What education support can my child access in school?
Once a need has been identified, all children in primary and post-primary schools are entitled to differentiated levels of support under the Continuum of Support Model. Additional supports made available through the Continuum of Support Model are outlined as follows:
What is the Continuum of Support?
The Continuum of Support is the model which is used in primary and post-primary schools to support the learning of students who have additional needs. It denotes the levels of disability supports in school appropriate to a child based on a pyramid structure.
The first level of the Continuum of Support model is ‘Classroom Support,’ also known as support for all. All children in a primary or post-primary classroom are entitled to this type of education supports once a need has been identified.
It is the classroom teacher’s and/or support teacher’s role to gather information and put together an SSP for this child.
A teacher may use specific teaching strategies with the whole class to benefit an individual child or may focus on a particular child’s needs through a whole class intervention. In these ways, the school delivers ‘support for all.’
The second level of the Continuum of Support model is ‘School Support,’ also known as support for some. This is a more individualised type of education support, and can be accessed if ‘Classroom Support’ is not having an adequate effect on its own.
At this point, a Special Education Teacher (SET) may take the lead in putting together an SSF and delivering this level of support to the child. Specific targets will be set for the child relating to teaching, learning and/or behaviour where appropriate. Additional support and/or focussed teaching time may be delivered by the SET team. The SET team may use a specific intervention programme; they may work one-to-one with the child or within a small group of children with similar needs.
Depending on the school, this additional teaching time may be accessed in-class, through withdrawal or by a combination of both methods. It is important to note that while a child is receiving ‘School Support,’ that they are still entitled to receive ‘Classroom Support’ at the same time.
School Support Plus
The third and final level of the Continuum of Support model is ‘School Support Plus,’ also known as support for few.
This level of education support usually involves external professionals and support services, such as psychologists, OTs, SLTs, physiotherapists, and other therapeutic intervention services. These professionals may work one-to-one with the child or may act in an advisory capacity for the school.
Students whose needs are being met at this, the highest level of the Continuum of Support model, are entitled to an IEP. This plan outlines information gathered over time relative to the student’s abilities, special educational needs and educational performance. The IEP will also be used to set short-term and long-term targets for the child, noting the interventions and supports that will be in place to assist the child in meeting these targets.
It is essential that the IEP is a collaborative document between the classroom teacher, SET team, the child’s parents/guardians as well as the child themselves, where appropriate.
It is important to note that while a child is receiving ‘School Support Plus,’ they are still entitled to receive both ‘School Support’ and ‘Classroom Support’ at the same time.
All support plans created for a pupil, regardless of the level of education support being received, should be regularly reviewed by the professionals and parents/guardians involved.
What is a Student Support Plan/File (SSP/F)?
An SSP/F is a document created by the classroom teacher and/or SET team which allows the school to track the student’s journey through the Continuum of Support model.
It contains all information gathered about the child over time. This includes their needs, the supports that have been put in place to address these needs, and the progress made. It ensures continuity of support for the child as they move through the school system and also provides support around transitions in-school and between schools.
Schools use a variety of different names for these support plans, such as behavioural plan/contract, individual learning profile, personal pupil plan, personal learning plan and so on. An Individualised Education Plan (IEP) is a different level of support documentation, as it is a requirement once a student is receiving support at the highest level of the Continuum of Support model – ‘School Support Plus.’
However, you may note that some schools also use this term to describe a student support plan. This can cause confusion, so ensure to seek clarity on any documentation created by the school that relates to your child.
What is an Individual Education Plan (IEP)?
An IEP, as defined by the NCSE’s guidelines, is a written document prepared for a particular student which specifies the learning goals that are to be achieved by the student over a set period of time and the teaching strategies, resources and supports necessary to achieve those goals. (Guidelines in the Individualised Education Planning Process, N.C.S.E, 2006.)
An IEP is developed in collaboration with the school, the pupil’s parents/guardians, the student themselves (where appropriate), and other relevant personnel or agencies. This is the main area of difference between an IEP and an SSP (Student Support Plan) – for which the school is the main contributor.
IEPs focus on the pupil’s priority learning needs which require a high level of intensive planning and monitoring. The pupil may have other needs which are not deemed a priority, and therefore not addressed using an IEP. These additional needs may be addressed through the Continuum of Support model at ‘Classroom Support’ and/or ‘School Support’ level.
How can my child access additional teaching time?
Additional teaching time during the school day is one of the education supports in school delivered at level two of the Continuum of Support model – ‘School Support.’
Once a need for this type of support has been identified by the school, a member of the SET team may take the lead in putting together an SSP and delivering this level of support to the child.
Specific targets will be set for the child relating to teaching, learning and/or behaviour where appropriate. Additional teaching time may be delivered one-to-one with the child or within a small group of children with similar support needs. Depending on the school, this additional teaching time may be accessed in-class, through withdrawal or by a combination of both methods.
If you are concerned about the level of support being delivered to your child, make an appointment to meet with the class teacher/support teacher to discuss your concerns and further options. A working partnership between the school and the parent/guardian(s) is essential to providing the child with the best level of support.
How can my child access supports, such as psychological assessments or behavioural support?
There are three pathways for obtaining a psychological assessment for a child between the ages of 6 – 18 years.
Assessment of Need (AON)
An Assessment of Need is not a diagnosis. It is a statement specifying that a child has a set of needs as specified under the Disability Act 2005. The AON may recommend further assessment, and will be carried out after a period of intervention. Times will vary depending on the capacity of local services. You must obtain one through a licensed practitioner, such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist.
The AON procedure is further explained in the section entitled ‘Advocacy’ under the heading ‘Disability Act, 2005’.
NEPS / School Based Assessment?
This type of assessment is completed by an educational psychologist assigned to the school by NEPS. The school will apply for this assessment on behalf of the child. However each school only receives an allocated number of assessments per year, meaning that schools have a difficult task of prioritising pupils for these assessments.
A public assessment can be applied for through the HSE on referral from a GP or local health centre. Your child will be assessed in a hospital setting usually, by a multidisciplinary team including SLTs, OTs, psychologists and other medical professionals.
In order for a school to apply for resources for a child who has received a public assessment, they will require a report generated by the multidisciplinary team. It is vitally important that this is made available to the school, as they will be unable to apply for resources on behalf of the child without it. It is important to also note that waiting lists for accessing public assessments can be lengthy. For information, check here.
A private assessment is accessible through a privately practicing clinical psychologist or psychiatrist.
It is important to note that not every clinical psychologist or psychiatrist will specialise in autism; it is a good idea to research who you want to assess your child beforehand. Many privately-practicing professionals will seek a referral from a GP or paediatrician before carrying out an assessment. Waiting times for such assessments are considerably shorter, however the costs of this type of assessment may be substantial.
A list of registered clinical psychologists can be found on the Psychological Society of Ireland website.
In order for a school to apply for resources for a child who has received a private assessment, they will require a report written by the psychologist or psychiatrist who carried out the assessment. It is vitally important the psychologist makes this available to the school as they will be unable to apply for resources on behalf of the child without it.
Behavioural support can be accessed through the Continuum of Support model delivered in school, in a similar way to academic support.
As with every support, access to this support will be in line with needs set out in the Continuum of Support model.
The level of support the child receives depends on their level of need and where they are being supported on the continuum. If their behaviour is being supported through ‘Classroom Support’, then there may be whole-class interventions taking place to address the child’s specific needs. This may involve, for example, specific behaviour management strategies used with the whole class, or a behaviour programme taught at whole class level but central to the child’s specific needs.
If their behaviour is being supported through ‘School Support’, then they may be learning about social skills and managing aspects of their behaviour in a small group, or one-to-one with a member of the SET team.
If their behaviour is being supported through ‘School Support Plus’, then they may be engaging with therapeutic supports, either delivered by an external professional or by the SET who is receiving advice from an external professional or service.
Further information on behavioural support in schools can be found on the NCSE website, through documents supported by the NBSS – https://www.nbss.ie/home/about-us