talk through new processes, where to meet after school, which bus to catch, etc – even if routines have stayed the same, go over things again. Be very specific, discussing what time to be there, where to stand, which is the bus number, etc. Talk about moving up a year, and their new teacher if applicable. If your child is very young, use stories to open up discussion. This can be particularly beneficial in aiding communication between parent and child if the child has worries or anxieties. Update contact details with school so that the school can ALWAYS contact you, the child’s other parent or other appropriate person.
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  3. Communicate well! Decide that this year communication between school and home will be better than ever. Try to agree with your child’s class teacher or form teacher how this will work. Does the school provide parents with specific email addresses for teachers? Will you use a home/school diary? Put parents’ evenings/consultations/curriculum evenings/whole school meetings in your diary so you don’t miss them. Could you offer to help in class, on school trips, or in the school library? These are opportunities to be at school when your child is there. You will learn a lot about how they are doing just by being there.
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  5. Meet the teacher! Attend general parents’ evenings/curriculum evenings, etc at the beginning of term by all means but it is essential that you make an individual appointment with the child’s new class teacher or form teacher early in the term. Use the meeting to outline your child’s unique needs and difficulties and your concerns. If you already know the teacher this can be an opportunity to give updates. Be polite, be specific. Provide copies of relevant reports (never the originals). If the teacher is new, give them a written brief history of your child, including strengths, difficulties, and behaviour strategies used at home, your child’s areas of interest and any other relevant information.
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  7. IEP Review! If your child has an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or a statement, look back on these with their end of term report. Have the targets been reached? Are any new targets becoming apparent? Be ready to advocate for your child in the IEP review/meeting with their teacher and Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO). Request that an IEP meeting is set to happen early in the term, so that targets can be agreed and provision can be arranged early on so as to give the child the optimum chance of making progress.
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  9. Watch out for cuts! The Local Authority (LA) will have been told to expect huge reductions in their funding, and they will be looking to make savings. Make certain that the provision you are expecting to see in your child’s statement/IEP is exactly what is actually there. This is particularly important if you have recently received an updated or final statement, for example, following an annual review. If you do see a reduction in provision, challenge it. If you do not challenge these things immediately, it will become increasingly difficult to have provision reinstated. I know it sounds pretty unbelievable, but we have found out about this the hard way!

Remember the Guerrilla Mum Mantra: Don’t take no for an answer; never give up. If in doubt, telephone, email and write letters.

Ellen

 

We hope you’ve enjoyed this interview series with Ellen Power! For more practical advice about navigating through the Special Educational Needs jungle, check our Ellen’s new book, Guerrilla Mum, and keep checking the JKP blog for more posts on special education titles and issues.

Yesterday: Ellen’s recommendations towards an educational system that fully meets the needs of children with SEN.

Ellen Power has a BA Honours Degree in French and History. After graduation she worked as a police officer then in commerce before having her first child in the mid 1990′s. Since then she and her husband have been tireless campaigners for their children’s rights to access the curriculum at school and to meet their potential in life. She has contributed to the National Austistic Society magazine ‘Communication’, discussing the issue of homeschooling children on the Autistic Spectrum. She lives with her husband and two young sons.

Visit Ellen’s new Guerrilla Mum blog!

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2010.


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