Navigating the school system can be challenging with ASD and the different needs that can present. Often the behaviour that presents in school will be different from that at home, and this can add further challenges to getting the support you feel your child needs.
This is particularly the case with girls as their extensive ability to mimic, strong desire to fit in, and their masking can result in 'good behaviour' at school, with 'explosions' at home.
A poem from lived experience, by Julie, an En-Fold mentor/befriender
Never a problem at school.
Follows every rule
Always polite, simply black and white.
Stays out of sight with all her might.
She aims to please despite her needs
Hiding her anxieties
The girl they do not know.
The girl behind the mask.
All education settings must meet the "reasonable" special educational needs of children, which means they should be able to meet the needs of most children with ASC. However, this is not always the case, and some needs that should be met within the mainstream education setting are not.
Each school receives a notional SEN budget from the Local Authority, entitling each child with special educational needs up to £6000 worth of funded support from their school per year. If a child or young person has SEN, or an educational setting thinks that they might have SEN, the staff must follow this process:
The teachers MUST, examine the progress being made and assess the needs the child/young person is presenting with holistically. This may include involving parents/carers and hearing the voice of the young person too.
Once the needs are identified, staff must work together with the child/young person and their family to decide what outcomes they want to achieve and what support should be put in place to help them
The staff, supported by the SENCO, where relevant, should put this support into practice
The support plan should regularly be reviewed by everyone involved to see if it is working. If the current plan is working, it may continue, if it's no longer working or achievement of outcomes, there may be changes to ensure proper support
A Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) is a teacher who coordinates the provision for children with special educational needs or disabilities in schools. This person must be a qualified teacher and sit on the senior leadership team of the school. Furthermore, they must complete the Nation Award for SENCOs as mandatory training within three years of taking up the role.
The SENCO has a critical role to play in ensuring that children with special educational needs and disabilities within a school receive the support they need.
-Overseeing the day-to-day operation of the school's SEN policy
-Supporting the identification of children with special educational needs
-Coordinating provision for children with SEN
-Liaising with parents of children with SEN
-Liaising with other providers, outside agencies, educational psychologists and external agencies
-Ensuring that the school keeps the records of all pupils with SEN up to date, including Individual Education Plans (IEPs) or Provision Maps, depending on what model the school uses
If your child is in the process of being assessed for special educational needs (SEN), or already has a diagnosis, it’s important to be open and honest with the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) so that she can establish how he can best be supported. ‘Try to be clear and open about what your child’s difficulties are, and offer ideas about what you think might help,’ advises Carmel McDermott, SEN parent advisor at Contact a Family (helpline 0808 808 3555).Read the school policy
All schools have a SEN policy, which is usually available from the school office or on the website. ‘It’s a good idea to read this, so you know what the school says it will do to help children with SEN, and what it’s reasonable to expect from the SENCO,’ says Carmel.
Make yourself available
You’re likely to be invited to meetings on a regular basis to review your child’s progress and targets. 'The support that your child receives, and their targets, should ideally be reviewed every term and it's important that parents are involved and get the opportunity to contribute to this,' says Carmel. It can be difficult to fit these meetings in, especially if you work, but try to make yourself available wherever possible so you’re fully informed about your child’s development.
Keep a diary
Special educational needs can affect not just school life, but home life too, so don’t underestimate the value of your own observations of your child in helping the SENCO provide the right support. ‘It’s a good idea to write down any observations about your child as they happen, so you have a clear record to share with the SENCO and can address any problems as they come up,’ Carmel suggests.
Use a link book
A notebook that you can use to communicate with your child’s teacher and SENCO can be really helpful in ensuring minor niggles are dealt with swiftly, and in sharing day-to-day progress reports or information about things that have happened at home that might affect your child’s day at school.
Fulfil your own commitments
Your child’s SEN support plan will set out not just what the school will do to help your child meet his targets, but also what you as parents can do at home. It’s important to take these tasks or obligations seriously, and make an effort to fulfil them. If you’re having difficulty and feel you can’t wait till your child’s next review, speak to the SENCO.
Deal with problems promptly
If something has happened at school that concerns you, try to deal with it swiftly by making an appointment to speak to the SENCO. ‘It’s always best to address problems as they arise, otherwise they can fester and resentment can build,’ explains Carmel.
Keep your expectations reasonable
Bear in mind that many SENCOs are also teachers with their own class to look after, and only perform their SENCO duties part-time. ‘The SENCO should be willing to talk to or meet with you, but she is likely to be teaching and dealing with other SEN children too, and may not be able to respond, or solve the problem, instantly,’ Carmel says.
Share your insights
It’s helpful to the SENCO if you share information and ideas about how you manage your child’s SEN at home. ‘You know best what works and doesn’t work for him, and children often thrive if there’s consistency between what happens at school and at home,’ says Carmel.
Have a trusting relationship
The world of SEN is complex, and sometimes you may feel that the school isn’t meeting your child’s needs. Try to remember that SENCOs are in position because they are genuinely concerned for the welfare of SEN children, and trust them to look after your child’s best interests.
Remember you’re the expert
‘SENCOs may be expert in special educational needs, but remember that you are the person who knows your child best,’ Carmel says. ‘If you have concerns or suggestions, always share them with the SENCO. Your opinions and input are important and valued, so don’t be afraid to speak out: you’re the expert on your own child.’
The Early Help Assessment can be a handy tool in getting all the professionals involved with your child, or young person to sit around the table.
The purpose is to identify what is going well, what needs there are, and come up with an action plan. A 'lead professional' sets it up and completes the initial assessment. Someone within the school, often the SENCO will be able to take on this role. You have every right to request an EHA is set up.
EHA's ensure everyone is accountable for their actions to things keep moving forward. With meetings every 6 weeks as a 'team around the family (TAF) to review and identify next steps.
Sometimes a child needs more intense support and interventions; the school can put together an application for Higher Needs Funding Block. The HNFB is additional money on top of the notional SEN budget; the school must prove that they have spent the original £6000 on supporting your child's needs.
Along with the financial evidence, the school will also propose a support plan with updated costings to meet your child's needs. The school must also demonstrate that they have followed the Assess, Plan, Do, Review model in meeting their support needs. To be eligible for extra funding your child must be attending school full time, making those on a reduced time table ineligible. Every month a panel will meet to discuss new applications for HNFB.
Nurseries, childminders and preschools are also able to access this additional funding. For them, the criteria will be slightly lower as they don't need to factor in the notional SEN budget.
A poem from lived experience, by Julie, an En-Fold mentor/befriender
My children mean the world to me and make me proud each day.
They both are so unique you see in their individual ways.
One is neurotypical and one neurodiverse
Despite their different challenges, they are my universe.
My youngest is autistic and that is fine with me.
We just adapt our day to day to help her feel she's free.
Routine boards are a must for us, and planning in advance.
She struggles with anxiety if her world is an expanse.
Fidget toys and trampolines and socks that do not scratch
Is all just part of day to day and that is just a fact
She struggles with the world at times , especially making friends
But that is where my understanding and hugs, they never end.
Our life is very different now but that is just ok.
It's taught me to evaluate what's important day to day.
I've learned to be more patient and consider other ways,
That everyone is different and they truly can amaze.
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