Supporting your child’s development at home (12 to 19 years)

Starting Secondary School

Starting secondary school is seen as a big milestone in their child’s life by many parents.

It marks the end of being at a small primary school and the start of being in a much bigger school environment, where there are greater expectations on a child or young person to be independent.

The path to becoming and then being a teenager can be a challenge to a young person and their family but there is still a lot that parents and carers can do to support the development of their child at home.

Daily routine and independence skills for secondary school

The beginning of the school day can be a rush for everyone and your child will need to take on more responsibility for being organised and ready for secondary school.

Keep using a visual calendar and school timetable so your child can easily see the week ahead.

Some children and young people with hydrocephalus also like to have a colour-coded map for different days at school so they can see which rooms they will be in for their lessons.

Sometimes a keyring with laminated cards as reminders for children with hydrocephalus are used in some schools to help following routines for lessons.

There are also apps for children and young people with hidden disabilities to help with prompts and routines when at school. Shine staff are currently working with one organisation to test the suitability of the app for children and young people with hydrocephalus. Contact Shine for more information on 01733 555988 or

For a free trial follow the link here

Children with hydrocephalus may have difficulty getting used to new surroundings so practising the route to school with a parent and a helpful friend is a good idea.

Tips for a positive start to the school day

  • Supervise your child as they pack their school bag the night before.
  • Lay out uniform before going to bed each evening
  • Make sure your child eats breakfast.
  • Ensure your child has opportunities to drink water regularly during the school day
  • Allow plenty of time to get to school.
  • Build in extra time to your morning routine so that lateness is not an issue
  • Check each evening for letters home, such as permission slips, school planners or homework diaries to sign, to avoid early morning panic or forgotten items.

Helping with schoolwork and homework

Your interest and input is still very important to your child and it will help their learning progress. The positive support of parents and carers helps to develop the confidence of students with hydrocephalus, as they learn new skills.

  • Talk about schoolwork and homework so your child can enjoy sharing their learning with you.
  • Find topics that interest your child and look for times when you can explore subjects at weekends, such as science experiments or history projects.
  • Help with the organisation of your child’s work and work space so that they keep to deadlines, they don’t leave large amounts of work till the last minute and they can easily find what they need.
  • Advise teaching staff about loss of concentration in class, which some pupils with hydrocephalus have, that can cause difficulties with recording homework. See Classroom Strategies for more ideas.

Homework in secondary school

  • Year 7 and 8 can get between 45 and 90 minutes of homework every school day
  • In Year 9 this increases to 60 minutes to 120 minutes per school day
  • By Year 10 and 11 homework can be as much as 90 to 150 minutes every school day
  • Year 12 and 13 homework schedules at A Level can be up to 2 hours per day
  • Learning by doing can often help a child with hydrocephalus to learn difficult processes in Maths or Science
  • Talking about their homework can help your child understand, learn and remember complex topics
  • If your child is fatigued by homework, break down tasks into smaller manageable sections
  • Speak with your child’s teacher if you think that your child’s condition is affecting their progress and development.

Communicating with school

Try to establish a positive relationship with your child’s form tutor and the SENCO of the school. They are the experts at helping your child to settle in and to thrive at secondary school. They will be able to reassure you and your child about most issues that come up.

You, in turn, can inform the teaching teams about the health issues associated with hydrocephalus and the effects on your child’s performance in class. By working in partnership with your child’s school, you can help professionals to develop their knowledge and understanding of this condition.

If staff need more advice about the effects of hydrocephalus on learning and teaching strategies then you can remind you child’s teacher and SENCO about Shine’s information and advice services. Partnerships with our charity often continue throughout your child’s attendance at school as Shine can signpost schools towards inclusive PE lessons and disability awareness training.

Keeping up with what’s happening in school

  • Plan ahead by putting important dates on your child’s visual calendar and on the family planner with their help
  • Letters, notices and text messages all need to be answered so you may feel that you are still your child’s personal assistant at times
  • Posters around school are often be ignored by children with hydrocephalus so make sure you are up-to-date by checking the school website regularly with your child
  • Attend fun events so that you and your child have a positive attachment to the school.

Making friends at secondary school

Children and young people with hydrocephalus sometimes find maintaining friendships hard due to difficulties with understanding social cues. Joining clubs and voluntary activities with friends from primary school is a good way to establish friendships in a new school. Many secondary schools sustain circles of friends for pupils with SEND by having lunchtime drop-in sessions to avoid social isolation.

At this time in a child’s life, there may be fewer opportunities for you as a parent to help with your child’s social life. Sleepovers, cinema visits and parties are often arranged without your child fully remembering the details due to episodic memory issues.

Fortunately, written messages on social media provide the reminders and prompts that a young person with hydrocephalus may need to remember the details of social events.

Social media and digital safety

Digital safety and safeguarding children and young people in digital age is a concern for parents of all children and young people and particularly so for those with children who have hydrocephalus. This brain condition can cause some children and young people to exhibit high compliance and trust with strangers. This characteristic can be a worry so parents are advised to follow internet safety guidance given by the NSPCC through their Safe Internet Explorers campaign.


The Family Fund has digital parenting advice, which is updated regularly.

Out-of-school activities

During the secondary school years, the neural connections in your child’s brain become deeper if used regularly. Other weaker neural connections, if unused, begin to fade so it is a good idea to keep up with activities they enjoy.

Continue with the sports, clubs or musical instrument practice that your child attended in primary school so that they maintain their friendships outside of school. Ensure that your child’s learning experiences continue to be enriched outside of school to maintain the skills they learned.

Other ways to support your child’s learning at home

When your child reaches their teens, you may not read to your child in the same way that you did when they were at primary school. You can, however, still talk to your child about the books they are reading and talk about what you are reading too. Make time to enjoy choosing books with your child at their local library or book shop. Ask your librarian for guidance about books for teens and ensure that they have a book for birthday and for Christmas to keep up good reading habits.

Keeping up to date with news helps with school work, as does finding news stories which connect with lesson topics.

If you’re planning a day out then visit a museum or places of interest that will tie in with the work your child is doing in subjects such as Art, English, Science, Geography or History. This is a fun way to add depth and interest to your child’s experiential learning.

Teen traits

During the teenage years, there are certain characteristics and habits that secondary school teachers understand, which may be new to parents. Here are a few teen traits to look out for during the teenage years when your child is quickly growing up.

Teens, in general, take risks so parents can guide their risky mind set by encouraging teenagers to take chances in a safe and secure environment such as in their home, where there is no fear of failure, no mocking and no criticism. Schools should also be places with the same safety and security so students can challenge themselves without fear.

Sleep management is another problem that all teens have so keep to a daily routine, which gives your child opportunities for restful sleep. The National Sleep Foundation can advise on this.

Reading emotions can be a difficulty for teens, especially if they have hydrocephalus, so be explicit and clear to help your child develop self-awareness and an understanding of expectations.

Less self-control is often a characteristic of being a teenager so it is a good idea to limit distractions during times when concentration and memory skills are needed, especially for children and young people with hydrocephalus. Reminders to put phones away can become a regular feature of a teen’s life.

Adults need to understand the changes and challenges that young people face and to guide them on their way to adulthood in a positive and kindly way.

Self-advocacy skills

Secondary school is the time when parents and carers help their child with additional needs to understand their condition so that they can explain it to new people they meet. Children and young people with hydrocephalus need to know how to keep themselves healthy, safe and supported as they grow up and become adults.

By the start of Key Stage 3, many parents and carers have already introduced self-advocacy, where a child or young person starts to take charge of describing their own condition, learning to speak up for themselves and making their own decisions about their own life. This can be a worrying time for parents as they encourage their child to become more independent but, with support, many children and young people learn about their rights, their responsibilities, who to turn to and how to take charge of their own needs as they become more independent.


Helpful Sources

Hydrocephalus – it’s time to get inside my head book and DVD by Shineorder your free copy on 01733 555988 or

Hydrocephalus and Learning booklet by Shine [downloadable resource] or order your copy (£3 including p&p) from Shine on 01733 555988 or

The Teenage Brain published by The Guardian’s Teacher Network

Need more help?

If you need to speak with one of Shine’s specialist advisers about spina bifida or hydrocephalus, call us on 01733 555988 or click here to email us.

Our office hours are Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. We aim to respond to all enquiries as quickly as possible!

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