Advice and Support for Parents
West Kent Family Advice Line
We would like to make our parents, carers and wider school community aware of the new West Kent Family Advice Line which is open to all. Parents and carers can phone the advice line to received free advice, guidance and information around a wide range of topics including, but not limited to, managing children's behaviour and child development, emotional health and wellbeing, as well as ideas of activities that can be done with children at home.
Advice and signposting can also be provided to other services that exist to support families with matters such as housing, domestic abuse and many other topics.
The West Kent Family Advice Line is in operation between 9.30am and 2.30pm Monday to Friday by calling 03000 414415.
Please find below some help, support and information regarding a range of medical conditions and disabilities. Please do speak to your class teacher or our SENCO if you have any concerns about your child.
Autism is a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how someone communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them. Autism is also often diagnosed alongside other conditions such as ADHD, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. If your child is diagnosed as on the autism spectrum getting a diagnosis, as well as a better understand of their needs, can be a positive thing. The characteristics of autism vary from one child to another but will often involve an assessment of persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction, and restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviours, activities or interest since early childhood to the extent that these can sometimes limit and impair everyday functioning. Some of the primary signs of autism in very young children could be the carrying out of activities in a repetitive way, a resistance to change, emerging difficulties with social interaction/social communication, self-injurious behaviour, or not drawing an adult’s attention to objects or events e.g. pointing at a toy or book, or at something happening nearby.
Did you know that 1 in every 100 school children is autistic in the UK, and over 40% of these say that have experienced bullying at school as a direct result? Bullying can cause feelings of depression and anxiety, and cause damage to a child’s self esteem. This is especially problematic in children who have additional hurdles to overcome. As a school we therefore understand the importance of promoting a better understanding of autism and supporting those pupils with the condition, as well as educating others to provide a patient, kind and positive network around them.
Most children with autism really do want to make friends but find it hard. Socialising and communicating can be a huge challenge, in particular the reading of facial expressions and social cues, and knowing when to speak or listen. Many of those with autism also have sensory issues that affect one of more of their senses and this can cause anxiety or even physical pain.
Encouraging all of our pupils to understand and support classmates who have autism is extremely important to us all here at Sutton Valence Primary School. We strongly believe that although some of our pupils may hit developmental and social milestones in a different order to their peers, they are entirely able to accomplish the same small victories in their own time and at their own pace. We also hope to install a sensory room at our school in the very near future to further support pupils with sensory needs, offering a relaxing, calm and yet stimulating environment for them in a specially designed room which combines a range of stimuli to help children develop and engage their sense. Sensory rooms are of a particular benefit to children with a diagnosis of autism as they both stimulate and calm. Many children with autism are sensory seekers, which means that they benefit and enjoy working on a specific sensory input, for example light, and this can have an amazing effect due to visual stimulation, whilst soothing and relaxing them. We will keep you updated with our progress to install our very own sensory room here at the school.
A useful website which is packed full of information on Autism is www.autism.org.uk
There is also a publication called Autism Eye, a magazine which is a great source of in-depth autism information and advice which is available free of charge as a digital subscription or prices start at £16 for printed issues. The latest edition of Autism Eye can be found here https://www.autismeye.com/digital-edition/
Further useful autism resources are:
Autism Parenting Magazine: https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/
Guide to Helping Kids with Autism Sleep Better: https://www.sleepjunkie.org/autism-and-sleep/
Travelling with Kids with Autism: https://www.thezebra.com/traveling-autism/
Creating an Autism Friendly Home: https://www.bigrentz.com/blog/sensory-friendly-home-modifications-autism-sensory-processing-disorder
Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling. It is a specific learning difficulty, which means it causes problems with certain abilities used for learning, such as reading and writing. Dyslexia is a lifelong problem that can present challenges on a daily basis, but support is available to improve reading and writing skills and help those with the problem be successful at school.
It is estimated up to 1 in every 10 people in the UK has some degree of dyslexia. Signs of dyslexia usually become apparent when a child starts school and begins to focus more on learning how to read and write.
Symptoms vary but a child of primary school age with dyslexia may display some or all of the following:
- Problems learning the names and sounds of letter
- problems learning the names and sounds of letters
- spelling that's unpredictable and inconsistent
- putting letters and figures the wrong way round (such as writing "6" instead of "9", or "b" instead of "d") although this can be common in many young children
- confusing the order of letters in words
- reading slowly or making errors when reading aloud
- visual disturbances when reading (for example, a child may describe letters and words as seeming to move around or appear blurred)
- answering questions well orally, but having difficulty writing the answer down
- difficulty carrying out a sequence of directions
- struggling to learn sequences, such as days of the week or the alphabet
- slow writing speed
- poor handwriting
- problems copying written language and taking longer than normal to complete written work
- poor phonological awareness and word attack skill see below)
Phonological awareness is the ability to recognise that words are made up of smaller units of sound (phonemes) and that changing and manipulating phonemes can create new words and meanings.
A child with poor phonological awareness may not be able to correctly answer these questions:
- What sounds do you think make up the word "hot", and are these different from the sounds that make up the word "hat"?
- What word would you have if you changed the "p" sound in "pot" to an "h" sound?
- How many words can you think of that rhyme with the word "cat"?
Word attack skills
Young children with dyslexia can also have problems with word attack skills. This is the ability to make sense of unfamiliar words by looking for smaller words or collections of letters that a child has previously learnt.
For example, a child with good word attack skills may read the word "sunbathing" for the first time and gain a sense of the meaning of the word by breaking it down into "sun", "bath", and "ing".
At Sutton Valence Primary School we are able to support pupils with Dyslexia or who have Dyslexic tendencies with a range of strategies and resources. These include: Reading Schemes; use of technology to support writing such as Clicker 7; recording devices; coloured overlays and text books, writing slopes, task boards; visual prompts and a range of other ways to ensure any barriers to learning are dealt with. The earlier a child with dyslexia is diagnosed, the more effective these educational interventions are likely to be, although identifying dyslexia in young children can be difficult for both parents and school staff because the signs and symptoms are not always obvious.
If you have concerns for your child please speak to your class teacher and our SENCO about how we can support your child. There are also things that you can do at home:
- Read to your child - this will improve their vocabulary and listening skills, and will encourage an interest in books
- Share reading - Read some parts of the book each and then discuss what is happening, or what might happen
- Overlearning - You may get bored of reading your child's favourite book over and over but repetition will reinforce their understand and means they will become familiar with the text.
- Silent reading - Children need the chance to read along to encourage independence and fluency
- Make reading fun! - Reading should be a pleasure and not a chore. Use books about subjects your child is interested in and make sure reading takes place in a relaxed and comfortable setting
- Inspire confidence - parents and carers play a significant role in improving their child's confidence so it is important to encourage and support your child as they learn
A useful resource regarding Dyslexia is available from Nessy in the form of a free ebook. This is a great tool and it is recommended that you read through this together with your child and learn about the different types of dyslexia, their signs, symptoms, strengths and weaknesses.
Dyslexia Explained eBook - Nessy UK - click here to access the FREE ebook.
If you have an iPad or iPhone you should also check out these apps that support Dyslexic tendencies.
There are also apps available for android devices.
Sutton Valence Primary School follows Kent's Dyslexia Policy.
Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD), also commonly known as dyspraxia, is a condition affecting physical co-ordination/fine motor skills. It causes a child to perform less well than expected in some daily activities for their age, and appear to move clumsily. Dyspraxia is thought to be around three or four times more common in boys than girls, and the condition sometimes runs in families.
It remains unclear what causes Dyspraxia and why coordination doesn't develop as well as other abilities in those children affected by the condition. However, a small number of risk factors that can possible increase a child's likelihood of developing Dyspraxia have been identified as:
- being born prematurely, before the 37th week of pregnancy
- being born with a low birth weight
- having a family history of Dyspraxia, although it is not clear exactly which genes may be involved in the condition
Early developmental milestones of crawling, walking, self-feeding and dressing may be delayed in young children with Dyspraxia. Drawing, writing and performance in PE are also usually behind what is expected for their age. Although signs of the condition are present from an early age, children vary widely in their rate of development and individual children will vary in how their difficulties therefore present. This means a definite diagnosis of Dyspraxia does not usually happen until a child with the condition is 5 years old or more. Therefore, once children reach primary school age, they may have already developed difficulty with:
- Playground activities such as hopping, jumping, running, and catching or kicking a ball. A child may refrain from joining in because of their lack of co-ordination and a resulting lack of confidence and may find PE challenging
- Walking up and down stairs
- Writing, drawing and using scissors. Handwriting and drawings may appear scribbled and less developed compared to their peers, and artwork may appear very immature
- Getting dressed, doing up buttons and tying shoelaces
- Keeping still - they may swing or move their arms and legs a lot
- Struggles in a class environment but performs significantly better on a one-to-one basis
A child with Dyspraxia may appear awkward and clumsy as they may bump into objects, drop things and fall over a lot. However, the above symptoms are not necessarily a sign of Dyspraxia, as many children who appear clumsy actually have all the normal movement and motor skills for their age. Although Dyspraxia does not affect how intelligent a child is, it can make it more difficult for them to learn and they may need extra help to keep up at school. Interventions will be tailored to your child and, although throughout their time at primary school the physical co-ordination of a child with Dyspraxia will remain below average, this often becomes less of a problem and less noticeable as they get older.
Other associated problems for children with Dyspraxia can be a difficulty concentrating and a short attention span, difficulty following instructions and copying information, being poor at organising themselves, a slowness to pick up or learn new skills and need encouragement and repetition to assist them with learning, a difficulty in making friends as a result of clumsiness and avoiding team games, behaviour problems as a result of frustration, and low esteem and confidence. However, although children with Dyspraxia may have poor coordination and other additional challenges, other aspects of development such as thinking and talking are unaffected in most cases unless a child has other under underlying conditions also (ADHD, dyslexia, autism).
There's no cure for Dyspraxia but a number of therapies can help children to manage associated problems. These include:
- being taught ways of do activities they find difficult, such as breaking down difficult movements into smaller parts and practicing them regularly
- adapting tasks to make them easier, such as using special grips on pens and pencils so they are easier to hold.
Please do come and speak to your class teacher if you child is experiencing difficulties of the above nature in school, particularly producing written work. At Sutton Valence Primary School we will always offer extra help and support to pupils where it is needed, and from parents and teachers. While many people in the UK use the term dyspraxia to refer to the difficulties with movement and co-ordination that first develop in young children, this term is used less often by healthcare professionals.
Useful websites, support and information:
Movement Matters - a UK umbrella organisation representing national groups concerned with children (and adults) with coordination difficulties and Dyspraxia http://www.movementmattersuk.org/default.aspx
Medical News Today - https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/151951
Kids Sense (Dyspraxia) - https://childdevelopment.com.au/areas-of-concern/diagnoses/dyspraxia/
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD/ADD)
ADHD, previously known as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), is a common neurodevelopmental disorder which makes it difficult for children to inhibit their spontaneous responses - responses that can involve everything from movement to speech to attentiveness. Symptoms themselves can differ from person to person and no two people are alike, but symptoms almost always begin in childhood and before the age of 7 years old. From then on, symptoms can often change with age. There are three types of ADHD:
- A combination of both
Children with ADHD are often described as those who are running, jumping, climbing on everything and who can't sit still, and talk all the time - constantly "on the go" and unable to concentrate on anything for very long at all. We all know children like this, who can’t sit still, who never seem to listen, who don’t follow instructions no matter how clearly you present them, or who blurt out inappropriate comments at inappropriate times. Sometimes these children are labelled as troublemakers, or criticised for being lazy and/or undisciplined. Alternatively, however, they may have ADHD. It is important to recognise that some children with ADHD are able to focus on things that they are interested in, such as certain toys or video games. Subsequently, not all children with ADHD are hyperactive but this part of the condition may start to show when a child is of primary school age and include additional difficulties with:
- Taking turns
- Letting others talk
- Finishing tasks, homework or learning activities
- Keeping track of books and homework
- Being accident-prone as a result of acting without thinking
It can be challenging to differentiate between ADHD and normal "child behaviour". General advice is that if your child demonstrates just a few of the signs, or their symptoms appear in only some situations, it is probably not ADHD. On the other hand, if your child shows a number of ADHD symptoms and these are present across all situations - at home, at school, and a play - it may be time to explore things closer and come and speak with us about your concerns and observations.
Life with a child with ADHD can be frustrating and overwhelming. but there is a huge amount of support available for parents, carers and families, and lots that can be done to help manage and control symptoms, overcome daily challenges, and bring a sense of calm to everyone involved.
Common myths and facts about ADHD:
MYTH: Children with ADHD can never pay attention
FACT: Children with ADHD are often able to concentrate on activities that they enjoy but no matter how hard they try, they struggle to maintain focus when the task at hand is either boring or repetitive
MYTH: Children with ADHD could behave better if they tried harder
FACT: Children with ADHD may do their best to behave well but still be unable to sit still, stay quiet or pay attention. They may appear to be "naughty" but that doesn't mean they are not trying and are playing up on purpose.
MYTH: Children with ADHD will grow out of it
FACT: In most cases, ADHD will continue unto adulthood so please don't wait for your child to "outgrow" the condition. Their is support available to help both you and your child learn to manage and minimise their symptoms.
It important to note that ADHD has nothing to with intelligence or talent! In reality, children with the disorder often demonstrate amazing creativity and imagination, flexibility as a result of being open to different ideas and not becoming set on one option, enthusiasm and spontaneity, and increased energy and drive. Children with ADHD who are motivated, work and play hard and strive to succeed.
ADHD treatment starts at home and, as a parent or carer, you are empowered with the biggest influence over your child's treatment and the management of symptoms. Evidence shows that eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise and sleep, and making smart daily choices can help your whole family manage the symptoms of ADHD. It is also important to ensure that your child has a quiet, private space of his or her own to go to when they feel the need. This could be anything from a porch to a bedroom, but it should not be the same place as the child goes for a time-out.
Support, further advice and parenting tips:
Physical activity improves concentration and promotes brain growth. Importantly for children with ADHD, it also leads to better sleep which in turn can reduce the symptoms of ADHD. Check out this advice for the mental health benefits of exercise - https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm
The importance of structure and routine -
Hearing Impairment and Tinnitus
Hearing loss happens when there is a problem with one or more parts of the era or ears, the nerves coming from the ears, or the part of the brain that controls hearing. The term "impairment" simply means that something is not working properly or as well as it should. A child with hearing loss may be able to hear some sounds or nothing at all. Around 3 in every 1000 babies are born with hearing loss with the rest developing a hearing problem in later life, whether in childhood or adulthood.
The ear is made up of three different sections - the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. These parts work so that sound can be heard and processed. In the event of hearing impairment, one of more of these sections will not be working as it should resulting in one of the following types of hearing less:
- Conductive - often mild and temporary, this type of impairment happens when either the middle or outer ear is preventing sound from reaching the inner ear and can be treated medically in most cases
- Sensorineural - nearly always permanent, sensorineural impairment is the result of a problem with the inner ear or with the connection between the inner ear and the brain. Tiny hairs within the cochlea are damaged or destroyed and are not able to regenerate. This type of loss can affect the ability to form correct speech.
- Mixed (conductive and sensory combined)
- Neural - occurs as a result of damage to the cochlea nerve and in most causes is caused by disease or viral infections, or head trauma.
- Central - quite rare and difficult to treat, central hearing loss happens when the cochlea is working correctly but parts of the brain are not.
Lots of children suffer with ear infections or a build-up of fluid in the ear (glue ear) which can both cause temporary hearing impairment. Permanent hearing loss from an ear infection is, however, very rare.
If you are concerned about your child's hearing please do let us know. It is worth contacting your GP and requesting an appointment with a local paediatric audiologist who will, if a child is found to have a hearing impairment, recommend treatment and work with the family to find the best way for a child to continue to learn and communicate in the best way they can. This treatment is entirely dependent on the type of hearing loss, how bad it is and any other need(s) that a child may have. Common treatments for hearing impairment are medicine, hearing aids or other assistive listening devices, or in some cases surgery. Hearing aids are used to help with most mild/moderate permanent hearing impairment - these work as small amplifiers to help make sounds louder, and in some cases clearer. Hearing aid technology has advanced in recent years and most models can now adjust the volume of sounds automatically depending on the noise levels of a particular situation. Where hearing aids are unable to help, a child may benefit from a cochlear implant which is implanted into the cochlea during surgery. This takes over the job of the damaged/destroyed hair cells by turning sound into electrical signals that directly stimulate the hearing nerve.
How to spot the signs of hearing loss
It is often incredibly difficult for a child to realise that they are struggling to hear because more often that not, hearing impairment happens slowly and over a long period of time. Often, it is other people around them that will notice before they do and it is therefore important for parents and carers to be vigilant around the early signs of hearing loss which include:
- a child being slow to learn to talk, or aren't clear when they speak
- a child not replying or responding when you call them
- a child speaking loudly, or louder than necessary
- difficulty ignoring background noise or telling different sounds apart
- finding speech unclear
- a child watching you
- difficulty hearing in noisy situations or across long distances
It is not always possible to prevent hearing loss, but in a world when children are spending an increasing amount of time using electronic devices there are some simple things that you can do at home to reduce the risk of damaging the hearing of all family members. These include not having the TV, radio or music too loud, using headphones that block out more noise when listening to or streaming music/TV instead of turning up the volume, wearing ear protection in noisy environments such as loud concerts and building sites, and not inserting objects into your or your child's ears (this includes cotton buds, tissues and fingers!)
At our school, we take obvious steps to support children who have a hearing impairment such as ensuring that staff are facing towards a child when addressing them or the class, reducing background noise where possible and as much as possible, consider the position of the a child's desk/learning station within the classroom to ensure maximum chance of learning, helping a child to engage with learning activities, and work alongside other specialist agencies and provide feedback and support for referrals to ensure that children receive the treatment they need. Our staff also directly support pupils with the wearing of hearing aids and other hearing amplification devices, and will use radio aids where required/appropriate so that all pupils are integrated into class activities and don't miss out on anything.
For a child with a hearing impairment, attending school can be a frustrating, isolating and challenging experience. The inclusive nature of Sutton Valence Primary School we enforce an ideal environment for any hearing-impaired child where needs are fully met and no child is singled out as different. Adjustments will always be made that are transformative for the child but very often unnoticed by others, as well as the encouragement of kind and empathetic behaviour towards all pupils.
Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing a sound when there is actually no external source for that sound. It is often described as “ringing in the ears” but it’s the name for hearing any sound in your ears or head when there’s nothing making that sound outside your body. An incredible amount of people suffer from tinnitus as part of their everyday lives and, contrary to a popular belief that the condition only affect older adults, tinnitus is very common in children. Research actually suggest that 1 child in every 30 has clinically significant tinnitus.
Tinnitus is twice as common in children with hearing loss compared to children with normal hearing. There is also some evidence to suggest that it may be common in children who are prone to glue ear. The majority of children are not troubled by their tinnitus and it does not affect their performance in the classroom, however a small number of children can become distressed by it. Tinnitus can occur in one ear, in both ears or in the middle of head, and the noise may be low, medium or high pitched, very loud or very quiet, and be continuous or come and go. It can affect different areas of your child’s life, but the symptoms below can often present in children with tinnitus and therefore may help to spot it. Be mindful, however, that these can also occur for other reasons.
- Sleep difficulties - particularly in a young child, they may want sound (for example music or the TV) or may not wish to fall asleep on their own or in a quiet room
- Noise avoidance - your child may be distressed in a noisy environment and try to avoid them
- Quiet avoidance - contrary to the above, your child may be unhappy in quiet places/environments
- Concentration - difficulties in concentration and/or listening, such as hearing speech when there is background noise, or in quiet situations
If you are concerned that your child may be experiencing tinnitus, do not be afraid to ask them directly. Far from creating anxiety or an increased awareness of it, clinical experts have found that asking children about tinnitus gives them an opportunity to be reassured and to address any concerns they may have. Likewise if your child attempts to tell you about their tinnitus, do not dismiss them as this may result in them become worried about why you do not want to discuss it, perhaps fear it is something that they and they alone experience, and subsequently feel isolated. Do bear in mind that very young children may describe any tinnitus they have in words they are familiar with, such as buzzing bees or a choo choo train.
A small number of children will need support to help with distress or the impact tinnitus has on their lives. Severe tinnitus can cause anxiety which, in turn, can make the experience of tinnitus worse. Tinnitus is rarely a sign that urgent action is required, but further intervention may be necessary. It can be, but is not always, an indication of hearing loss and so it might be worth arranging an audiology assessment. As above regarding hearing impairment, speak to your GP about a referral to paediatric audiology and/or ENT services. If your child already wears hearing aids, do be aware that hearing aid users experience less tinnitus when wearing their aids. Therefore, if you child’s tinnitus is worse when they are wearing their aids then their hearing may need to be reassessed.
Around 5% of our current school community have a hearing impairment, whether suspected or diagnosed. As a result of this our school office has made efforts to obtain some information leaflets on the condition which you may find helpful should you have concerns or suspicions about your child experiencing tinnitus. Please do pop in and pick up a copy of these resources if this applies to you.
Useful links for more information on hearing impairment and tinnitus:
British Tinnitus Association - https://www.tinnitus.org.uk/tinnitus-a-parents-guide
British Sign Language website - https://www.british-sign.co.uk/
The Makaton Charity website - https://www.makaton.org/
The National Deaf Children's Society - https://www.ndcs.org.uk/our-services/services-for-deaf-children-and-young-people-8-18/
Reading Rockets (advice for parents and carers regarding reading with your child) - https://www.readingrockets.org/article/reading-together-tips-parents-children-hearing-loss-or-deafness
Best Hearing Health publication - https://besthearinghealth.com/hearing-loss/
Information, Advice and Support Kent (IASK)
Other Useful Information
The information below offers parental guidance for a range of Special Educational Needs.
Children and Families Act 2014: Section 3
SEN Code of Practice – from July 2014
The information below offers parental guidance for a range of Special Educational Needs. Children and Families Act 2014: Section 3 SEN Code of Practice – from July 2014 SEN & Disability – A guide for parents and carers Kent Local Offer for SEND NASEN (make sense of the new Code of Practice) ASD support (Autistic Spectrum) LIFT (Local Inclusion Forum Team) EHCP (Education Health Care Plan)
Other Useful Information
The information below offers parental guidance for a range of Special Educational Needs.
Children and Families Act 2014: Section 3
SEN Code of Practice – from July 2014
SEN & Disability – A guide for parents and carers
Kent Local Offer for SEND
NASEN (make sense of the new Code of Practice)
ASD support (Autistic Spectrum)
LIFT (Local Inclusion Forum Team)
EHCP (Education Health Care Plan)
Help with Grants