Written by Helen Sanderson
My daughter, Laura, had the first one-page profile when she was six, nine years ago. She had been in Year 2, for three weeks, when she came home one day in tears, saying the teacher had told her off for wearing the wrong trousers in PE.
When we went to see Laura’s teacher, she explained that she had not told Laura off, but had pointed out that if she only had shorts, and not jogging bottoms, then her legs would get cold. She also said that she had not really been able to get to know Laura, as she is quiet in class.
We decided that we needed to help the teacher to learn more about Laura – and quickly. At that time I was the Department of Health’s expert advisor in person-centred planning, and I knew this could be a helpful approach, but I also knew that teachers would not have the time to read the detailed plans we were using. So, I created a one-page version for Laura – a one-page profile. At first we called it a one-page plan, but quickly realised that was wrong, as all plans should have actions. Instead, this was a person-centred summary, a profile, of who Laura is and how to support her.
The first part of a one-page profile is an appreciation – what people like or admire about the child. We involved Laura’s extended family in contributing to this. It was lovely for Laura to hear what her family likes and admires about her. Then, over a hot chocolate in a cafe, Laura and I thought about what was important to her – her yellow Teddy Sunny who slept on her bed, her three cats, the stick insects and wondering if their eggs would hatch; and what we know as her parents about the best ways to help and supporter her – recognising that she finds change difficult and needs lots of reassurance, and that she can perceive a small negative comment as a big telling off. Laura drew a picture of herself for the background of the profile and we made an appointment to share it with her teacher.
‘This would have been very useful to have had at the beginning of the year’, she said. She talked about how helpful this information would be at some of the important transition times, like children coming from nursery into school, and moving from class to class.
Laura’s one-page profile helped her move from class to class. Each year we updated it with Laura, and her teacher and Laura drew a new picture or chose a photo of herself.
Fast-forward now to 2013 when, at the same school, Norris Bank, every child has a one-page profile. Back when Laura was six, and I was nervously sharing her first one-page profile with her teacher, I would not have believed that we would now be sharing the journeys of 100 other people – all using profiles for better empowerment, choice and control in a variety of situations. It really excites me to think what could be possible if more people knew about and had access to this simple but incredibly effective tool!