Being a parent of a child with special educational needs (SEN) can be a hugely rewarding experience, but one that can bring along a share of daunting challenges along the way, and one of the first dilemmas parents might be face with is of which type of educational system would best cater to their child’s individual needs for development. For these demands to be met, staff should be knowledgeable on SEN needs and how to interact with children who require them. A system also needs to be in place within a school so that children with special educational needs are afforded a comfortable and understanding environment where they are best able to achieve a successful and positive educational experience.
Parents of children with special educational needs will often find themselves facing the tough decision of whether to send their children into mainstream schooling or to an educational facility specifically dedicated to SEN students. With a wide spectrum of SEN disabilities, there is no clear-cut answer and parents must take time to make considerations, as well as possibly consult with an expert who understands their child’s condition in order to help make the right decision for their child, so that parents can be presented with a clear idea of each options draw-backs and benefits.
Some parents might consider home-schooling as an option, as a parent can often be the best equipped to understand the individual needs of a child, especially one with a unique set of needs. However, this could come at the cost of a child feeling isolated from peers and the outside world, as well as receiving an education that could be sub-standard to that offered by professionals in an educational system; this isn’t to say that home-schooling might not be the right option – only that it has its potential drawbacks and is not the preferred option for many SEN children.
While sending your child to a mainstream school offers them the benefit of integrating with their peers and allowing them to feel a sense of inclusion and ‘normality’, many mainstream schools can be ill-equipped to deal with the individual demands of a child with special needs. Many staff are not trained to SEN standards and may be ignorant or unsympathetic to children displaying disruptive behaviour. This also goes for students as well, who might not understand children who seem different or not ‘normal’ to them and, as a result, this could lead to bullying behaviour from peer groups . This is not a reason to dismiss mainstream education as an option as all schools are different and many teachers and classmates can be patient, understanding, and inclusive.
One of the major problems with mainstream schools is the previously mentioned-fact that they sometimes struggle with the demands that need to be met for a successful SEN system in place. Many schools are simply not equipped to deal with children who require individual or specialized attention and requirements; and those that do have systems in place are sometimes criticised as inadequate.According to some teachers and educational experts, there is also the possibility that some children might be pushed into an SEN-programme at a mainstream school by over-eager parents seeking to bring about a solution for children who appear to have difficulty with their education, which in turn can cause children with real SEN to be overlooked or neglected.
Schools that specifically cater to teaching to a child with special needs outside of the mainstream educational system are usually better equipped to deal with children with SEN as staff are trained specifically in dealing with such pupils and will naturally be more knowledgeable about the variety of SEN-types; there is also the opportunity at these schools for children with SEN to receive specialist classes that can teach them valuable life-skills that they would not receive in a mainstream school. As well as this bullying is a lot less common in these schools with many children feeling more comfortable among their peers. Usually a parent would need a statement of special educational needs to access a specialist school and it is often an option most suitable for children with more pronounced special educational needs. Many children with SEN might find it difficult to get into a specialist school due to local authority funding or other issues, which is another possibility to consider.
Many parents feel that their children become more confident by going to a mainstream school and that SEN-specific schools would have a negative effect on their child’s self-esteem from a sense of seclusion. Others feel that the education and knowledge of SEN-trained teachers best offer a safe and nurturing environment for their children.
Educational psychologists may be considered if a parent is having a tough time deciding and some students may need special requirements such as speech and language therapists who can deliver communication therapy they otherwise wouldn’t have access to during school.
Every child is different and the right schooling system for one with SEN must be judged by a case by case basis, by the parents or carers of a child, along with the help of a professional when necessary.