Should you tell the school about your child's disability?

by Geraldine Hills. Disclosing a disability can be hard, but but it can be of enormous benefit to your child.

child writing with pencil

Introduction

Disclosing a child's disability to school or nursery can often be an emotional task, but it can be of enormous benefit to your child.

Examples of these benefits include:

  • Getting the right support needs
  • Building the child's confidence in the school/nursery environment
  • Gaining access to support services
  • Better relationships with school/nursery staff

Schools and nurseries have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make 'reasonable adjustments' for children with disabilities. If you disclose a disability, then you can ask the school or nursery what reasonable adjustments they are making for your child to support their inclusion.

Extra information

Parents are a valuable resource when it comes to including children with disabilities in school/nursery, as we are often the ones who know how to deal with issues concerning our child, and we may be implementing useful practices at home that we can pass on to the school/nursery.

As parents, we have a much clearer understanding of our child's disability. Even though our children spend a large part of their time in school/nursery, this doesn't mean that schools/nurseries will have a very clear understanding of how best to include them. This is why it is very important for parents to work in partnership with schools/nurseries and offer their support as much as possible.

Sometimes schools/nurseries have fears around including children with disabilities which is related more to their lack of confidence than not wanting to include the child.

You can offer your support by putting schools/nurseries in touch with appropriate charities such as the Autistic Society, Down's Syndrome Society, and Tourette's Action. These charities often offer support and advice on what works and good practice in schools/nurseries.

Don't forget to ask any professionals that are in your child's life - such as speech and language therapists or physiotherapists - if they would talk to the school/nursery. This can go a long way to alleviating any concerns a school/nursery might have about the inclusion of a child with disabilities.

How to make a magic moment

If there is something that your child particularly enjoys from the CBeebies website, such as Song Time or Watch and Listen, tell the school/nursery.

Let the school/nursery know that this could be a way to really engage your child on a one-to-one basis or with the child's peer group. It could also be a way to create opportunities for magic moments.

How CBeebies can help

It's so important that we show the school/nursery that our child's disability is a small part of who they are.

If there is any work that your child has produced at home (no matter how small) - e.g. a colouring-in sheet from the Make & Colour section they have filled in - take it into school/nursery and show them what your child can do with the right support.

Programmes such as Something Special can really help with any child's development, but this is especially the case for children with disabilities.

There are some really fun activities on the show's website - there are games, songs, clips, stories, as well as Makaton signs to print out. You could also use the iPlayer to watch recent episodes of the show with your child.

The website is also suitable for all young children, so siblings can also benefit from accessing the pages.

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Expert opinion

There is much evidence to show that parental involvement from an early age has a significant positive effect on educational achievement.

As the parent of a child with disabilities, I have first-hand experience of the benefits of working in partnership with the school/nursery to support the learning needs of my child.

Both teachers and parents have qualities and strengths that can really benefit the child if shared.

Geraldine Hills, Special educational needs and disability consultant, Inclusive Choice

Top tips

  • Don't assume the school/nursery will have knowledge about disability issues.Let the school/nursery know about your child's disabilities as soon as possible.Be positive - focus on your child's skills and strengths.Offer your support to the school/nursery.Tell the school/nursery about the small things that help your child. It is often the small things that get overlooked, but can make a big difference.

Parent's tale

Sam is due to start school/nursery and his mum is worried about how to explain Sam's disability to the school/nursery. His mum decides to ask the school/nursery for an appointment to discuss any issues the school/nursery might have, but also to tell the school/nursery the many skills and strengths Sam has.

Sam's mum informs the school/nursery that they will be attending the meeting with an advocate because they have a learning difficulty themselves.

After the meeting, Sam's mum feels they have struck up a good relationship with the school/nursery because they offered their support to the class teacher. She also now has a record of what has been agreed by the school/nursery so they can be involved in the monitoring of Sam's progress through the coming months.

Paul, From Manchester

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