What parents wish teachers knew about their special needs child

what parents wish title

Teaching children with autism is one of the biggest worries faced by many teachers and even Special Needs Coordinators (SENCos) as they feel they have not had sufficient training in the condition.

It's recently been announced that in England, the new curriculum for Initial Teacher Training will include teaching children with autism at its core.  But as I asked in this recent post, what about all those teachers already on the frontline of schools who need extra training and support to do the best job can for children with ASD?

Some time ago, I asked parents on our Facebook page what they wished teachers and SENCos knew about your child and boy, did you tell us! (Don't forget, you can always tell them yourself too - there are many helpful ways to do this that will improve your communication and how they can help your child)

So, as the new school year really gets underway, here are some of the things you said.  If there are any forward-thinking teachers reading this, maybe you could email me and tell me what parents can do for YOU to help their child!

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What parents wish teachers knew about their special needs child

"That children can exhibit different behaviours in different environments like between home and school and that they should adjust the environment for the child."

That all children with Autism are different, just as all children without Autism are different.  What works for one child may not work for another.

"Some autistic children have autistic parents with learning difficulties of their own, so they also struggle with understanding reports or the system and can often look like they are not interested. But in reality they just can't cope with the consistent pressure the current system puts on these parents. So more support is needed for the family as a whole."

"They must go above and beyond EHCPs/ SEND support plans and involve multi-agency support for whole family."

"I have been in primary school education for 22 years, 12 of them working with SEND children. I have had the opportunity to meet many teachers. Older teachers who trained decades ago and young trainee teachers. I have worked with newly qualified teachers too. The message seems to be the same each time. THERE IS INSUFFICIENT TRAINING for teachers to feel they can work confidently with and for a SEND child. This is something that has to be addressed. Across the board. In all schools. No excuses."

"Not to be scared of it. Children with autism are....children!"

"I think the awareness and training of teachers needs to happen right from the start. I'm currently a trainee teacher and on the PCGE teacher training course there was NO sessions on SEND for those who didn't pick it as their primary focus. How is an Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) supposed to understand the needs of a child with SEND if they have had no training whatsoever?"

"That one child with autism is exactly that, ONE child with autism. They are all individual and what works for one may not necessarily work for another."

"...Listen to parents when they say my child is exploding at home after a day at school, and not think that's not related to school as the child appears superficially to be coping there."

"That autism isn't naughtiness. A child cannot just 'adapt' their behaviour to fit the norm, any more than a child with a broken leg could run 3 laps of the field because 'all the other children can manage it."

"The teaching profession needs to be honest and say SEND inclusion isn't working, and won't until all staff have basic training and specialist teachers and assistants are appointed and reviewed."

"That they and other staff MUST, act upon advice given by professionals and not ignore it because the child seems "fine"! Many people with autism are great maskers! It doesn't mean they don't have autism!"

"Also that using fiddles or ear defenders doesn't make the child different. They are already 'different' and that's okay, but they need these things to cope. If children tease them then it is the schools job to teach the children that people are all different and autistic people are different but that is ok."

"Just to realise that even though my daughter's behaviour is nothing like her brother's it is quite possible for her to have autism too."

"That sensory issues are a big part of autism and that a child may have more difficulties due to the environment"

"That inclusion doesn't mean you should play down a child's differences. It means giving them what they need to succeed, even if that is very different from other children, and teaching others to be understanding and accepting of the supports someone needs. Inclusion is not about getting everyone to do the same thing."

"That autism is a developmental condition. That means there are gaps in development and children will be much better able to learn (academically and socially) if they are given another chance to master the developmental milestones that they've missed."

"That parents are trying to make school life easier, not more difficult. We really have 'better things to do' too."

"It may be down to you to ensure that everyone working with an autistic child has the correct and current evidence based training in order for them to succeed.  No idea how a SENCo can achieve this in light of the current cuts and underfunding of SEN in general."

"To listen to and believe what autism parents are saying. Try walking in our shoes before you judge."

"That girls tend to hide their autistic tendencies and emulate their peers. Parents need to be listened to and the child given  extra support at school. (even if ASC is not picked up on there), before the child starts refusing to go altogether."

 "I've had my daughter's teacher telling me there's no way she's autistic as she behaves appropriately with friends.  They have no idea it's all an act, and really she's struggling & feels excluded."

"I wish they realised that ADHD is real and severely impacts the life of the child and their family. It often has traits of ASD but sadly is often disregarded"

"Use the class TA to support the rest of the class whilst working so the fully qualified teacher can help those who need their help the most. So often it's the TA teaching the most needy."

"That they aren't an expert in your child!"

"Work with me, include me we are a team, reassure me I made the right choice yes I expect bad news but please help me find the positives and celebrate the little big steps"

Do you have anything to add? Add your thoughts in the comments below.

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Tania Tirraoro

Founder, CEO at Special Needs Jungle
Founder of Special Needs Jungle. Parent of two young adults with autism. Tania is a member of the Whole School SEND Expert Reference Group for SEND Leadership, the Ofsted SEND Inspections Stakeholders Group, and sits on the Advisory Board of the Royal Holloway, University of London Centre of Gene and Cell Therapy.
She is also an experienced broadcast and print journalist & author. Tania also runs a PR, web & social media consultancy, SocialOro Media. She is a Rare Disease & chronic pain patient advocate with Ehlers Danlos syndrome.
Tania Tirraoro
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PlanetAutism

“That they and other staff MUST, act upon advice given by professionals and not ignore it because the child seems “fine”!” I would include *parents* in this statement, parents are the experts in their own children, if a professional fails to diagnose something the child has or fails to recommend a support or adjustment the child needs, the lack of presence of this ‘professional’ report on the matter should not mean LAs and schools don’t give equal respect and weight to parental evidence or advice on the matter! That the National Curriculum does not come above a child’s needs. Therefore… Read more »

Debunked

It sounds like you are not listening. Quit being so offended. Quit being afraid of parents. Quit wrapping you words around your union. Listen to parents. Of course it goes both ways, but focus on your way even if you are tired of doing it.

PlanetAutism

Offended? Your comment is entirely lost on me.

Soli Lazarus

Oh my goodness. 100% agree with this article. Schools can be amazing place for our special children. It takes small changes to make a massive difference. And a huge shift in attitude