This International Disability Awareness Day we spoke to Susan, our Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Lead, and Amanda, one of our Family Support Practitioners, specialising in SEND, about the importance of raising awareness of disabilities and how tailored family support ensures children living with disabilities are equipped to get the most out of their education.
Susan, SEND Lead at School-Home Support
How does your role enable our Practitioners to provide the best possible support for families?
My role is to support our practitioners working all over the country, as well as our specialist SEND team based in Haringey. Our Practitioners contact me regularly with SEND issues, and I am able to support them by signposting to different organisations, by simply providing a listening ear, or through suggesting practical support such as visual timetables and other resources. I also run SEND Surgerieswhere we can discuss particular issues as a group. Our Practitioners provide essential and tailored support for families, and my role is to ensure they are equipped to provide the best possible support they can.
What are the most common challenges facing the practitioners you support?
Housing issues are a huge problem amongst the majority of practitioners I work with, as often the house families are living in isn’t big enough or equipped for a child with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. We also often face challenges with getting Education Health Care Plans (ECHPs) which are requested if children or young people in mainstream educational settings are in need of a higher level of support. Our practitioners provide essential support for families applying for ECHPs and are a vital bridge between home and school during this process.
What is School-Home Support doing to raise awareness of different disabilities?
Through our Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) initiatives, we have come a long way in raising awareness of different disabilities within our organisation. There is always more work to be done, especially in recognising hidden disabilities or those which are underreported. I am currently working with our data team to ensure we have the best processes in place to capture SEN data, and to better understand the children and families that we work with so that we can offer the best possible support.
As SEND Lead here at School-Home Support, I am proud of the fact that we have many different initiatives that promote equality, diversity and inclusion, and are always striving to provide the best possible support for those who have a disability.
Amanda Chalk, Family Support Practitioner specialising in SEND
Why do you think it’s important to raise awareness of different disabilities?
Raising disability awareness is ultimately what will lead to greater understanding and embracing differences. Without awareness, we are leaving people behind in isolation. Not all disabilities are visible and not all disabilities need adaptations but everyone needs inclusion and understanding to work together.
What are the challenges facing children and young people with disabilities in school settings?
Often it is the unseen or misunderstood disabilities that our young people and schools are struggling with. For our young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities it is important to not only look at attendance but whether they are really engaged in learning, getting any support needs met and showing progress. Are they supported to achieve their full potential?
What do you see as the biggest impact of your support?
I feel the biggest impact of my support is that families and young people feel like they are truly heard. They are given a safe space in which they can be heard, and given the support to ensure successful outcomes for all.
Our thanks as ever go to our fantastic partner, The Bloomfield Trust, who fund our vital SEND work and ensure so many children get the support they need.