Working with families of children with additional needs

Working closely with families helps give students with additional needs the best chance to achieve their potential.

Educators can talk to a student’s family about the best way to communicate with them. This may include scheduled meetings, or through email or phone calls.

When working with parents and carers, it's important to recognise that families come from a diverse range of backgrounds. These differences can leave them feeling alienated from the school and its operations.

The willingness and ability of parents and carers to be involved can be impacted by how they are approached and engaged by the school.

It's important that you are mindful and respectful of diversity. Implement engagement strategies that help everyone feel empowered to advocate for the student and be confident that their concerns will be heard.

An Easy English version of this topic has been written for parent/carer(s). See:

Quick guides to supporting students with disabilities

You will be working with families and ensuring educational, wellbeing and engagement supports are in place. This is a focus for Term 4 so that students are connected with learning and engaged in a positive transition into 2021.  

New quick guides are available to share key information, guidance and resources for supporting students with disabilities, see:

What to consider

When meeting or engaging with parents and carers you may consider:

  • providing parent/carer(s) with accessible information about the purpose of the meeting. This includes advance copies of documents to be discussed and a list of who will be present
  • scheduling a meeting at a time and place convenient for both parent/carer(s) and the school. This makes sure that parent and carer needs and commitments, such as work or childcare, are accommodated
  • if childcare isn’t possible and young children are present at the meeting, make sure the meeting is located in a safe and appropriate space. For example, availability of toys or a safe, supervised area for them to play
  • make sure all key personnel have been invited and briefed on what is required of them. This may include outside support agencies
  • encourage parent/carer(s) to bring an advocate or support person
  • make sure the meeting is free from interruptions, like phone calls, other students and staff
  • make sure that parent/carer(s) are informed about the roles of meeting attendees, including those who have not been involved before
  • make accommodations for cultural needs, sensitivities and protocol
  • arrange an interpreter, including for AUSLAN, if necessary, before the meeting
  • make sure a record of the meeting is made and distributed to participants. This may include key discussion points and areas for action
  • in a timely manner, inform parent/carer(s) when immediate action needs to be taken

Student support groups

A student support group gives staff, families and specialists the opportunity to work together to make decisions about a student’s education.

A student support group is mandatory for students in the Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD), and is recommended for all students with additional needs.

Talking about reasonable adjustments

If a student’s additional needs arise from a disability, schools must make reasonable adjustments to support their participation.

The Disability Standards for Education 2005 (the Standards) require that educators consult with the student’s family and the student before any reasonable adjustments are made. Online training on the Disability Standards of Educations 2005 requirements is available for schools.

Reasonable adjustments may include a meeting (like a student support group meeting) to talk about:

  • how the student’s disability may affect the way they learn
  • what support and reasonable adjustments could meet the student’s needs
  • how current reasonable adjustments are meeting the student’s needs.

Applications for extra support

If a student has a disability or health condition schools may prepare and submit applications for extra resources to help them support the student.

Educators may need to obtain the following information from families:

  • consent forms and application forms
  • medical or other professional reports.

It's important to tell parent/carer(s) why the reports and assessments are needed. You should also reassure them that their child will be supported, regardless of the outcome of the funding application.

Guidance for principals on school-parent partnerships

Guidance is available for principals and schools on school-parent partnerships.