If you have a concern to raise with school, therapists and other specialists can help reinforce your message, and provide expert advice and support to help develop a sustainable solution.
On this page:
- Many ways that specialists can help
- Helping you to raise concerns and find solutions
- Finding specialists
- Raising the idea of specialist input with the school
- Build and offer your own expert knowledge
Many ways that specialists can help
Specialists can support your child’s education journey in many ways. They can:
- Observe your child in class, to better understand their needs and the school environment
- Work directly with your child and the staff in class and beyond
- Provide information and advice about learning needs and effective teaching approaches for students with your child’s diagnosis – different disabilities often require very different approaches
- Give advice about your child’s individual needs, ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the curriculum or learning environment that will support them, and funding sources to support these
- Provide or advise on professional development to deepen staff knowledge and skills
- Assist with education planning, including goal setting, and support those goals in therapy
- Advise on how to incorporate therapeutic goals into your child’s school routines
- Advise on equipment needs, and contribute to personal care, safety or behaviour support plans
- Provide therapist reports or assessment to support funding applications.
- Find out more about getting specialist input.
Helping you to raise concerns and find solutions
Families in Learning Together use specialist support in various ways to ‘make the case’ for their child’s needs. Many discuss issues with specialists first, to consider how best to raise them at school. A number asked the school to invite a specialist to an SSG meeting, to discuss ways they could help. Others spoke of specialists who would approach the school directly, offering help – with their permission. All the roles outlined above can help you and the school to better understand your child’s needs and challenges, and to develop sustainable and creative solutions. Often the suggestions that specialists make can be surprisingly simple, and yet make a world of difference.
Several families observed that schools sometimes respond more positively to suggestions from specialists than to similar suggestions made by parents or carers. Expert advice can certainly strengthen your case. And as Tania says (see quote in How can you find an advocate or support person), it can also take the pressure off you.
One family we interviewed (see Anthony and Mel’s story) found their child’s occupational therapist a very valuable support. She took on the role of liaison with the school, whereby they would regularly express their frustrations to her, and she would draw on that input to inform her work with the school, for example by offering ideas, advice and support to staff.
“At times when things might not be going so well at school, I’ve used the support of professionals to reinforce what I’m asking a school to provide for him.
Sometimes schools are more likely to listen when I’ve done that. I think that’s because there’s a perception that this person is trained in a particular area, so while we are experts in our child [I suggest that parents] make the most of that expert status and make sure that these professionals can assist in ways that are going to reduce your stress.
I was concerned about Patrick’s wellbeing at home and at school, and I engaged a particular service in behaviour support. The person who assisted me was quite happy to go to the school, and observe Patrick’s experience in the classroom, in ways that I – as a mum – might not have an opportunity to.
She could share with me, ‘He seems really anxious at this time,’ or, ‘It seems a reasonable request that he has a pen and paper available in every room, if he forgets’. It really did help to define that actually he’s not so good at essays, so let’s put in place questions and answers, and let’s simplify some of the ways work is being expected of him. That helped me ask for those things at our next student support group meeting. And those things did help.” – Tania
Your child might already see a specialist through school, whether a therapist on staff (as in many specialist schools) or an one funded through the Program for Students with Disabilities. Whether or not your child is on the PSD, you can ask that the school seek input from SSSO specialist staff in the regional DET office, or similar professionals in the Catholic or independent school systems.
Your child might be seeing a therapist or other specialist outside school, perhaps with funding through DHS, NDIS or Medicare. You can suggest to the school that they invite your child’s specialist to an SSG meeting as a first step. Or the therapist can contact the school directly – with your permission – and offer to work with them.
- Find contacts for many different specialist services in our Through the Maze resource.
Raising the idea of specialist input with the school
It might feel daunting to raise the idea with school. Some parents or carers might worry that the staff will be defensive, or that their teaching practices will be criticised. However, many families have found schools to be very open to input, if approached in the right way. Everyone’s knowledge and skills can be improved, and a ‘team approach’ – involving you, the school and appropriate specialists – is a great way to achieve that that. Indeed, this approach is a key feature of the support system for students with disabilities in Victoria.
- Read more about raising the issue in A team approach: getting input from your child’s specialists.
Build and offer your own expert knowledge
Over time, many parents and carers become experts in their child’s disability, including therapeutic and educational approaches that can benefit their child. Many spend time researching the latest learning about their child’s disability, including through online forums and publications, support groups and workshops. This learning – along with your personal knowledge of your child’s individual needs, strengths and challenges – is extremely valuable. You should feel confident to offer it in your interactions with the school.