I write to you as a mum, a teacher, someone who like you is often involved in assessments of one kind or another.
I write because there is something I need to say.
And I need you to listen, because by listening you have the power to change so much for the families you come into contact with.
For children with SEND and their families assessments are often brutal.
We go into a room and you ask us to list the things that our children cannot do. You ask about their struggles and what makes them different. You prod, you poke, you open wounds.
And that, I understand, is the information you need to make your diagnosis, to assess who needs support, to make your referrals.
But I ask you this. If you were sat in a room and asked to list everything you or your child found difficult, how would you feel?
What if your parenting was scrutinised at every step, your decision making, your reasoning?
What if before you were given help you had to jump through hoops, many of them, only to jump them and be told there is no funding.
I will never forget that day those words ‘she has autism’ were uttered, before we were ushered into the street – with a report full of the things she couldn’t do.
So I ask you this, can we please turn the tables, change the agenda?
Can we make time to talk about the cans. Let parents tell you what their child excels at – I promise it will illuminate so much – perhaps even more than the can’ts.
I would tell you the Bear knows every Disney film from back to front, that she’s incredible at languages and can pronounce new words exactly as she hears them, I would tell you she’s a protector of fairness and a defender of those others have wronged. I would tell you that at two she could recognise any Disney song from the first two beats, I would tell you that despite her anxiety she never gives up.
I would tell you the Lion is the bravest boy I know. I’d tell you he loves to play with diggers, and never forgets anything. I would tell you he gives the best cuddles in the world, and that even at two he very definitely knows his own mind. I’d tell you that he can climb anything, is a talented escapologist and that his Spanish is better than mine.
I would tell you all that and more. But no-one asks.
And it’s this – the human element – a focus on strengths not just struggles that would make the process more human. That would leave parents walking out of a room feeling listened to, feeling understood, feeling valued not criticised.
It’s a small change.
It means deviating from the script.
But isn’t that what life is about?
Let’s include these strengths in our conversations, add them to our reports. Let’s show parents they are doing a good job. Let’s show children differences should be celebrated.
It’s time for change.
Why not join our lovely, friendly Facebook Group full of parents determined to make sure their children are #UNIQUEANDSUCCESSFUL.
If you do want to learn more you might find our autism section a useful place to start. It’s full of different strategies to try out.
Or if you’re looking for more personal support to help you take that action, why not check out our Consultancy Services.