Last week I was appalled to read about a senior teacher who has been banned from teaching for allegedly abusing a child with special education needs. Apparently, she was caught on camera hitting the child, pushing him off his chair and also allowing another teacher to inflict other abuses on him including tying his shoe laces together. This teacher was apparently a trained special education needs (SEN) teacher.
Hearing about abuse of any child by trusted teachers is incredibly distressing and indeed worrying. For children with special needs, who in some cases, may not be able to communicate as effectively as other children, this is even more concerning.
As a result, this week I’ve been thinking a lot about how important it is to ensure that those entrusted with caring for and teaching children with special educational needs, have the appropriate skills and training, and that the childcare or learning environments are conducive to their needs.
On my journey so far, I’ve realised that some “specialists” who claim to be experts at supporting children via a whole range of support and/or therapies, are in some cases not trained (i.e. don’t hold the necessary qualifications such as the SpLd or OCR qualifications). In addition, some school environments, given the lack of SEN awareness and training amongst some staff, are perhaps not best suited for a SEN child and that with a few minor modifications, they could be much better at catering for the needs of a SEN child.
I’ve learned now to ask lots of questions, to try to understand the classroom environment set-up and to enquire about skills, expertise and training of staff. I’ve learned not to be shy, but to question, to probe and to seek answers.
There are many questions that you can ask that will help you understand whether the school setting is appropriate, but also to understand the specialist support and facilities that are being provided for your child. There are also many suggestions you can make that are not expensive or prohibitive for a school to implement to support your child. The key here is just knowing what to look out for, what to ask and indeed what to suggest.
I found this brilliant guide online which was initially written from the point of view of selecting a specialist school however, what it does really well is suggest probing/exploratory questions one needs to ask oneself and indeed your child’s current or prospective school, about specialist support and care.
The guide is written by Dr Linda Mallory and it is called “A Parent’s guide to choosing a Special School”. The document and link are attached.
From my experience so far and indeed from what I understand chatting to other parents of children with special educational needs, it can sometimes be a battle to ensure your child is getting the right support that they need (whether they are in state or independent schools). I’ve learned that I can’t assume that the best is being done for my child. Now I have done away with my shyness and I have learned to be more assertive – to question, to probe, to seek clarity and to strive to fight for the needs of my child.
In my very first post on this blog I talked about “buckling up” for the journey ahead. Now I say, in addition to buckling up, roll up your sleeves and be ready to fight (in the literal sense).