Five tips for talking to parents of children with SEND

Watch your terminology and always start with a positive when speaking to the parents of pupils with SEND, suggests Tes columnist and SENDCO, Gemma Corbyat.

Talking to parents or carers is not always straightforward – and difficult conversations with parents of children with additional needs can sometimes become fraught for both sides.

However, strong home-school collaboration is almost certainly one of the most effective ways of supporting our most vulnerable young people. To make these conversations as successful as possible, I have outlined some of my top tips. 

1. Know the needs

As a SENCO, I have regular conversations with parents and carers. Several have revealed to me how difficult they can find parents’ evening, because some teachers do not seem to know or fully understand their child’s needs.

Understandably, it can get parents’ backs up when teachers say things like, “he needs to work on his spellings” when the child has a diagnosis or dyslexia. Equally, give, “she needs to learn to concentrate more”, a miss when speaking to the parent of a child with ADHD.

Parents are well aware of their child’s diagnoses, difficulties and differences. What they want to hear is what actual progress has been made and what strategies could help their child to progress further. Ensure that you have read the Individual Education Plan (IEP) or Pupil Passport of every child you teach who has identified special educational needs.

2. Watch your wording

Be mindful of your language. Avoid using words such as “slow” or “behind”, as these can have negative connotations. Replace them with “needs additional thinking time” or “is catching his peers up”.  I inadvertently upset a parent when I wrote on an annual review report that their child needed to improve their attendance as they were missing out on vital learning. The parent felt I was implying that her daughter was missing school for no valid reason and was complicit in that act. Of course, this was not what I meant, but I should have thought more carefully about my wording, as well as being more explicit. 

Read more tips Five tips for talking to parents of children with SEND

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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