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Parent support in special schools

(13 Posts)
donkeyderby Sun 15-Feb-09 23:18:48

ds is at an SLD school, and parents there are quite alienated from the school and each other due to the kids being bused in.
Has anyone got experience of good parent support networks at special schools? Could you tell me a bit about them as the school is looking into improving support?

I'm thinking of training (especially in challenging behaviour, sleep, toiletting etc.) and social networks. At present there is the odd coffee morning once in a while, but they tend to be awkward and only a few parents turn up. The PTA group is dominated by staff and while everyone is grateful for their hard work, it doesn't provide a social outlet for parents. I'd love to meet more parents and have training made available to us.

Phoenix4725 Mon 16-Feb-09 04:21:04

hmm the special schoolim iming to get my ds into holds regular trainging days and i been invited to several alwys well attended

busybeingmum Mon 16-Feb-09 07:17:28

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vjg13 Mon 16-Feb-09 09:39:25

donkeyderby, our babysitter is a TA at a special school for children with physical needs as well as other learning difficulties. As part of her job she has additional responsibility for running a parent group. It sounds excellent, she has done loads of courses on sleep training, behaviour etc and then discusses them with her group.

My daughter's school operates in a similar way to the school your child attends with the children using transport and parents having little contact. I do think they like it that way too.

cyberseraphim Mon 16-Feb-09 09:56:02

Could you put up a notice at the school asking for email addresses ? As we know from MNet, virtual contact is great way to start and to discuss the issues away from the watchful eye of the staff? You could then move on to real life meetings

smudgethepuppydog Mon 16-Feb-09 09:58:19

We run parent support groups and we also hold regular open afternoons where parents come in for coffee, cakes, a visit to teh classes and a mingle.

Seuss Mon 16-Feb-09 10:01:49

We have a good PTA that arranges a lot of activities for weekends/holidays which means we all get to meet each other whilst the children & siblings play (usually private swimming session/soft-play type thing)and the children are good and tired afterwards. We also have regular coffee mornings and also mornings where a 'proffesional' is invited to give advice (eg, sure-start/dentist). It could be a good thing to have a staff lead PTA if you are interested in providing training as they may have contacts with the people you would like to get in. Attendance does vary but if there is a talk on - with enough notice - parents to try to come. One thing I have noticed is that these things need to be advertised well in advance - the last minute arrangements are always a bit quiet.

I think it really makes a difference to have a chance to meet the other parents, otherwise with the children bussing to school it's easy to feel a bit alienated.

donkeyderby Mon 16-Feb-09 11:00:31

Thanks so much or all the replies to my question. I can see that it can be done.
vjg13, you have hit the nail on the head about it suiting the school not to have parents in too much. ds's school is very good on many levels, but it retains an institutional 'closed' feel at times.
One of the problems could be that the local special needs parent's group is well funded and professional, but has neglected consistently to provide training or regular support groups to parents of kids in special schools. Everyone assumes that as this is their remit, that parent support is provided by them. It does wind me up!

FioFio Tue 17-Feb-09 08:03:58

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Woooozle100 Tue 17-Feb-09 09:46:14

we are setting up a parent's group at sn school dd attends (by we I mean a couple of other moms I'm friendly with and me)

Interst has been good. School v keen for it. Prob is getting people together for meetings. Some work, some live far away. Our school has agreed for us to use message board facility of their website software

Our idea is for it to be like a coffee morning / chance to chat / share ideas but also to offer practical stuff like a boot /equipment exchange (all give in our old pedros and other outgrown / not needed stuff so others can have / borrow whilst they wait for their own) We're also looking at buying stuff that can be shared by families across the school (eg 'sand' sn buggies / special harness for flying etc)

School has put on a few informal days for parents with nice food / activities with class. They're also trying to dip into local funding to run training courses for parents. Aromatherapy (which they practice in the school) looking v popular

donkeyderby Tue 17-Feb-09 11:22:05

It's good to have a focus isn't it. The coffee mornings have had no focus, and take part in their children's classroom, thus keeping them well away from parents of kids in other classes. Two or three parents turn up, the staff are unused to parent contact so are often visibly uncomfortable, and anyway, they don't even bother with them in the senior part of the school.
Most of the parents don't come from too far away as we are in a city. It is just about providing some sort of incentive to come to the school so parents don't feel their precious time is wasted. I have noticed how parents can wind each other up too, and some dominate the conversation, (often justifiably) moaning about their lives, so it needs good facilitation to make it work. I will try and talk to parent governers as a start. It always feels difficult approaching the school in case it is interpreted as criticism.

FioFio Tue 17-Feb-09 16:48:58

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donkeyderby Tue 17-Feb-09 17:22:05

totally agree Fio - too much unmet need and too few outlets. I'm sure I have been one of the moaners myself from time to time!
There is a counselling service in the city for parents of children with special needs, which is great but it's not what I'm after as it doesn't link you up with other parents or give any training. And you have to pay. Boo hiss.

You are right though, I have always felt that such groups need a 'counsellng element' or someone who leads the group who can absorb some of the raw feelings and who makes sure that everyone is allowed to express themselves equally so it doesn't get hijacked.

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