When I worked as a Special Needs Coordinator (SENCO) in a Secondary School, I quickly learnt two of the most important lessons of my career:
- Parents are the experts on their child.
- Listening properly to parents is paramount to providing the best care for their child.
One of the main difficulties parents articulated to me was of trying to help professionals gain an accurate understanding of their child’s needs at meetings. Often they were important meetings where professionals were assessing if the child had a particular Special Educational Need.
In some cases, parents would explain that in their view their child’s needs differed greatly to the school’s opinion. For example,the school would tell them their child was doing great and having few issues. However, as parents, they would experience their child having meltdowns at home. Often the meltdowns at home would be a result of exhaustion from their child working incredibly hard all day to ‘fit in’ in during lessons at school. Resulting in the parents and the school having very different perceptions and experiences of the child’s needs.
Sometimes parents would also explain the opposite, that they were noticing real positives with their child at home, but the school were not witnessing the same.
In my opinion, a good way to gain a full understanding of a child’s needs is by sharing information between all those involved in the care of the child (parents, teachers, medical professionals etc.) In order to do that, it’s often useful for parents to record observations, achievements, challenges, incidents etc that happen at home. These can be then used in conjunction with the records held by the school (and other professionals) during meetings, assessments and diagnosis processes. Ultimately meaning the child’s needs can be assessed and met more easily.
One way of doing this is creating a diary. I recently came across an online diary/photobook website which would be ideal to use make diaries for this purpose. The website is called My Memory Tree, who kindly sponsored this post.
My Memory Tree’s online diaries provide an easy to use platform to log a childs achievements, challenges, incidents etc with the date that they occurred. It’s also possible to choose a picture of a ‘face’ to describe the child’s mood at that time.
Using a web-hosted diary allows you to access the diary on smart phones and tablets allowing parents and carers to record incidents as and when they happen. By recording incidents close to the time that they occur, the observations are likely to be more accurate, as you aren’t relying on memory.
This could help parents (and the professionals who work with the child) to identify trigger points for incidents, monitor reactions to different environments, food etc. Potentially providing parents with valuable information to build up patterns which could help everyone better understand their child’s needs.
One feature I particularly liked, is that a diary created on My Memory Tree could then be shared with teachers, educational psychologists, doctors etc. as necessary- either online or printed as a hard copy to take to meetings and appointments. This would help professionals to gain a detailed and more complete understanding of the child.
Parents can also use them to create photo-books with family photographs and to document and share their children’s achievements-such as first steps and first words.
My Memory Tree give peace of mind that photos and information stored on the site can’t be found by searching the internet.
To find out more about My Memory Tree, visit their website here.