SEN National Advice Service

Contact a Family provides information and advice on any aspect of caring for a child with special educational needs. Their website has information on issues such as education, benefits and family life, and their helpline includes giving advice on education for additional needs, as well as other subjects. Telephone helpline: 0808 808 3555. Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9.30am to 5.00pm

IPSEA

IPSEA offers free and independent legally-based information, advice and support to help get the right education for children and young people with all kinds of special educational needs (SEN).

SOS SEN

Free, friendly, independent and confidential telephone helpline for parents and others looking for information and advice on Special Educational Needs (SEN). 

Sibs

Sibs exists to support people who grow up with or have grown up with a disabled brother or sister.

Zippy's Friends

Partnership for Children is an independent charity which promotes the mental health and emotional well-being of children. It provides free resources for parents and teachers to help young children cope with difficult situations, such as bereavement, bullying or divorce and separation. And it also runs a programme called Zippy’s Friends, which is very effective for children with special educational need. 

Fiddling in class

Fiddling with something – like bricks or Lego, or even a magazine – often calms people with challenging behaviours and anxieties. If you have a student like this, let them fiddle with something in class. It may help!

See through pencil cases

I bought Betty some clear plastic, zipped pencil cases so she can keep pens/pencils and colouring pens/pencils separately which means less rifling around which irritates teachers. They are also great for keeping money and receipts. You can buy them with different colour zips and in various sizes.

Get snapping!

All my students love to use cameras. Once we've captured some shots, we can use them with labels around the class or create our own comic strips. I use Comic Life with many of my groups. It's really handy for Social Stories too.

Apps for learning

There are some great learning tools you can get as apps for the ipod. My students' favourites are "Adventure" and "Lunch box". If your child enjoys by watching video clips, try the Functional Skills System apps, such as "Describing", "Dress", "Communication Skills", "Personal" and "Manners".

Vertical timetables

Autistic people may have little awareness of time, so it doesn't make sense to say 'maths, then after that cooking' as they may have little perception of 'this after that'. So clear timetables arranged vertically work best.

Classroom environment

A lot of people with autism are hypersensitive, so classrooms should be clear environments with no distractions – white walls if possible. Also try to give autistic people a lot of space around them. Many SEN children like stability and hate change too, so letting them in the same place is important.

Down Syndrome Education

Down Syndrome Education International is a UK-based charity that seeks to improve education for people with Down's syndrome. They provide excellent information and advice to families and professionals.

You Can Learn it blog

I've set up a blog to share some ideas for literacy activities with web-based applications. Many of our students have learning disabilities and the activities make learning fun, so the students engage easily.

Reward systems

When using reward systems with autistic children, it is important to be aware of their particular learning style. Children on the autism spectrum think differently. They are unable to see our perspective so we have to make the effort to see theirs.

ACE advice

ACE is an independent national advice centre for parents, providing independent expert advice and to promote fairness and opportunity in education for disabled children and children with special educational needs. 

Education and FASD

The FASD Trust produces a booklet aimed at teachers, but also of value to parents, called Education and the Child affected by FASD (Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders). It explains some of the common difficulties experienced by a child affected by FASD in school and helpful hints for teachers.

IPSEA

IPSEA is a registered charity offering free and independent advice to parents of children with special educational needs. Advice includes: local authorities’ legal duties to assess and provide for children with special educational needs; exclusions of children with special needs; actions or inaction by local authorities and/or schools which discriminate against disabled children. 

SEN Jargon Buster

IPSEA has also created a great jargon buster to help you navigate the SEN minefield.

Parents for inclusion

Parents for inclusion is a support site run for parents by parents who have disabled children and are committed to their inclusion in mainstream education. 

The Portage Service

I would definitely recommend the Portage Service – a home-visiting educational service for pre-school children with additional support needs. Excellent sensory help at a very early age. Our area allows parents to make a self-referral, but ask your Health Visitor or GP. 

Excluded?

If your child has ever been excluded from school during their assessment process, IPSEA has produced a free guide to help you take action around exclusion.

Equality Act guide

A free simple guide to the Equality Act for parents of children with disabilities in education is available to download from the Inclusive Choice Consultancy website (which was set up by a parent).

Asperger Syndrome in the Inclusive Classroom

This is an excellent book for teachers, explaining the particular difficulties a child with Asperger Syndrome may have in school. It covers background information on the condition and discusses all aspects of the school day. Secondary school is particularly well covered. 

Bag books

Multi-sensory storytelling bag books: Stefani loves them and so do I. You can make your own or buy them from Bag Books (alternatively we borrow from school).

Tell it to the puppet!

Our daughter (who has Down's Syndrome) seemed to be randomly making up the words for weeks until I used a puppet to read the words wrongly. She then had no problem reading every word correctly. She obviously hadn't been motivated to let me know this until the puppet needed teaching!

Something to chew on

We just couldn't get Nick to focus at school until an OT tried using chewing gum. The gum satisfies his sensory needs leaving him free to focus on his lessons – we had to get special permission from his teachers for this!

School checklist

Draw up a chart of your child's requirements and all available placements. A simple checklist of ticks and crosses against each placement should help you determine the best place to meet your child's needs. This is particularly helpful as evidence when appealing LEA decisions.

Photo diary

Photo albums are fantastic for sharing photos and comments with school. My son's teacher would take photos during the week, add them to the slot-in pages and record a message about what my son had been up to in the week. Then we return it the following week with our news from the weekend.

School buddy

Our daughter is autistic and struggles with social interactions. School have recently paired her with a child newly arrived from overseas for buddy work. This has brought out the best in my daughter who enjoys taking on a "teacher" role and now has a reason to converse and interact with classmates. Wonderful to see my daughter with a friend!

Calibre audio library

Calibre audio library is a national charity providing a subscription-free postal service of unabridged audio books for adults and children with sight problems, dyslexia or other disabilities, who cannot read print. 

Encouraging learning

When my son was little he didn't show any interest in toys, and I had to help him develop a curiosity for learning. I'd pick up an object, like a leaf or a pebble and turn it around in my hands talking about it, encouraging him to look at it and feel it. Children with learning disabilities do learn, but they need to be guided.

Celebrating Success Resources

The Down's Syndrome Association has developed a new resource for education professionals. The 'Celebrating Success' series uses case studies written in the words of teachers, assistants and parents. Split into four areas of education - Early Years, Primary, Secondary and Further Education/Employment, the series demonstrates how to implement successful inclusion across each key phase. 

Transition resources

The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities has produced new resources to help support pupils in their transition from primary to secondary school in England, including a useful easy-read guide for pupils.

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Using these tips

These tips have been contributed by members of our online community. We hope they will give you some ideas to try, but if you need further help why not post a question to the community or talk to one of our community advisors. If you have any concerns about your health or the wellbeing of someone you are caring for, please consult a doctor or qualified professional.