Every year we do a range of topics, and have also invited specialist services such to talk about language ad communication, and OT/Motor skills. We consciously steer away from ‘needs’ as this limits thinking. We also invite everyone from the school community, and so keep the title/ description general and inclusive so it does not deter those parents whose children may have some of those needs, but may be avoiding addressing them. We talk about normal development but we also talk about the wide range bordering or outside of this ‘normal’ – and most importantly we talk about what parents can do themselves at home to support their children, or where they can seek help. Topics have included active reading, anxiety, Zones of regulation ( we use throughout the school for all), everyday math, sensory processing, primitive reflexes and their retention, language support such as word finding/ webs/categorisation, phonics/spelling strategies etc.Independence.
We have done these virtually for the 2 years and have recorded them and then posted on our website – for some we have had over 100 attendees. We are now going back live, but will continue to record and use as well for training LAs.
I would not underestimate how important the social piece is – especially post covid. For our youngest children, the parents are really struggling to know what normal is – they have not been able to talk to other parents at the school gate to compare what their child is doing so the opportunity to do this is vital. You can still control the conversation by how you structure the session, and you could ask for questions beforehand so you can address. For our last forum this year, we turned the entire thin over to parent questions and asked for them before the event. This actually provided the opportunity for us to correct misconceptions and put parents straight on what things ike ‘bullying’ was!
The other thing we will continue to do this year is to hold an annual ‘book club’ – a one off session with cheese and wine on a general topic about neurodiverse brains – books like’ Thirty Million Words’, ‘ Anxious kids,Anxious parents, whole brain child. This year I want to pick something about unconscious bias/ diversity and equity. Mostly, parents have not read the book but we scaffold and it is a really helpful discussion – most importantly a great way to build community.