Here at I AM, we get many calls to our information line from parents struggling to work and communicate effectively with the school that their child attends. There are though some steps that you can take to build an effective working relationship with your child’s school.
For the best outcome, it is important to try to work effectively with your child’s school but sometimes our emotions get in the way. We may feel that the school are not being supportive, but we should try to remember that schools are short of money and many teachers will have received no training on autism and often have little experience of it.
If you do have concerns though, it is important to talk to the school. In many ways, it is helpful to treat these interactions as though you were in a “business” situation, in other words, be calm and assertive and consider in advance what key messages you want to get across. Sometimes we try to catch a quick word with teachers at the beginning or end of the day, this is often not effective. It is far better to set up a proper meeting where everyone can dedicate the time to the issues being discussed.
Taking the following approach can be effective
- Make an appointment with all concerned – Head, SENCO, teacher, TA and if possible, the governor responsible for SEND. This ensures that everyone knows about your concerns.
- Allow enough time for this appointment (min. 1 hour) – This allows the time for a full discussion.
- Create an agenda and share it with all before the meeting – If necessary, make some notes for yourself that contain the key points that you want to get across in advance. Identify specific examples relating to your concerns. Share the agenda with everyone involved before the meeting so they have the opportunity to investigate your concerns before you meet so that the meeting is a more efficient use of time.
- Take a friend or relative that knows you well who can take notes and provide emotional support – It is important to have emotional support in these meetings from someone who knows you well enough that they can step in and take over if your emotions get the better of you.
- Take notes – If you do need to progress your case, you need to have a record of what was discussed. Again, take someone with you to do this so that you can concentrate on the conversation.
- Agree on action points and set a time frame for these – You want this meeting to lead to some actions. Make sure these are noted and who is responsible for them and the time frame by which they are going to be completed.
- Agree on a date for another meeting to review the progress of the action points – It is important to continue to have this dialogue and check in with what progress has been made and what else might need to be done. So before ending the meeting agree on another date for a future meeting.
- Share notes and action points after the meeting with everyone – The notes should simply represent a record of what was said, by whom and what was agreed. Make sure that you share these with all concerned to act as a reminder.
- Confirm date of review meeting – Make sure the date of the next meeting is confirmed with everyone, so it is their diaries well in advance.
Never forget they are your child, you are their parent, you know your child better than anyone.
Here at I AM, we can offer expert one to one support for children over the age of 10 years with a diagnosis to help them develop the skills they need or to overcome particular challenges such as travelling to school, developing coping strategies to deal with the school environment and supporting the transition from school to school or year to year. We can also provide targeted, short term, support packages as part of the “Team around the child, TAC” provision.
To support with building safe friendships, I AM also offer Youth Groups for young people with a diagnosis of autism over the age of 10 years. These are staffed by our expert Key Workers and enable autistic young people to develop their social skills in a safe and supported environment.