A statement of special needs is a formal document detailing a child’s learning difficulties and the help that will be provided.

If your child needs extra assistance at school – over and above the normal provision that teachers give – a statement of special needs will ensure that the necessary level of support required is provided. However, it is only necessary to get a statement if the school is unable to adequately provide for your child’s educational needs.

The statementing process is not an easy journey and very few children actually qualify. If you or your child’s educators have concerns regarding your child’s progress, it may be worth having some diagnostic testing completed first. This testing may prove sufficient in identifying your child’s needs and may better inform teachers on effective strategies to address these needs within the mainstream setting.

Should you or your child’s school feel that statementing is the best option; a statutory assessment can be sought from your local authority.

A statutory assessment, which is carried out by the local authority, is a comprehensive analysis of your child’s educational and non-educational needs. You, as the parent/s, or a school, can request that a statutory assessment be done. Schools cannot initiate a statutory assessment without first gaining your approval. If a school asks for one, they must inform you.

Requests are processes within 6 weeks. During this time the local authority will consult with you and the school. At the end of this consultation process, a decision to carry out a statutory assessment will be made — you and the school will be notified.

If an assessment is deemed necessary, the local authority may then seek the input of your child’s school, a doctor, an educational psychologist, social services (if applicable) and you the parent’s.

You will be informed within 12 weeks whether or not a statement will be made.

If you disagree with the local authority’s decision, an appeal process is available. Details on how to proceed will be provided in the decision letter you receive.

You would be well advised to have some diagnostic testing done first. This may hopefully avoid the arduous process of getting a statement. If in fact your child does require a statement, seek professional advice. Whatever you do, don’t get daunted by the whole process, stay positive and take one step at a time — after all, your child’s future is at stake.