Here, we look at ways you can communicate and resolve differences with your child’s school or local/education authority. This includes knowing your education policies, sharing autism knowledge and resources, and advice on how you can take things further.

If you have a disagreement with a college or university, please read our Disability discrimination in Further and Higher Education guide. We also have an exclusion from college or university in Great Britain guide for autistic students who feel their exclusion is the result of disability discrimination.

Communicate with the school

Make sure you know the current strategies school staff are using to support your child, and that you’re aware what’s going on in your child's day at school. Raise any concerns you have as early as possible with your child's class teacher.

To help explain why you’re raising concerns, provide the school with recent and relevant examples that reinforce your views. Ask the school for their examples to help you understand any conflicting views.

Avoid apportioning blame for the difficulties your child is facing. Instead, it’s best to focus on the problem and how to put things right for the future, rather than on any particular individual. It’s important to get your child’s views using their preferred means of communication – in person, via text, video or symbols/signs.

Find out who’s responsible for additional support needs (ASN) or support for learning at your child's school. In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, this is the special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO).

It’s also useful to know which parent governor or council member is responsible for special educational needs (SEN) or ASN.

Know your education policies

Ask the school and your local/education authority for a copy of their policies on SEN, ASN or support for learning.

You may also want to get a copy of the code of practice:

If you live in England, the local offer sets out local services for children with SEN. This must be published online or made available to you, in a different format for example large print or in a different language, if necessary.

Share autism knowledge and resources with teaching staff

If you feel that the school or local/education authority need a better understanding of autism and how it impacts on your child, you can share autism knowledge and resources.

Our teacher pack and information on communication, sensory differences, behaviour and the environment may help.

The Autism Education Trust has a free downloadable booklet about working together with your child's school. It may help you identify what you feel is most important in terms of your child's education, including how the school could best meet their needs. These priorities can be the basis of discussions with school staff and highlight what to focus on.

Tips for writing education-related letters

When writing letters to your child’s school or local/education authority, make sure:

  • your letter contains all your child’s details, such as their name, date of birth, their school, and any other key information
  • you add references, such as a tribunal case number
  • the letter is dated and that you keep a copy
  • you either hand deliver the letter or send it by recorded delivery
  • you address the letter to the most appropriate person.

If you’re unsure who to write to at your local/education authority, address the letter to the Director of Education, or equivalent. Your local/education authority will be able to give you their name, or it will be on their website.

Manage your documents

Always keep original versions of any documents you send to the school or local/education authority – send photocopies. When you receive paperwork, check that relevant documents are included and ask for any that are missing.

Check through all documents and highlight things you agree or disagree with. It's helpful to photocopy any documents so you have a clean copy of paperwork to make notes on.

Read any paperwork you receive about your child to make sure the information is correct.

Prepare for education meetings

Here are some things you can do to prepare for a meeting with your child’s school or local/education authority:

  • Ask for copies of your child’s school record before the meeting. If you can’t get hold of this, you can make a subject access request.
  • Read any reports that have been written about your child and highlight any areas you have concerns about or would like clarified.
  • Mark any relevant sections in the code of practice which relate to your views.
  • Make a list of your views, concerns and any questions you want answered.
  • Use this list during the meeting and tick off points as they’re discussed.
  • If there’s someone else you think should be at the meeting, such as a teaching assistant, ask if they can be there.
  • Ask someone who also knows your child to go to the meeting with you so they can take notes. Tell the school or local/education authority you’re doing this.

During the meeting

  • Make clear notes of what’s said, including any deadlines that are discussed for putting support in place.
  • If you don't understand anything, ask for it to be explained again.
  • Don't feel pressured to agree to anything there and then.
  • Remember that the other parties must work in partnership with you and fully consider your views.
  • If tensions arise during the meeting, remind everyone that you’re all committed to the same goal – your child’s education.
  • Make sure that everything you wanted to discuss has been dealt with. Discuss some points again if you need to.
  • If necessary, try to agree a future date for a further meeting to discuss progress.

After the meeting, write a letter to the chairperson to confirm your understanding of what was discussed, and any actions that were agreed. Copy in anyone who was at the meeting.

Keep accurate records of meetings and deadlines

Keep records of discussions and meetings, and a diary of events. A diary of your child's difficulties is also useful.

Make sure you stick to any deadlines. For example, your child's school or local/education authority may ask you to take action within a certain timeframe.

What to do if you’re autistic

If you’re autistic, it may be helpful to tell the school this, if you’re comfortable to do so. You can then request that reasonable adjustments are made that help you communicate with the school or local/education authority. For example, these might be:

  • information in different formats
  • a quiet area to wait before meetings
  • for meetings to be recorded.

Taking things further

If you’re not able to resolve your concerns with the school or local/education authority directly, there may be further action you can take. This will depend on the nature of your disagreement, such as if your child:

Some disagreements, including those relating to education, health and care (EHC) plans in England (after mediation) or statements of SEN in Wales and Northern Ireland may only be resolved through external appeal processes. These are:

In Scotland, you can access mediation for any disagreements relating to your child’s needs or provision. There are several other options available if you need to take things further:

Disability discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 in England, Wales and Scotland and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in Northern Ireland legally protect disabled pupils from discrimination in education.

You might also find our information about disability discrimination in Great Britain and Northern Ireland helpful.

Further help

Read nation-specific information on getting extra help at school for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Our Education Rights Service can help you secure an appropriate education for your child.

Useful contacts

England
The Council for Disabled Children's Information, Advice and Support Services Network

Wales
SNAP Cymru's Disagreement Resolution Service

Northern Ireland
Special Education, Dispute Avoidance and Resolution Service

Last reviewed: 20 December 2019