Educating your disabled child – how to decide what's best

18th February 2020
Variety Pod-ability Dan White Martina Piantina Yvonne Newbold

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If your child has special educational needs and disability, or SEND as it’s more commonly known, deciding what school to send them to is a daunting task. Mainstream schools and SEND schools both have their pros and cons. In this episode, we look at education for disabled children and ask how you can decide what’s best for your child. To explore this issue, Pod-Ability host Dan White, himself a parent to disabled daughter Emily, is joined by is Yvonne Newbold, author of the book 'The Special Parents Handbook', and parent to three SEND children. Also joining Dan is Martina Piantina, whose son Karl has cerebral palsy and is a Variety beneficiary. 

Dan White Martina Piantina Yvonne Newbold Variety Pod-Ability

Key recommendations for parents and families from this episode's discussion 

  • Whether the school is mainstream or SEND, research the place, ask lots of questions, and go and check it out.
  • Research the ‘wrong’ school even harder than the schools you do want, because the wrong school is probably worse than no school at all.
  • Parents have to find the right team for their disabled children, and that means going into a school and seeing who’s actually on the right wavelength for your child. Different staff members bring different kinds of skills, attributes and energies, and children need this range.
  • If there’s a school you feel you really don’t want your child to go to, and you feel your local authority might be pushing you to go there, that’s the first school you should visit, because then you can ask the right questions and show why those schools won’t be right for your children
  • Always trust your gut feeling about a school. If there’s a bell ringing in your head, its ringing for a reason. But don’t be afraid to think again. We all make mistakes, if a school isn’t working, pull your child out as quickly as you can and try to find somewhere else. Always have a plan B up your sleeve.
  • Take your child to see the school. See how they react, observe their body language and whether they look happy or not. And most importantly, notice how the staff react towards your child – because if that doesn’t work, it’s never going to work.
  • Get feedback from other parents about a school, talk to the staff and listen between the lines to what they’re saying. 
  • Keep pushing and keep asking. Remember, you are advocating for your child so you want the best.
  • Home-schooling is always an option worth considering if neither SEND or mainstream schools have what you’re looking for.
  • Guilt goes with the territory of being a parent, and even more so if your child has a disability. However, it’s worth remembering that children have an amazing capacity to find their own place and their own way in the world, on their own terms. 
  • You can be so traumatised that you forget to enjoy your time with your child. Try to stay in the moment – you won’t get that time with your child back again.
The Pod-Ability signature music track is by Sonic Boom Six. Many thanks for their kind generosity.