Drowning not waving, or, how to get help in secondary school

A lot of enquiries this week about supports in post-primary school for children who have only recently received a diagnosis.  This is a difficult time for parents, especially where it coincides with the beginning of secondary education.

Step 1.

Your most important task is to take care of your own support needs by finding some allies, and arming yourself with the right information.  Contact a parent or community support group local to your area, attend their next meeting, download any leaflets, get involved, talk to someone. I don’t have the space here to list every organisation, but the Disability Federation Ireland has an alphabetical listing.  Spectrum Alliance is an umbrella group for ADHD, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, and Asperger’s Syndrome, and you should most definitely browse the website of the Special Needs Parents Association.

Step 2.     

Set aside at least a week to read and digest all of the publications linked in the next three steps (sigh). This is where the experience of other parents is invaluable. They have already travelled this road and can summarize all of this material, extract the key truths, and point you towards shortcuts and useful people.

Step 3.

Read the guide on provision for children with special educational needs a
NCSE children with SENnd disabilities
written by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).  If you have a difficulty with reading printed material, you can listen to an audio version by following these instructions.  The NCSE provides a network of Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENO) within designated geographical areas.  Each SENO has responsibility for specific primary, post primary and special schools.

The SENO ensures that a child with special educational needs receives the supports they are entitled to. SENOs keep parents informed about levels of support and decisions about resources. The SENO will also discuss any concerns that you have about the present or future educational needs of your child. You can find out the name and contact details of the SENO in your area by checking this list.  You should contact them as soon as possible.

Step 4.

Read the NCSE guide on moving from primary to post-primary school.  If your child has significant needs, they may require an Individual Education Plan.  Discuss with the SENO.

Step 5.

NEPS bookletThere are three levels of support implemented in school and these are explained in a leaflet for parents – the Student Support File – written by the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS).  You get a heck of a lot more detail if you read the guide for schools and teachers 😉 NEPS provides a network of Educational Psychologists within designated geographical areas, each having responsibility for specific primary, post primary and special schools.  The School Principal will consult them about a support plan.

Step 6.

Insist upon a meeting with your SENO, NEPS psychologist and the School Principal.  If you agree on a School Support Plan and / or an Individual Education Plan, make sure that you receive a copy.  At the meeting, arrange a review date to discuss your child’s progress and their Student Support File.  Include a query about an exemption from Irish if this is necessary, and examination accommodations.


If you are not already sick of reading, the NCSE has guides for parents specific to each special educational need and disability.

AT pearltrees screenshot

I’ve also collected some study skills resources together with links to digital text books and you might like to investigate Assistive Technology solutions, including converting text to speech to alleviate the reading burden.

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