A key part of your role is to communicate your child’s needs, as they change over time. There are many ways to do this.
On this page:
- The main tools: the Student Support Group and plan
- At transition points
- Putting it in writing
- Sharing information from specialists
The main tools: the Student Support Group and plan
Your child’s school should talk regularly with you (and your child) about how they can adjust their programs to meet your child’s needs. This consultation aims to help the school to understand your child’s learning and support needs. The school should then plan, implement and monitor your child’s educational program based on that consultation. Schools should also assess and re-assess your child’s needs and abilities at appropriate points, find resources to help meet their needs, and regularly monitor their progress.
The main way this consultation, and the planning, monitoring and adjustment of your child’s learning and supports is through your child’s Student Support Group (called a Program Support group in many Catholic and independent school). The main tool for planning and documenting your child’s needs and supports is your child’s individual learning and support plan. This is a ‘living document’ that is adjusted as your child’s needs and supports change.
All students with disabilities are entitled to a Student Support Group and an individual plan, not only those who meet the eligibility requirements for supplementary funded support, for example through the Program for Students with Disabilities.
- Find out more about Student Support Groups in A guide to supports for students and about the planning process in Education planning for your child. Also see Making the most of the Student Support Group.
At transition points
Parents and carers also use many other tools and strategies to communicate their child’s needs to school staff. Many of these are included on the page Keeping in touch with school.
A key point for communicating your child’s needs is when they come into a new school environment – often referred to as ‘transition’ – when special attention is needed to ensure staff at the new school understand your child’s needs, and getting supports in place from early on.
There are various supports available to assist with transition, including orientation activities and the transition plan, which is summary of your child’s learning needs and strengths, prepared by the kindergarten or previous school, with input from parents and carers.
- Find out more about transition planning and supports in Education planning for your child.
Putting it in writing
There are many ways that you communicate your child’s needs in person, including informal chats and more formal meetings. But many parents and carers reflected on the importance of having their child’s needs written down. The main formal way that this should happen is in your child’s Individual Learning and Support Plan, in other plans such as for your child’s personal care, medical care or behaviour support, and in transition plans when coming into or leaving a school environment (see above).
- See Education planning for your child for more on all of these tools.
However, there are other written ‘tools’ that parents and carers can use, to make sure everyone has correct and consistent information about your child’s needs:
“[It was important to have] clear communication to start with. Clear expectations. I expect the best for my son, and I expect the best possible care in every way. And I gave them the tools to help that happen. wrote down everything and developed charts, I wrote down all the observation lists. I had all the medical action plans signed off by doctors, so that it wasn’t just me saying it, there was confirmation by professionals
My lesson learned is when you don’t provide information in writing – not a big document, just dot points – someone can come back saying, ‘I forgot, I didn’t realise, I didn’t know, I wasn’t told’.
Whereas when necessary information was provided in a written document that then travelled everywhere with Casey – in his communication book when he was at school, and in his wheelchair when he became paralysed, or around the house or in his van – that ensured that everyone had the same consistent information and knowledge of how to support Casey.” – Rhonda
Other parents or carers would summarise key information about their child’s needs and strengths one document, for giving to any staff member who had contact with their children. This has become a key strategy for one parent, for ensuring that all of the subject teachers at her child’s secondary school have read some basic information about her daughter:
“I developed a book about Ruby. I use it in different situations, but I adapted it to school. This is supposed to go to every teacher to view and they’re supposed to sign it. This is an up to date profile about Ruby – what her entry level is, what she needs to learn, how you can do it. Understanding the student – what ruby enjoys, what are her strengths, what might she need help with. And a bit about who she is. Things they need to know, some strategies around her sensory processing issues.
They’re a real positive I think, because it’s a way for the teacher to get to know her, not just as a little girl who has an intellectual disability, but as a person with strengths. The staff are supposed to sign it. That’s been a really useful tool.” – Denise
- We provide a template for this kind of tool that you can use and adapt for your own child and school setting. Visit the Tools and resources section to download.
Sharing information from specialists
Many parents and carers collect key information from therapists and other specialists about their child’s needs, and give copies to teachers and other staff, as needed:
“Patrick has a bundle of information that travels with him everywhere he goes, from environment to environment. This can include information about his diagnosis, or different therapy reports that we’ve had. Tools and tips and strategies that may be useful for managing anxiety or supporting chunking information in ways that make it easier for him to understand. I could see the different results, when teachers did implement those things.” – Tania
Many parents and carers spend a lot of time finding out more about their child’s disability, and new approaches to supporting their learning and development. For example, some attend workshops held by organizations such as Amaze or the Down Syndrome Association, or do their own research. You can share this information with school by sending it to them, encouraging them to attend workshops, or as Janet did, summarizing key information: