Tips for SEN Teachers
Even though we are only a few weeks through the school Summer holidays, many teachers, teaching assistants and parents will be thinking about school starting in September and the needs of the many children that will need additional support.
Talking to parents or carers is not always straightforward – and difficult conversations with parents of children with additional needs can sometimes become fraught for both sides. Nicola Murgatroyd, CEO and founder of MyLiferaft, knows how difficult these conversations can be as she cared for her daughter Faith, who had many complex medical and care needs, for over 20 years.
Know the needs
SEN teachers have regular conversations with parents and carers. Several say that they can find parents’ evening difficult, because some teachers do not seem to know or fully understand their child’s needs.
Understandably, it can get parents’ backs up when teachers say things like, “he needs to work on his spellings” when the child has a diagnosis or dyslexia. Equally, give, “she needs to learn to concentrate more”, a miss when speaking to the parent of a child with ADHD.
Parents are well aware of their child’s diagnoses, difficulties and differences. What they want to hear is what actual progress has been made and what strategies could help their child to progress further.
Watch your wording
Be mindful of your language. Avoid using words such as “slow” or “behind”, as these can have negative connotations. Replace them with “needs additional thinking time” or “is catching his peers up”.
Parents of children with additional needs can, unfortunately, be used hearing a lot of negative feedback. So, try to start with something positive if you can – and be genuine as there is nothing worse than a disingenuous compliment. A good mantra to try and remember is “always start with what the child can do, not what they can’t”.
Keep the ‘teacher voice’ in check
Teachers are used to having to make quick judgements about situations and exerting authority which is mostly fine in the classroom. However, it helps to not apply the same approach when talking to parents. Some parents may have had very bad experiences of school and could be apprehensive about meeting you. It is essential for the child, the parents and the school that you get these parents on side – and quickly.
Remember that parents of children with SEND may be facing all kinds of challenges. Some will have had a battle in securing provision for their child and therefore may be more sensitive to any changes in that provision. A few may have taken time to accept the fact that their child has additional needs or even still be grieving for the child they thought they were going to have. The bottom line is that you do not know what it is like to be in their shoes (unless you have a child with additional needs), so the best thing you can do is be prepared to listen and to offer supportive ways of working together.
How can MyLiferaft Help?
As Nicola said “My personal experiences gave me a first-hand insight into the problems and challenges faced by parents in caring roles. I realised that gaps in knowledge between parents, carers, education and medical professionals became huge issues, and wished there was something I could use to hold everything we as a family knew in one place. Nothing can ever really prepare you for parenthood, and caring for a child with additional needs carries extra challenges. However there are ways to make life easier for everyone whatever their circumstances, and that’s what we have created with MyLiferaft – a tool which helps to manage all aspects of modern day living.”
If you are a parent carer, then read the dedicated page we have on our website to find out more about how MyLiferaft can help you.
If you are a teacher, watch Sophia’s Story to see why Nicola Murgatroyd feels so passionately about MyLiferaft
Sign up for a FREE MyLiferaft Premium Account today!
Resources for SEN Teachers