Parents who contact our helpline sometimes tell us they think a particular member of school staff is treating their child unfairly. A recent article by Bob Cunningham (Executive Director, Learning Development for the American website Understood) looks at this issue and suggests some practical ways to deal with it.
Raising your concerns with the school
In the article Bob suggests very few members of school staff set out to intentionally treat a child unfairly. However, if parents think this is happening, it is important to deal with the issue as soon as possible. Raising a concern directly with a teacher is the most likely way to promote a change in behaviour.
Below is an amended version of the advice Bob gives to a parent of a child with ADHD and Dyslexia who believes a teacher is treating their child unfairly. We think it is great advice for parents of children with any type of additional support needs who have these concerns:
Try to give the member of staff the benefit of the doubt going into the conversation. Assume he or she doesn’t know all they need to about your child. The member of staff may not be aware of what your child is feeling or the impact their words or behaviour is having on your child.
Keep the focus on your child.
Try not to get into what the member of staff said or did. Focus on your child and their additional support needs. Share how you think this may impact on the member of staff.
Share simple examples from home of how frustrated your child can get. Describe what they will do to get out of a frustrating situation. Explain how your child feels when they aren’t able to do things they believe they can and want to do. This will help the member of staff see your child differently. It may also help them understand how hard your child is trying.
Share ideas and insights.
You can also suggest ways the member of staff can improve communication with your child. Start by asking what types of situations they think can be difficult for your child as well as for them. If these are situations you deal with at home or in other contexts, share that information. Also share what works for you or what has worked for others.
It can be difficult not to get upset when you are talking about your child and how they are feeling. However, you will communicate better if you are calm. If your child tells you about a situation they have found upsetting, take a few moments to think calmly about what your child has said and the best way to to deal with it.
We have more tips about how to have positive conversations with your school here.
If you have discussed your concerns with the member of staff and you don’t feel it goes well or you don’t feel there is a change in behaviour, you could:
- Raise it at your child’s next planning meeting.
- Talk with a senior member of staff.
If you continue to be concerned about the situation, you can put your concerns in writing to the school or make a formal complaint. Find out about more ways to resolve disagreements here.
You can read the full article on the Understood website here.