Here, we give suggestions on how to successfully communicate and resolve differences with your child’s school, local or education authority. This includes knowing your education policies and sharing autism knowledge and resources.
We also explain what how you can take things further
if these tips for working together effectively fail to address your concerns.
Communicate with the school
Make sure you know the current strategies and interventions being used by school staff and that you’re aware what is going on in your child's day at school. Raise any concerns you have as early as possible with your child's class teacher.
Find out who is responsible for additional support needs/support for learning at your child's school. In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, this responsibility falls to the SENCO (special educational needs co-ordinator).
It is also useful to know who the parent governor or council member responsible for special educational or additional support needs is.
Know your education policies
Ask for a copy of the school’s policy on additional support needs/support for learning or SEN.
Get a copy of the code of practice:
Ask for a copy of your local or education authority’s policy on special educational needs, or additional support needs/support for learning.
If you live in England, the Local Offer sets out local services for children with SEN. This must be published online or made available to in a different format if necessary.
Share autism knowledge and resources with teaching staff
If you feel that the school or authority could benefit from a greater understanding of autism and how it impacts on your child you can share autism knowledge and resources.
Our teacher pack and information on communication, sensory, behaviour and the environment may help.
Keep accurate records of meetings and deadlines
Keep records of discussions, meetings and a diary of events. A diary of your child's difficulties is also useful.
Make sure that any deadlines are met. For example, your child's school, local authority or education library board may ask you to take action within a certain period of time.
Tips for writing education related letters
When writing letters to your child’s school, local or education authority make sure that:
- your letter contains all details of your child including name, date of birth, their school, and any other key information
- you add references, such as a tribunal case number
- the letter is dated and that you keep a copy
- you either hand deliver the letter or send it by recorded delivery
- you address the letter to the most appropriate person.
If you are unsure who to write to at your local or education authority, address the letter to the Director of Education, or equivalent. Your local or education authority will be able to give you their name, or it will be on their website.
Manage your documents
Always keep the original versions of any documents you send to the school, local, or education authority – send photocopies. When you receive paperwork, check that relevant documents are included and ask for any that are missing.
Check through all documents and highlight things you agree or disagree with. It's helpful to make a photocopy of documents so that you have a clean copy of paperwork to make notes on.
Read any paperwork you receive about your child to make sure the information is correct.
Preparing for education meetings
Here are some things you can do to prepare for a meeting:
- Ask for copies of your child’s school record before the meeting.
- Read any reports that have been written about your child and highlight any areas that you would like clarified or that you have concerns about.
- Mark any relevant sections in the code of practice which relate to your views.
- Make a list of your views, concerns and any questions you want answered.
- Use this list during the meeting and tick off points as they are discussed.
- If there is someone else you think should attend the meeting, such as a teaching assistant, then ask if they can attend
- Ask someone who also knows your chid to attend the meeting with you, ask them to take notes. Let the school, local, or education authority know that this is happening.
- Make clear notes of what is said including any deadlines that are discussed for putting support in place
- If you don't understand anything, ask for it to be explained again.
- Don't feel pressured to agree to anything in the meeting.
- Remember that the other parties must work in partnership with parents and give proper consideration to parental views.
- Make sure that everything you wanted to discuss has been dealt with, discuss some points again if necessary.
After the meeting, write a letter to the chairperson to confirm your understanding of what was discussed and any action agreed. Copy in anyone who was at the meeting.
Dealing with communication when you are also autistic
It may be helpful to explain as early as possible that you are also autistic as this may help prevent any misunderstanding.
You can also request any reasonable adjustments that you would find helpful when communicating with school and the local or education authority eg information in different formats, a quiet area to wait before meetings or the right to ask for meetings to be recorded.
Taking things further
If you are not able to resolve your concerns with the school or authority directly, there may be further action you can take. This will depend on the nature of your disagreement such as getting extra help for your child, bullying and/or transport.
You may have a child who is refusing school or being excluded.
Some disagreements, including those relating to EHC plans in England (after mediation), statements of SEN in Wales and Northern Ireland may only be resolved through external appeal processes. These are:
In Scotland, mediation can be accessed for any disagreements relating to a child’s needs or provision and independent adjudication for certain disagreements relating to needs, assessment and provision.
The Additional Support Needs Tribunal for Scotland is a way for parents to resolve disagreements with their child's school or LA about a co-ordination support plan, post-school transition and certain placing requests while education appeal committees in Scotland deal with exclusion and placing request appeals.
The Equality Act 2010 in England, Wales and Scotland and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in Northern Ireland legally protects disabled pupils from discrimination in education.
Find further information about Disability Discrimination in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Further help from our charity
Read nation-specific information on getting extra help at school for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Further help for parents trying to obtain an appropriate education for their child is available from our Education Rights Service.
The Council for Disabled Children's Information, Advice and Support Services Network
SNAP Cymru's Disagreement Resolution Service
Special Education, Dispute Avoidance and Resolution Service
Last reviewed: 18 November 2016.