West of England Education Centre

Frequently Asked Questions

There is a substantial amount of useful information freely available on-line. Some information is contradictory and confusing, however, and there is a danger of ‘information overload’ which can be overwhelming. Research studies are also of variable quality. Post Graduate and Doctorate training, in particular, in conjunction with Continuing Professional Development (CPD) provide the knowledge and skills for educational psychologists to sift through the ‘good and the bad’ and to keep up to date with developments, on your behalf.

Ideally, parents and teachers should value each other's perspectives as this can enrich the amount of information available to help address issues, together as a team. If, on the very rare occasion, the culture of the school proves to be a barrier to this partnership approach, it is useful to put your concerns in writing to the relevant members of staff, ideally including a member of the Senior Management Team. Writing concerns down, even as brief bullet points, has the added benefit of helping you focus on key issues, and to think more clearly about your concerns.

You might also like to consider and quote the Lamb Inquiry (2009) recommendations which is free to download from the UK Department for Education website.

The Independent Parental Special Educational Advice website also provides details of common problems, sample letters, you can use, and a helpline, free of charge.

You can also ask the school’s own educational psychologist to become involved if your child attends a mainstream (UK) school.

A 30 minute consultation with Linda Falkner, as a completely independent educational psychologist, can also be helpful in clarifying issues and ways forward, prior to writing to the school.

Such labels have been around a long time, and culturally, have tended to been viewed as 'disadvantages' or 'disabilities'. The tide is turning, however, with an increasing understanding that there are also benefits, which are valued by society, should that person be supported in finding their right 'niche'. The term 'neuro-diversity' is increasingly being used to acknowledge both these strengths and a growing realisation that it is difficult to fit any child into one 'box’/'label' as these conditions commonly overlap, hence the new term 'syndrome mix'.

What is more important, than a label, is to clarify the child's (or adult's) strengths and challenges in the current educational context to enable them to maintain their confidence, self-esteem, resilience and ability to achieve their full potential and claim that 'right niche' as adults. This requires a partnership approach between all parties and 'reasonable adjustments' at school. The reasonable adjustments may include modified teaching approaches/environments, use of technology and/or additional learning support, which is normally funded by the school. Very rarely, circa 1–2% of children benefitted from the protection of a Statement of Special Educational Needs which is being gradually replaced by Education, Health and Care Plans. www.ipsea.org.uk provides further information. You or your school may also like to suggest a Common Assessment Framework (CAF) which brings different professionals together to work out a suitable plan. Further details of CAFs are available on the UK Department for Education website.

If you have already shared your concerns with the school but your child remains upset/angry/tearful/disengaged or 'switched off' education, then YES something more needs to be done, sooner rather than later. In addition to the advice above, a useful starting point could be a 30 minute consultation (which is deductable in the event of a full assessment, if required).

Having clarified issues via the consultation process it would be possible to advise you on what further information would be required, which could be passed on to the school educational psychologist (EP), or, if necessary for a 'top up' assessment with another independent EP more local to you, for which there may be a reduced fee.

A child can be assessed, at any age, (the type of assessment would be sensitively age-appropriate). A consultation/assessment would be particularly important to clarify issues before any child started to seriously lose confidence and self-esteem, as this added emotional component would only make matters worse.