Supporting SEND pupils and their families: 20 free top tips for instant impact

Our SEND parent community is wise and knowledgeable, and we like to tap them for their views now and again. A while ago, I set the following topic: What are your top tips for supporting SEND children that will have instant impact and won’t cost anything?

We know how hard teachers work and you may feel that you cannot possibly take on board anything else. However, all the evidence says what a raw deal disabled children get, and as they only get one shot at an education, every effort to help them thrive is worth it.

The overriding message is communication, collaboration and kindness. Let’s take a look.

20 Top Tips to support SEND pupils - and they’re free!

Here are some of their thoughts:

  1. Listen and believe parents and acknowledge their experience—they are the experts in their children. It doesn’t cost anything but if they go under due to strain the solution becomes much more costly. Support them to support their child. (Anna, Lisa)
  2. Communicate with parents, simple things like timetables, teachers, activities. Acknowledging that we are the experts on our children will make all the difference to many SEND parents I’m sure, as we spend so much time battling to be heard. (Janette)
  3. Interpret undesirable behaviour as communication of unmet needs (Kathryn)
  4. Celebrate our children’s achievements and individuality and the joy that can bring. Our children are not the sum total of their diagnosis or their academic potential. (Sarah)
  5. Be flexible and follow the child's interests in order to get the cooperative and happy child we all want to see. A child's happiness in school is more important than anything they might learn. (Sue)
  6. Plan better for transition (year to year, not just key stage) with the school engaging with the family and child/young person about what support they think is needed during that change. Also, ask what they think school staff need to know/be doing to minimise any issues due to the new teacher not knowing a child/young person. Often problems arise at these pinch points. (Sharon, Barbara)
  7. Use reasonable adjustments for our children regarding potential daily difficulties. For example, starting the school day later, not attending assembly, having a quiet room to go to, uniform adaptations and being able to eat their lunch somewhere quieter (Kristine)
  8. Concentrate on each child’s strengths. Don’t keep teaching the same stuff they struggle with, in the same way. Find another way and keep their confidence high! (Sian)
  9. Put yourself in their shoes: Imagine you are the child struggling to understand. Observe the strategies the child uses to fit in. If you have to use a negative response to a child’s work/behaviour find at least three ways that you can praise them. (Sue)
  10. Help them get the information for their child’s EHC needs assessment and support them in applying for one. Life is hard enough as a SEN parent, most of us are clinging on by our fingernails and often one step away from tears. We don't want the earth, merely to get our child's needs recognised and met. I don't want to fight, but I will, because my child needs me to fight for them as no one else will. (Harriet, Jennie)
  11. Remember an EHCP is needs-led, not outcomes-led, with provision for each and every need. A target is an aim, an outcome is a result! Therefore an EHCP cannot be removed because 'outcomes have been met', it can be removed when there are not sufficient Needs in section B. (Evelyn)
  12. Inform all parents about the area’s SEND Local Offer website and any local parent support. Even if the LA’s Local Offer isn’t that great there may still be something helpful to be found(Amanda)
  13. Start any intervention early and be a champion of need. Don’t wait for a diagnosis before putting support in place. Work with families to know what works outside of school to support needs too. Involve parents in your Assess, Plan, Do, Review cycle (It’s the law anyway) (Amanda)
  14. Take the time to build trust and connect with my child. Be someone they see as caring and supportive. If my child is dysregulated be calm and don’t throw fuel on the fire by getting angry and becoming dysregulated yourself. (Amanda)
  15. Understand that abilities can differ by the day. Some days a child with SEND may be able to do something but then another day they may not. Adjust and adapt to their daily changing emotions and needs and don’t be cross if they can’t do something they once did before …ask what is different about today. (Amanda)
  16. Remember that most classroom adaptations work for all children, so ensuring your classroom is accessible to one, makes it accessible to all. In addition, if you use a collaborative teaching style, this works on students' strengths individually and working together. (Angela)
  17. Encourage staff to read paperwork relating to the child/young person frequently and review it if required. Ensure the information is readily available and not just filed away somewhere.
  18. Take up free SEND training and share best practice between local special and mainstream schools (Stephanie)
  19. Learn and abide by the law as written, not via an LA’s or NHS policies. Parents trust you; it’s an unwritten social contract , treasure, nuture it and always be honest.(Miriam, Sarah)
  20. Co-produce with parents, involve them in their child’s therapy, allow them to attend sessions so that they can then generalise the skills outside. (Parveen)

Thanks to every parent who commented on our Facebook group. Some have been amalgamated into one and all have been edited for length and clarity. Our SNJ Let’s Talk About SEND group is for SEND discussion and is open to parents and practitioners alike. You’re welcome to join!

What should we focus on in 2023?

While we’re obviously still focused on the SEND Review, what else would you like to read about in 2023 on Special Needs Jungle? Let us know!

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Tania Tirraoro

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