The unknown can be scary. Add to that, concerns about your child’s learning or wellbeing and suddenly, you can find yourself feeling very anxious.
At Learning & Wellbeing Psychology, we put relationships at the forefront of what we do. That includes our relationships with colleagues, school staff, children and, of course, their families. However, with time being such a precious commodity, often arranging a parent consultation can become a quick task rather than a warm and welcoming experience into what an Educational Psychologist is and what might be expected from you during a meeting.
To ease some of that anxiety, we’ve put together a list of FAQs that we often hear around parent consultations which we thought would be really helpful to share. Of course, this list is not exhaustive so please feel free to Tweet us with any other questions you have around parent consultations!
1) What is an Educational Psychologist and why are you getting involved?
Educational Psychologists (EPs) work in partnership with school communities to unpick situations that might feel stuck. Usually, we will work with schools to think about a child’s learning, social skills, communication skills or emotional wellbeing – however we can pretty much support with anything that has an impact on the child’s experience of school. Different EPs work in different ways. At Learning & Wellbeing Psychology, we will become involved with your child because their school have raised concerns about them and the school would like to think about how they might better understand the situation.
2) Do I have to agree to your involvement?
Before an EP becomes involved, we must first gain informed consent from parents/carers (or the young person if they are aged 16 or over). This means that you, as the parent, have been informed of why we have been asked to become involved, have seen a copy of our Parent Information Leaflet and have a good understanding of what our involvement might include.
Hopefully, at this point, you will feel supported in the process and happy to give consent. However, it's not obligatory that you give consent and if you don ‘t feel able to give your consent at this time, that’s OK. We would advise you to go back to the school’s SENCo and discuss any reservations you may have with them. We might then give you a call to explain our role in a little more detail, if that feels helpful and appropriate. However, without consent, we are not in a position to complete any work with yourself or your child.
3) OK so I’ve given my informed consent, now what?
EP work can take many different forms. Sometimes we might only meet with yourself or the school. Sometimes we might do both (possibly even together!). We might come into school and complete an observation, assessment or intervention work with your child. These are questions that you can ask the school and they should be able to tell you more. Usually, you will be informed if we wish to meet with you (either in person, over the phone or via video call), as well as a time. If that time doesn’t work for you, please say and we will do our best to fit around you!
4) I’ve heard of a GP consultation – is this the same?
Generally GP consultations involve the ‘patient’ giving information and the ‘professional’ providing a diagnosis. This is a little different. Our consultations are collaborative. That means that we don’t see either one of us as the ‘expert’ but instead, we all come into the discussion with our own knowledge and all of this is valuable for engaging in problem-solving and creating an action plan to move the situation forward.
5) This sounds like a lengthy process. How long will the meeting take?
This varies depending on who’s present and what the concerns are. We’d usually ask for around an hour of your time for a consultation, although sometimes a consultation may only last 30 minutes or, if there are multiple people or perspectives involved, over an hour and a half. This should be clarified when you are invited to a meeting but if it’s not clear, just ask the SENCo.
6) You said you want me to contribute my knowledge, but I don’t know anything about psychology. What do you expect me to say?
The EP may be positioned as the ‘expert’ of psychology but you are the ‘expert’ of your own child. You spend every day with them and have watched them grow and develop. That means you have really valuable knowledge that we would never be able to gain through observation or assessment alone.
7) So you want me to just talk about my kid?
Pretty much! Sometimes, consultations might follow a specific structure. These are usually supported by visuals (such as a Solution Circle; see image) and the EP will really clearly guide everyone through that process.
Other times, consultations are less structured, however it is common that the EP may ask about the following:
· Pregnancy, birth and early years
· Medical history/diagnoses
· Physical development
· Communication skills and language development
· Friendships and social skills
· Approach and attitude to learning
· Emotional wellbeing
8) Is there anything I need to do in preparation for the meeting?
Unless specified, there’s nothing in particular that is expected from you before the consultation. Sometimes, an EP might send a questionnaire to you in advance to help shape the discussion. If you’ve not received anything, then please don’t worry.
9) I might get flustered during the meeting. Is there anything you’d recommend to help with this?
We know that your child’s learning and wellbeing is incredibly important to you and some of these conversations can be very emotive. Please don’t worry if you feel flustered or upset during the consultation. We can always take a break if necessary, or slow things down if it’s feeling a little overwhelming. You can just say, or we may suggest it if we feel it may be needed. Some parents like to take an advocate with them to meetings. This could be a professional (such as through SENDIASS or Parent Partnership), another family member or close family friend and we are more than happy for you to do so. Although if you choose to bring a friend, it's important to remember that the information we will be discussing may be personal, sensitive and confidential so if you wish to bring someone with you, please make sure you are happy for them to be privy to that information.
10) Any next steps?
If you’d like to do a bit of homework between now and your consultation, it might be useful to jot down a few bullet points that you’d like to raise during the meeting. It can be helpful to structure them as follows:
· What is going well at the moment? What are my child’s strengths?
· What is not working at the moment? What does my child need? What are my concerns?
· What do I hope to get from this meeting?
· What would I like the future to look like for my child?
We hope you’ve found these questions useful and as always, we welcome any feedback or additional questions that you feel it may be helpful for us to answer.