You can give your views in whatever way works best for you – you can write a few lines, talk to someone about your child or write something with lots of detail. What’s important is that you share your views in some way and that you keep sharing them.
Some parents find it helpful to have some headings to get them started though. These cover the main areas of special educational need and they are:
Cognition and learning
This is about how your child learns and how they think. Some learning difficulties may be obvious, whereas others aren’t. You could include things like
- how they’re finding reading, writing, literacy and maths
- any subjects they seem to have a gift or talent for or find particularly difficult
- any specific difficulties you know about or think they have, such as dyslexia
- strengths or difficulties with memory, organisation or planning
- whether they have any issues learning new skills
- any differences in progress compared with other children in their age group or class
- whether they have a reduced ability to learn because they have difficulty managing their emotions – because of change, transitions, early trauma and sensory difficulties etc
Communication and interaction
This is about how your child communicates with others and how they relate to other people (their relationships and social skills). You could include:
- speech and language difficulties
- any difficulties in communicating with others, such as not being able to say what they want to, or having difficulties understanding what’s being said to them
- not understanding or using social rules of communication or how to interact with other people, such as if your child has ASD (autism)
- what their relationships are like, with you, any siblings, wider family and friends
Sensory and physical
This includes physical and sensory things that could make it more difficult for your child to learn in a usual school or college environment. This might include:
- difficulties with hearing or sight
- multisensory impairment
- sensory triggers or difficulties
- any physical disability
- problems with fine or gross motor skills – fine motor skills are small movement skills such as picking something up between thumb and fingers and using it, gross motor skills are larger movements such as running and jumping.
Social, emotional and mental health
This is a big area and these kinds of difficulties can show themselves in lots of ways, such as a withdrawn or isolated child, or challenging and disruptive behaviour. You could include things like:
- social anxiety, phobias or refusing school
- mental health difficulties such as anxiety or depression, self-harming, substance misuse or an eating disorder
- physical symptoms that there is no identified cause for
- attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD)
- attachment disorder or difficulties
- how their self-esteem and confidence are
- if they have tantrums or meltdowns or times when seem to ‘just lose it’
If your child doesn’t have a clear diagnosis, then think about and include the types of behaviour you see, and how that affects them at home and at school.
Self-care and independence
All the way through your child’s education, you and the people that support your child will be encouraging them to become more independent. This means learning to do as much as they can for themselves, developing life skills and applying what they learn to day to day life.
We all naturally want to help someone who looks like they’re struggling, so it can be easy for the adults that support a child or young person to get into the habit of doing everything for them. So, writing down what your child can do for themselves and how they could develop these skills is a good idea.
You could include things like:
- self-care skills such as washing and dressing
- safety issues such as being unaware of danger, taking risks or being unsafe when walking or out and about
- how they manage homework – do they need support or help to organise?
- for young people, whether they have skills to live on their own or with some support, such as whether they can manage money, cook and shop
- whether they have the skills to work or volunteer
- whether they can travel safely using public transport
Include any health issue that could affect your child’s learning and their ability to be in school. This could include things like:
- long term health problems like asthma, epilepsy and diabetes, especially if your child’s going to need regular hospital care and appointments or time off school
- sleep difficulties that could affect how tired they are and how much they can concentrate in school
- any health issues that need regular treatment or support during the day, such as medication or feeds or help with going to the toilet or personal hygiene
- health problems that could affect how well your child manages the school day, such as anything that causes muscle weakness, low energy levels or poor concentration and focus.