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Do you have a school aged child with SEN? Can you help me please?

(27 Posts)
hippohector Fri 09-Oct-20 20:12:53

Hello fellow mumsnetters, I'm after some help please.

I'm currently in the final year of my teaching degree at uni and I'm doing an assignment about children with SEN.

I have to put together a list of questions/statements that can be used as a guide for teachers when they have to have difficult conversations with parents about possible SEN or if a child is not making expected progress due to potential additional needs.

If you have been in this situation, what were the main things you wanted to hear from the teacher? What would've been useful for the teacher to tell you in order to have an effective conversation? And if anyone had a bad experience, what was it that the teacher said/didn't say that made you feel this way?

My own DS was diagnosed with speech and language issues aged 5 and I clearly remember the young and inexperienced teacher saying to me that he may never catch up with his peers, which was incredibly insensitive and not really very helpful.

I'd be very grateful for any experiences or advice anyone is willing to share with me.
It's such an important and sensitive topic and I'm aware that many teachers often don't broach this in the right way with parents.
(PS - I'm not a journo or a troll - been on here for donkey's years and MNHQ will verify)

OP’s posts: |
Allmyfavouritepeople Fri 09-Oct-20 20:18:07

Not a parent but just wanted to say how useful that sounds op. I had no training on SEN during my pgce and I had no idea how to talk to parents at parents evenings. This would be a great help for you and other teachers.

MillieEpple Fri 09-Oct-20 20:23:47

Id have liked a map of what was going to happen next in terms of support and professional help and time frames. To feel like someone was in chsrge and going to help.
We sort of got told 'we've run out of ideas' as the first time we heard he had SEN.

Hazelnutlatteplease Fri 09-Oct-20 20:26:33

I dont get this

You talk to them the same way as any other parent. 🙄

"S/He is a wonderful child but in order for them to make the best possible progress at school I'd like the SENCO to see if there is anything more we can put in place to help." "No it's not useful for me as a teacher to speculate, I'm just here to help your child make the best progress."

The main thing is that it shouldn't really come as a surprise. If the child is having trouble settling/behaviour in class etc. The referral to SN input shouldn't be the first time the parent finds out. But a good teacher should have good communication for any child not just the ones with SN.

"We're all a little bit on the spectrum" never say that to any parent

StarShapedWindow Fri 09-Oct-20 20:32:49

When my son’s teacher spoke to me she had no advice as to what I should do - just an enormous list of things he ‘couldn’t do’. She never mentioned one positive thing and it made me feel awful sending my lovely, sweet child into an environment where nothing he was good at was noticed or valued because he couldn’t read/write. DS is dyslexic - not exactly a major problem in life but I was made to feel it was the end of the world. He was 5!

scrunchSE18 Fri 09-Oct-20 20:35:28

I think when and where the conversation is important. This is not a conversation to be rushed in a normal parents evening, particularly if there are other parents waiting. There should be no surprises at these events and for serious concerns parents should be invited in (in normal circumstances!) for a proper discussion. After the initial discussion my daughters primary had a separate SEN parents evening, with longer appointments for everyone in the school who needed them.

Autumngoldleaf Fri 09-Oct-20 20:36:39

Op, this is back to front.

Teachers don't have any training in sen to tell dp that they suspect their dc has any!

This is a major flaw in teacher training!

Parents like me and every other I have spoken to about this said... You would imagine certain obvious flags 🎌 would be apparent to teachers who would have studied them a little in training.

Then perhaps they would ask a trained skilled SENCO to observe the child in class, look over their work and chat. Then they may ask the dp to come in for a talk and go from there, perhaps get the child seen by the Ed psych.

This doesn't happen at all. Instead dp are in the dark. Wondering what's going on, fobbed off, time wasted... Gas lighted, dc let down... Crucial time to get intervention in place pissed in the wind.

SENCO are actually only that in title and small pay rise. They actually often don't know any sen at all and couldn't help a child at all.

Parents that are worried are left fighting an invisible condition blindfold.

Those that can afford to try and get help then stumble into a world where a they realise every thing is stacked agaisnt them, and they have to fight for everything all the time and learn themselves in strange laws and councils and echp and this law and that law and join face book groups etc. All whilst everyday in the school their child doesn't get the support they need and they fall through the cracks.

The children whose parents don't support their child for whatever reason... Well.. They simply do. Not. Stand. A. Chance.

The last statistic I read was 40% of people in prison had literacy issues.

I'm really surprised you've come this far and don't know this.

StarShapedWindow Fri 09-Oct-20 20:44:16

@Autumngoldleaf. You are 100% right, I’ve travelled that exact path. Frustration at the wasted time being fobbed off and things being put in place by well meaning teachers who knew nothing was utterly awful.

CoffeeandKitKat Fri 09-Oct-20 20:49:34

Talk about what the child can do, the positives. It's very hard to receive repeated feedback, reports etc about the things your child can't do over and over again.

DominaShantotto Fri 09-Oct-20 20:52:03

I'm on an odd side of this one - ex-primary teacher, now a student speech and language therapist and I have a child with SEN (dyspraxia and SLCN and I suspect there's inattentive ADHD and issues with visual tracking in there for good measure)

Think our conversation went along the lines of, early in reception - "oh she's an absolutely lovely girl... (concerned look) have you noticed anything off about her spatial awareness?"
Me... "Yep, I'm fairly sure she has dyspraxia and that's what's behind her speech as well"
Teacher looked utterly relieved and I had referral forms in my hand from school the following day for various things and the school's observations of things to take to my GP!

God I miss that teacher - not the best sometimes at coming across to adults - she did say in that parents evening that she thought DD was a "lovely girl but I don't think she's going to hit the expectations for the end of reception but they're just set by some random people anyway"... I did tell her (I was really pissed off at the time) that I thought she was wrong and, while she might not get the nice neat evidence - DD was a sharp little bugger and she could more than hold her own.

I was right - hit expected all the way across the board except in physical skills (where she was borderline and they erred on the low side as she was mid-diagnosis at that point)! Actually got on really well with that teacher in the end - she is an utterly superb lady and amazing with the kids.

Things I've picked up along the way and try to apply myself -
- ask the parent what strategies they've found that help with the child's difficulties - I know fairly well what works with my kid in terms of how to give instructions and what support she needs in terms of being able to organise herself... we had a cracking year last year (until fucking Covid) with a class teacher who listened to what I'd found had worked, accepted that I probably knew much more about the specific set of conditions than she did, and we really did work together on it all.
- it's worth warning when things like referral forms are being completed and passed back to the parents that you've written it on the worst day the child could have and had to lay it out strongly to get them to take notice - I remember my daughter's SALT referral from school whacked me into an abyss for days and days!
-follow through if you say you're going to do something and do it - we've had a couple of sencos who were shit at this one - and one fucking amazing one (wish we still had her)

Autumngoldleaf Fri 09-Oct-20 20:54:47

I know star, my dd is nealry 8 and she's been struggling since reception. I've been waiting and waiting, thinking the teachers would be the absolute best people to trust.. And like I said I thought this system would come into place.

There is nothing there, why can't it be transparent? Wider known... Why is this major flaw hidden?. Either weave it into teacher training, train SENCO properly or... Just say.. Schools will not be able to help or spot sen...

Ilovemyhairbeingstroked Fri 09-Oct-20 20:59:50

Don’t let teachers draw on their own experiences with other children . For example , when I was discussing my child’s SEN and the need for the EHCP , the dopey teacher said , well there’s no point trying as he won’t get one , even though he really needs it , I’ve seen it happen with other kids.... well 8 months later my child had one - no thanks to him ! But my point is , if I took his word for it -like other parents might have , my child wouldn’t have his EHCP. I also Th ink they need to be less defensive when we come in with information about the child , it’s not criticism of their teaching .

HappyPumpkin81 Fri 09-Oct-20 21:01:23

I'm not a teacher but I have these discussions as part of my job. My suggestions are:

1. Arrange a time where you and the parent can talk uninterrupted when the child is not in the room and there is no pressure on either of you to be anywhere else. Don't shout out "I think your child is autistic" to the mum when she's trying to put her kids coat on in the cloakroom surrounded by other mums. This has actually happened.
2. Open with some positive's e.g Liam has really grown in confidence this year, and is making great progress with his maths, however I do have some concerns.
3. Ask the parent if they have any concerns, often they do and will have better insight than you.
4. Ask if they can think of any reasons why there child might be struggling with .... This can give you a really good insight to what they are thinking and where they are in the journey towards getting a diagnosis or how you could help e.g. I think he has ADHD or Autism and we've been to the gp but they won't help, or I've split with my husband and we're sleeping on the sofa at my alcoholic fathers.
5. Work with the parents to support them, e.g. I agree he is showing some symptoms that might be worth investigating let's get the SENCO or educational psychologist involved, or I can speak to a welfare officer about....
6. Agree a plan, CARRY IT OUT, and get back in touch with the parent in a timely fashion to see if it helps, or make a new plan.
7. Be supportive, parents are generally doing there best to help their child.

littleapple Fri 09-Oct-20 21:09:59

I had a good experience of teacher communication on this issue. Teacher focussed on helping my DS2 when he was in reception with the things he struggled with in class. She was always careful to pick out particular incidents rather than making blanket statements when talking to me, which I found helpful. This was both in informal chats at pick up and in parents evenings. She also always seemed to have something positive to say about his strengths, so not exclusively dwelling on weaknesses. I can't now recall any particular statement, but what mattered to me is that she seemed to genuinely have his best interests at heart. With my consent, she made use of local "SENISS" (supporting SEN in early years) to get an observation on him at school and advice. Both SENISS observer and teacher came to the feedback meeting which was helpful putting together how the detailed short observation fitted in with the bigger picture in class. I can't say it wasn't a shock to hear the observation, but it was worded as objectively as possible, avoiding emotive language. The only phrases I distinctly recall are "spiky profile" and "how would you feel about having him referred to a developmental paediatrician?". So ultimately I still could have said no - I guess this felt empowering that I had a choice. 2 years later after a long pathway I now know DS2 is autistic. One thing I did also notice is that with the early years framework there is at least an attempt to report formally on non academic progress (e.g. social interactions). This was a good starting point for the discussions about my DS. From year 1 onwards I've not seen any piece of paper from school or attempr to assess how they cope in the playground, interact with peers etc - it's all academic progress. Lack of framework means it's down to individual teachers a lot more than in early years to even attempt to communicate on this, especially if the parent is unaware there could be any issues.

WildWaterSwimmer Fri 09-Oct-20 21:12:15

@Autumngoldleaf You are spot on. It's such a battle for SEN parents.

In my experience it's usually the parents approaching the school multiple times about their child having a possible SEN and having their concerns completely ignored.

In my child's case the school spent years answering my concerns by telling me it wasn't possible he had a SEN as he was a high achiever. Eventually he was diagnosed but the lengthy time delay and lack of support has been catastrophic to his life chances.

lovelychops Fri 09-Oct-20 21:12:41

Yes to those who previously said, "we're all a little bit on the spectrum'
And, it's nice to hear positives in with all the things they can't do.

Houseplanted Fri 09-Oct-20 21:14:42

My experience (and the experience of many others) is the parents know there is an issue but getting the school to understand and help is the difficulty.

InTheLongGrass Fri 09-Oct-20 21:19:32

As a parent who spent from Y2 saying something isnt right, I'd have liked to have been listened to rather than fobbed off.

HazeyJaneII Fri 09-Oct-20 21:23:51

I would have liked people not to try and minimise everything, to not compare ds to other children (especially younger ones) and to actually talk to me like I was another human being, preferably one with a brain.
'...well of course ALL children are a bit clingy'
- ds had separation anxiety, to the extent he'd scream until he passed out when I tried to leave him
'...Oh yes my dd (3) has reflux/talked late/had lots of accidents
- ds has chronic reflux at 10/talked at 5/was in nappies until he was 8

Also it has been rare to come across someone at school that doesn't act as if our parenting is lacking or actually one of the main causes of ds's issues.

When we have had people who have helped and been supportive it has been because they are honest about what they can and can't do, they have listened to us, they have worked with us and treated us and the whole family as a hugely important part of ds's life.
When you have an individual who gets it right it makes such a huge difference, because often the systems and the culture around them are so broken.

Legoandloldolls Fri 09-Oct-20 21:29:08

Well I have two kids in SEN placement and oldest child was at a school that insisted my son was fine and health experts wasnt as expert as them. So I would have loved to know people could see it and make the connection between struggles and a course.

My more serves sons school wouldnt let me see his age scores as they though it would upset me too much but that door was closed years before.

If a child doesnt have a diagnosis ( I think) you need to ease the symptoms in. Like we have observed fine motor skill problems, seems to struggle with reading others emotions, handwriting is messy because they seem to tire faster than they should. I think we need to watch this more closely and or / ask xyz for advice ( although with funding cuts I doubt you will anyone to offer advice in real life). So drop it in slowly and then present more specific real life examples so it's not handed out in one shocking blow.

On the other hand, plenty of parents deny SEN in reality. What you see of us online are the vocal few. So if a parent ever expresses concerns, they are genuinely concerned. No parents wants to be one one saying my kid isnt gifted and talented.

For example my son was diagnosed at 3 with ASD and goes to a expensive indi SEN school. Most of parents there dont believe my son has ASD and at least two parents have had a ASD and ADHD diagnosis and totally rejected that possibility and complain about the paediatric consultant.

It's a hard truth to hear and if parent doesnt want to hear it, there isnt much that can be done.

crispcottonsheets Fri 09-Oct-20 21:44:58

Flip side- I can tell you what NOT to say. A few years into my son's SEND journey, I now keep a bingo sheet of things that I have been told about my son.

However, like what other posters have said, it's not what you say, it's how you say it. Dont use euphemisms.
Do it in private, NOT infront of other parents in the playground. Not for nothing is the drop off/pick up of SEND children from school known as the 'walk of shame'
Be honest. If you don't know the answer then say that you dont.
Don't beat around the bush either. While that doesnt necessarily mean being brutally honest, dont waffle.
Dont make promises you can't keep (I.e. you will get an assessment appointment in 2/3/4/5 weeks),
Be aware that different people have a different perspective on SEND than you might.
Follow the protocol. Find out the rules, especially around engaging with the local authority and follow them.

But most importantly, listen. Listen to what a parent it trying to tell you, listen to their body language and listen to what they arent saying but want to.

DinosApple Fri 09-Oct-20 22:11:02

For me it would have been nice to know of their suspicions sooner. But I understand it's a hugely difficult position to be in. Parents might take it the wrong way, and certainly there were budgeting issues which must have contributed to the school's silence. You can't turn around to a parent and say we suspect something's up, but can't afford an EP to assess your child (she's not 'bad' enough), so sometimes nothing gets said at all.

It took me raising it multiple times at parents meetings to finally be told we used a computer program to assess your DD, but it was inconclusive.
But it was only after I said that we could afford to get her assessed privately that the teacher was at ease enough to say she thought it would be a good idea.
It's really important to note that even if a child is bright, they can have SEN. DD couldn't spell her own name at 8, but was reading and understanding well above her age.
She got a diagnosis of dyslexia and dyspraxia at 9. It was £600 well spent, and the school were relieved it didn't cost them. She would have got extra time in her SATS had they taken place, but that should apply here on in.

Better communication from the teacher of the intervention groups she was in, and when they tried a computer program to diagnose would have been helpful.

hippohector Fri 09-Oct-20 22:14:03

Thank you all so much for your insight and experiences, it’s all really helpful.

OP’s posts: |
UtterlyDone Fri 09-Oct-20 22:20:10

Our school have been great with DD aged 6 (year 2) very adaptable and not taking a "one rule for everyone" approach so allowing me to adapt the uniform or DD to wear different shoes where need be. That was very helpful but was more of the approach of the HT not the individual teacher.

What;s been helpful for changing years is the Year 1 teacher talking to the Year 2 teacher, I can tell an honest conversation has been had as I finally got to speak to her Year 2 teacher today and it was clear what had been said by year 1 teacher about DD.

Moving forwards I'd like my views to be considered and to be consulted especially at the moment when it's harder for us to have f2f meetings, it would be lovely if a phonecall or email sent from someone at school to let me know whats happening so that I know how to support her at home, but also so that I can say whether I agree to it or not.

BluebellsGreenbells Fri 09-Oct-20 22:28:45

My experience (and the experience of many others) is the parents know there is an issue but getting the school to understand and help is the difficulty


There’s the obvious SEN where children struggle or have meltdowns don’t concentrate etc

Then there’s the hidden ones like dyslexia where teachers label them as stupid and lazy and are clueless how to help

Then there’s brilliant SENco’s who suggest interventions and nothing happens - or teacher ignore the diagnosis because they don’t understand

Teach the teachers first

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