Growing Up with Additional Needs
Health services and Norfolk County Council work together to support your child. When it is known that a child has, or is likely to have a special educational need or disability, a health professional can complete a form with you so that Norfolk County Council know that your child may need extra support once they start school. This is an important first step in making sure your child gets the right support for them.
Choosing the right early years setting or school
This is a big decision. When your child has an additional need or disability it is important to feel confident the setting will meet their needs. All nurseries and schools have a responsibility to do their best to meet the needs of children with SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability).
You will need to feel sure that;
- The staff are able to care for your child.
- Your child will be happy and safe.
- Your child will have the same opportunities as other children.
- They will be supported to make friends.
- Your child will be supported to reach their potential.
Give yourself time to have a look around a few nurseries / schools so that you can think about which ones feel right for your child.
- Talk to friends and family about schools that you are considering.
- If you know other families with children, ask them about their experience of choosing a school or nursery.
- Talk to any professionals who know your child and ask their view about what will help your child have a good school experience, so that you can share this with nursery or school.
Once you have chosen the setting you think best suits your child, communication between home and school is important. Your child will probably be allocated a key worker who will be able to really get to know your child. Let them know your child’s needs;
- Does your child struggle in some environment? Are there some techniques that you know help them when they are struggling.
- How do they cope with being separated from you and what helps them?
- What support will they need at mealtimes.
- Do they need help with toileting and what are the signs that they might ‘need to go’
You are the expert on your child and hold a lot of information that can help them have a smooth and happy start at nursery or school. Settings will be pleased to learn from you. Sharing this knowledge with school helps them support your child from day one.
You may feel worried that your child will be more at risk of bullying because of their additional need or disability. Although bullies can focus on people they see as ‘different’ in some way, there is often not an obvious reason for why they pick on someone. There are different ways that people bully (read more *here*) but it is the bully who has the problem not their victim.
If you have concerns that your child is being bullied let school know as soon as you can and ask them how they will address the problem.
If your child has a learning disability Mencap has good advice.
Just One Norfolk has a section on bullying *here*.
Puberty is when your body changes from being a child to a young adult. It usually starts earlier in girls than boys. In girls it can start as young as eight (but usually later), and continue until 15 or 16 years of age.
The changes happen because the body produces chemicals called sex hormones. For all young people this can be a confusing time. Children with additional needs might find it more so.
It is important to try and prepare young people for the changes. The physical and emotional effects of puberty can be more worrying if they do not know what to expect.
- Talk to school about how they teach personal, health and relationship education and the language and resources they use to describe ‘private parts’.
- Ask school if they have resources you can use at home too.
- Start talking to your child before any changes begin.
- Find simpler ways to explain puberty for your child if the way they understand things is different to their peers. See the specialist websites below.
If you think the physical and emotional changes are going to be especially challenging for your child discuss it with school and / or health professionals involved in their care.
Friendships are an important part of life. Young people thrive when they have the opportunity to socialise and build relationships with their peers. During adolescence it is normal for young people to experiment with ‘romantic’ relationships.
This is an important part of your child’s transition to young adulthood. It is a special time but it can come as a shock to parents as they realise their ‘baby’ is growing up.
If your child has additional needs or disabilities you may have worried that this would not happen for them – it is a lovely thing to see them experiencing ‘first love’. You may also have some extra worries about this new stage and you might worry about your child being able to keep themselves safe. You might have concerns that others could take advantage of them. We have information on keeping safe around others *here*.
If your child has additional needs your knowledge of them and how they understand things and how they behave is a very important part of keeping them safe.
Talking to them about their thoughts and feelings and consent will help them understand how to keep themselves safe.
- If your child has a learning disability Mencap has good information on sexuality and relationships.
- The Council for Disabled Children have advice on discussing sex and relationships with children with disabilities.
- Kidpower has information on touch and consent.
- NSPCC have simple information on consent using the PANTs campaign.
If you feel worried about your child’s ability to be safe in relationships you can talk to their school for support and advice. You can also call Just One Number to talk to a health professional.
Norfolk SEND Partnership are looking for young people aged 11-25 years to join their youth forum and share their experiences of education and training. Click the flyer below to find out more.
Who Can Help?
You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.
The Patient Activation Measure (PAM) Health Questionnaire will help you to think about your knowledge, skills and confidence in understanding and supporting your baby or child’s health. The results of this can help us, to support you, in setting goals and priorities in a way that is right for you and your family. On completion of the questions you will be signposted to some self care resources which are tailored to your responses. This will help you to take steps to improve your family's health and wellbeing. *Click Here* to find out more.