Collaborative working with all stakeholders

Bernie Callanan

Thursday, 8 November 2018

I was lucky enough to attend the Autism Conference at Phoenix School in East London recently. It was a great day where I had the opportunity to hear from a range of people who have experience of autism.

Jessie Hewitson spoke about the importance of home school liaison. She explained that many people with autism will 'mask' their anxieties until they get home. When they get home, all the stresses and strains of the day will be unleashed.

It is only students with autism where this situation occurs. I can think of many families I’ve worked with over the years who have reported such situations, whilst the young person in school seems very happy and content.

Jessie described that she had often been left feeling like a ‘neurotic parent’ because school staff had not witnessed the behaviours being described. A pertinent reminder for us to always take parent/carer concerns seriously. 

kids teacher smiling

Assistant Headteacher, Heba Jayoosi spoke intimately about what it was like growing up as the older sister of a brother who has autism.

"There were many useful anecdotes, but most notably she explained how useful it was for the family to be involved in the process of her brother becoming diagnosed."

This got me thinking about my recent blog and how we can involve siblings more.

Siblings can get involved in different ways. It could surround helping with difficulties in friendships, or school work. At my school we've started to use sibling input within Annual Review process.

Questions for them include-what do you like or admire about your brother or sister? What's going well? What's not going well? What are your hopes for their future? These are the same questions the parent/carers are asked, but the responses are different.

Involving siblings in Annual Reviews can help develop their understanding of their sibling's difficulties, it helps them to consider the 'big picture'. It isn't appropriate in all cases, and you wouldn't have them present for the whole meeting.

ladies talking

For the student having the Annual Review, it is useful to hear their sibling's perspective. A dialogue happens between all family members present, within a framework which is about reflecting and moving forward for the better.

Another useful way of involving siblings is setting up a young carers group. It is estimated there are 700,000 young carers in the UK, many of whom will be looking after their sibling.

We recently set one up in our school and it has provided a useful platform for student to share their perspective with peers in a similar situation.

Students have also expressed their worries and this has meant we can be proactive in supporting the family.

Over the next term I will be working with parents/ carers to review SEN procedures within the school, the aim is to gain a deeper understanding of their perspective and learn what adjustments can be made to help all concerned. The group will also provide an opportunity for parents/carers to become better informed about inclusion within a mainstream secondary school.

The final talk I saw was from a woman who has recently graduated after becoming diagnosed with autism at the age of 18. It is clear there is still a great deal of work to do to ensure female students are not ‘slipping through the net’ when it comes to diagnoses.

Again, increased collaboration with home and school will help here. As her talk progressed, the message became clear, when it comes to planning for people who have autism, all stakeholders should be involved; the students, parents/carers, siblings, professionals etc.

The underlying theme for the day was about working collaboratively in a meaningful way. Ensuring all stakeholders can add value to the process, for the benefit of everyone involved.


About our Community Expert


Bernie Callanan


Over 10 years of SEN experience in a number of settings. Developed whole-school approaches to ensure students with SEN are catered with the support they need.

Placing the student with SEN at the heart of all decisions made regarding their education, whilst liaising with all stakeholders involved.

Bernie is our education expert who provides SEN related content.

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