Tag Archives: school action plus

Aspirations Or Clever Financial Alterations! You Decide

12 Mar

We waited and waited and on the 9th, March 2011 we finally got to see  what the Coalition had in store for us in way of the ‘Green Paper’ titled ‘Support and aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability’


Talking as a parent i’m pleased to see that the  proposed education, health and social care plans (EHSCP) that are planed to replace statements of special educational needs will still give parents the same legal protection that a statement brings. The proposed plan would be aimed at 0-25 year olds not just school aged children. The plans will also involve support in the areas of health and social care as well as education, something that has been missing for too long! However I do wonder how this will affect those already with statements especially in terms of funding and the talk of allocated key-workers. Surely the statements will be reviewed in the same way as the EHSCP and so forth! The statements will therefore need to be maintained in-till the child reaches 25 and be amended to include the health and social care aspect.

Another proposal I welcome is the prospect of being given more choice on where our children are educated. I know many will accuse the coalition of  creating barriers to inclusive education in mainstream schools, but I am a firm believer that mainstream is not always the right way. People must remember that all children are different regardless of their special educational needs or disability, Just because society thinks that every child with sen/disability should learn beside their peers, In reality this isn’t easy for some (My son included) I believe that mainstream was seriously affecting his mental health which is the case for many children. I’m also very interested to hear more on the proposal of individualised budgets with greater parental control giving us a voice that allows us to express views on what services and provision such funding should provide. This is proposed to come into action by the year 2014. In till such date I will remain completely open mind. My mother used to tell me, “If something seems to good to be true, then it probably is.” For that reason I dare to get my hopes up.

Some maybe shaking there heads branding me a pessimist! Well, they would be correct, I’m just that!  Sadly it’s true but myself like many others have been made to feel this way when it comes to SEN & education. It’s my opinion that things will never be easy and we are used to battling for every thing our children need. I for one would be a little shocked to discover that I actually had some time on my hands to do other things instead of battling the system by way of phone calls, meetings, emailing, letter writing, campaigning and so on…  I really struggle to get my head around the idea that parents will be able to have an active part in the decision process surrounding their child’s provision & funding. We have to drag the local authority by the arse all the way to the tribunal just to get a little TA time or use of a laptop! So if this does plan out I for one will fill a little strange being suddenly heard and valued (Well, valued maybe pushing it a tad to far!).

Though some of the proposals look good on paper, I’ve been asking myself , “Are these just words being sugar-coated to look sweeter then they really are?” I mean, let’s not forget that the government are in the process of making huge cuts which will affect many of the services that have a role to play within this very paper. How will they be able to provide what is expected of them? Another important question to ask is, “How much are the Coalition planing to save through the implementation of the green paper?”

I’ve also been thinking about the legal side of things. Given the position I’m currently in (Advising parents on their appeal rights on LEAs sen decisions) I see a lot of re-training heading my way if the green paper is fully implemented. The law would need to under go a radical overview, with large areas, especially section 26 and 27 of the Ed act 96,  needing to be rewritten from scratch and the publication of a new code of practice.

But one of the biggest concerns for me is the proposal of a “single, multi-agency assessment” on the same day, rather than separate assessments on separate days. As much as I welcome a speeder assessment process then that of the current statutory assessment (10 week assessment, with the overall process from start to finish taking 26 weeks) but to propose just ‘one single assessment’ with the involvement of all professionals (and possibly even voluntary agencies) is quite honestly barbaric!

The paper has empathised that those children considered to have the most complex needs, will be the children assessed and issued with an education, health and social care plan, therefore how do they propose to assess a child with such complex needs in one single assessment? Children on the autism spectrum will be just one group of  many children who’s needs may be completely missed due to the child’s particular mood, environment, behaviour, anxiety , etc., on the chosen day of the assessment. I know that my own child would not cope with such an assessment, what with all them eyes on him and questions fired at him! What would it even involve? Are we talking about sending an autistic child (or any child for that matter) into a room with a large number of professionals sat with inquisitive prying eyes, clip boards, and a list of questions as long as their arm? If yes, I guess they can expect a shock at the response they get! It just isn’t going to happen… Surely complex means ‘COMPLEX!’ my definition of  such a word would be, “A complex issue or range of problems that take time to fully resolve” The government is forever banging on about children being placed on the sen register at the drop of a hat, well, I can see a situation being created leading to children dropping of it just as quick!  My son can just about cope with an assessment with one or two professional, any more then this rather than being chucked off the register, he will likely be labelled as a child who is dangerous because he will likely hit out as an attempt to escape the highly stressful situation that he has been placed in. Although I agree it’s not ideal him or any other child with sen having to undergo a range of assessments over a course of time, the one day method wont make things any better but a great deal worse!

Let’s be honest would you or I enjoy being sat in a room with a range of people staring at you like some caged animal reporting your every-more?

26 weeks is way too long but one day! Seriously there is no in-between with this government. I mean do the they really have the child’s best interest at heart?

We have to ask ourselves, has the green paper been created with the  ambition of improving the life chances open to children with sen, and  to offer better support for family members, or is it really their ambition to do away with essential services and provisions with little uproar, while at the same time attempting to reduce the number of  children that are placed on the SEN register?

It’s those children considered to have less complex needs that I’m  seriously worried for!  What defines less complex needs? I’ve spoken to many parents hundreds in-fact that have battled in the past  and present with both schools & local authorities to prove just how complex their child’s needs actually are! I know from past experience that schools won’t except this in-till your child is pushed to the point of self-destruction or has become a complete failure at everything due to the stress they have been placed under. Parents of children with Aspergers or high functioning autism find this to be the case a huge proportion of the time. School’s and LEAs say the same thing over and over again, “Your child isn’t an underachiever, therefore warrants no provision to be made for him/her!” Yet there they are whacking their heads against Walls with the frustration of the work load or noise levels in the classroom, they are always running into social difficulties, becoming isolated from their peers and even excluded on a daily/weekly  basis. It’s ludicrous!

By doing away with school action and school action plus I fear these children will suffer a great deal more than they are currently made too already! What with schools being able to commission the services and put the provision in place that these children are said to need, in this current financial climate is like playing with fire. Much more detail and reassurance is needed and although I know that we are once more welcome to give our views on the paper, I just feel given the length of delay in publishing the paper, including some finer details within in it as to make things a little clearer would have been most welcome!

Ministers have to give the public more information in regard to the finer details that make up the aspirations of the green paper. Including the legal aspects, cost (including how much this new system will put back in to the governments pocket in way of savings) and very importantly the statutory duties of those involve

To some parents this paper means nothing! To others it’s the prospect of a better further for their child in both the early years and that of early adult life. Making provision for children aged 0-25 in all areas of education, health and social care is long awaited. Will this be the start of something promising or just another unfulfilled promise by another Government?…. Only time will tell!

 

Ignorance is bliss

3 Feb

It’s heartbreaking yet somehow comforting knowing there are other families facing the same battles.

I love that this blog has created a place to bring these families together.

Sometimes, despite our family & friends we feel so isolated.

Surrounding yourself with those that relate…

Is comforting & fills us with the strength needed to carry on with the daily …

battles the system brings!

I’ve heard so many horror stories from parents who in some way or another have been dragged through a system that leaves them both physically and mentally exhausted. Many will tell you, “It’s not their child’s condition that takes them to the edge… But the length’s they have to go to get that condition recognised and provided for!”  Most will come out stronger for it… what choice do they have? These are our children and we only want what’s best for them! Every child deserves an education, an understanding environment, a chance to succeed & be valued for the person they are.

Today’s post is not written by myself but from a dedicated reader who I’m so pleased contacted me to share her journey. In so many ways I related to her story, like I’m guessing many well… Helen is a single mother of three. Her eight year old son Max has a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome and ADHD… She talks of her challenge to gain his diagnosis and have him educated alongside his peers. Though Helen has been fighting this battle for a few years she still has some way to go… Here she tells us why…

I am a single mum with 3 great kids Lydia 11, Imogen 10 and Max 8 and a half. I’ve been bringing up the kids by myself since Max was 9 months old. I suppose I’ve always known Max was different but things started to go wrong when he started school. I’d already expressed my concern to his reception teacher before he started but this fell on deaf ears and they wouldn’t even consider a statement even though his pre-school teacher had already recommended one. To cut a long story short,  every time I picked him up from school I’d be taken to one side by his teacher with a look of horror on her face and asked to explain his behaviour which of course, I couldn’t do as I’m not a child physiologist. I couldn’t understand why they seemed so shocked and surprised as I had already stated that I thought there was a problem but still they wouldn’t request a statement and I felt they were laying the blame on my parenting skills. The pressure became too much and soon i was overwhelmed. i was already being treated for depression(postnatal after Max was born and after the breakdown of my relationship) eventually i had a complete nervous break down and the children went to live with my parents for a few months while i recovered. they went to a brilliant school while staying with my parents and Max’s teacher was sure that he was on the autistic spectrum. When the children returned to me and back to our local school Max was referred to the schools pediatrician who diagnosed him with DAMP. Things still didn’t improve and by this time he was regularly being excluded. He was seen by the ED physic and she very helpfully suggested that Max’s issues were down to him not feeling he had  control in his home life(he was 6 at the time) and that mother was known to have mental health issues! Thank you! Although we’d had our problems, the children have a very stable upbringing and the girls were model pupils with no issues at all, in fact they were excelling and still are! At every meeting (and there were loads)! Some teacher/armature physiologist would suggest that Max was emotionally disturbed so I went to my GP and told him that if my son was going to be labelled emotionally disturbed then I would want a qualified physiologist to tell me so and offer him and me( as they were so convinced it was my fault) some support. I asked for a referral to CAMHS but was told it was a school issue! This went on for years with endless pointless meetings and bad advice and opinions from people who had not even met Max. In the end it took me to break down in tears with snot everywhere after being summoned to the school again when max punched the head mistress in the face(and by this point, can’t say I blame him)! And beg them for help. He was finally referred to CAMHS and diagnosed with aspergers (heavily affected apparently) and ADHD. Just after this another expulsion and after that I was expected to take Max to school at 9, pick him up at 10.30 take him home, take him back at 1 and pick him up again at 2.30. After the ADHD diagnoses I felt the pressure from the school to medicate Max and he was prescribed Ritalin. I was very uneasy about this and it worried me that the school seemed so keen. It may have made a slight difference in his concentration but I saw little evidence of this, it did however decrease his appetite and have him bouncing off the walls at night. Max has major food issues probably due to his amazing sense of smell and it’s a real struggle to get him to eat at the best of times and I probably don’t need to tell you about sleep issues! All I know is that the Ritalin made his senses and anxiety go into overdrive and was making him ill so after long discussions with the GP and CAMHS  took him off. This was frowned upon by the school and he was excluded that day. I went back to CAMHS and agreed to give another drug a go. Straterra. he took it for the first time on Thursday which was also his first day back in school after me keeping him off for a week because of the latest exclusion. While I was in the heads office discussing the new arrangements a TA came in and told us Max was being disruptive and seemed very tired and was told to take him home for a rest. He was up most of the night the night before because he didn’t want to go back so took him home and laid with him in my bed to try to get him to get to sleep. He suddenly started pointing at mid-air and asking me what was going on because he was seeing flashes of colours! I immediately referred to the literature that was given to me about the drugs but couldn’t see anything about it in there so I looked at the leaflet that came with the drugs in the packet. CAN CAUSE HALLUCINOGENIC EPISODES AND PSYCHOSIS!! I phoned CAMHS and was told not to worry and keep going and told the school about it and they dismissed it and said it would take time to get used to the drug. OH! That’s Ok then! When I took him back this afternoon he started seeing colours again and seems very lethargic and this is frightening him. He describes them as scary /pretty colours. Again the school are not at all bothered. Is it me?? Am I losing the plot to be concerned about this? Does it make me an over protective and neurotic mother to be worried that I might be giving my otherwise healthy child a drug that could make him mentally ill instead of a drug that made him physically ill just so he fits in with societies rules and makes their job easier? Nothing makes sense to me anymore, maybe I’m the one that’s ill! His statement was still 5 months away at this point and by this time I’d found your blog(a god send by the way) this helped me to realise that the statement would probably come back and bite me in the arse anyway so I told the school that I was very unhappy with the way things were going and was concerned about his lack of education so I wasn’t sending him back. On top of all this, I’d been offered a place on an early bird+ course arranged by CAMHS and specialist teaching but was told by the head the day before that I wouldn’t be able to go because they didn’t want Max in school for a whole morning. I was devastated. I desperately need to meet other families like us and need to learn as much as I could. Thankfully early birds have offered me a place in the summer and recommended a book by Tony Atwood which I’m reading at the moment. A meeting was called at the school last Monday where they persuaded me to hang on until the statement comes through and have promised to arrange to have Max until 11.30 and then for me to home educate in the afternoons. I suspect they were given a bollocking by the specialist teaching service for not supporting me. Ok, I’ll give it a go, but I’m not convinced. He didn’t even make through the doors this morning before I was asked to take him home and bring him back at 1.

My issues are that they have treated me like I am the worst parent in the world for long enough. I have done everything that has been asked of me and it’s them that keep moving the goal posts. I’m sick of being patronised by them and it really annoys me that suddenly everyone’s an expert on aspergers ADHD and Ritalin when they clearly haven’t got a clue. They keep telling me that they have never had a child in school like Max and refuse to believe that I do not have the same problems at home. Max is a funny, loving, good-looking (he gets that from me) charming little boy with a brain the size of a planet and he deserves much more than this. He’s being treated like an outcast! How the hell is he gonna come out of this with any sense of self-worth or prospects? Fast coming to the end of my tether and don’t know where to turn next. They treat me like I’m stupid and incapable of making informed decisions. Max has been badly let down by the system because they were too busy judging me! I am beginning to realise that we are at the beginning of a very long and exhausting journey and we will have to fight for everything. I feel very alone and isolated especially with the school timings, I feel like I’m under house arrest! Trying to take one day at a time at the moment but I lie awake at night worrying about the future. At the moment I think Max is shielded by his aspergers, he doesn’t seem to notice or care of other people’s reaction to him. I’m sure this will change in the near future as he gets older. Friends with kids have moved away from us and friends without kids just don’t get it and just see him as a naughty boy. Basically we keep ourselves to ourselves now and pretty much don’t see anyone. I couldn’t be more proud of Max, he’s such a brilliant kid! Him being diagnosed with aspergers came as a huge relief but it has also broken my heart as I’m sure you will understand. Another, unexpected twist has come of this as well. The more I learn about this condition, the more I am convinced that I have it as-well. Not to the same degree as Max but it explains a lot about my life. I have always felt like I’m on the outside looking in. I have always wanted to fit in but never quite managed it. Now that I’m older this doesn’t bother me as much. I find most people superficial and selfish. I’m quite happy in my own company and quite often go out by myself and just people watch. Even when I’m surrounded by people I still feel alone. It has never occurred to me before because even though at times I can be quite reclusive when I’m out and about I have a whole other person and I’m very charismatic (or so I’ve been told) and out going. It appears on the outside that I’m quite confident and comfortable in my own skin but actually I have a very low self-esteem. I read that aspergers can be more difficult to spot in girls because they are more able to hide it. It’s slowly dawning on me that I cope with some social situations logically because I don’t seem to understand the rules. I’ve spoken to my parents who are also learning all they can about aspergers and they are beginning to think the same. I reckon it has come from my dad’s side of the family. Not sure if I should push for a diagnoses or not as it’s probably too late anyway but it might help me understand some of my demons.

I’ve decided I’ll hang on till the statement comes through but unless he is offered a place in a school that welcomes him and understands him I’m pulling him out and home educating. There has to be a place for him somewhere and any where is better than this.

By Helen (Mum to Max)



Training with a passion

10 Nov

As many of you already know, I’ve been training to become a tribunal support adviser. I’ve never known what  I really wanted to do in life in-till now and this is something I’m sure on. I am seriously hoping to succeed in this chosen path I’ve now taken.

Autism awareness is something I’m passionate about, and as many will already know, either from their own experiences or somebody else’s… autism and the Sendist first tier tribunal seem to go hand in hand with one another here in the UK. I acknowledge that not all children on the autism spectrum have Special educational needs (Sen) but a good chunk of them do and It’s then that many families are faced with problems and a good proportion of the time are faced with the prospect of a fight that eventually ends up in the hands of the tribunal to try and resolve! Ok some are lucky and school’s and LEAs have no problems providing the adequate education for the child! But in my opinion it’s a very small percentage that do.

It’s “funny” how one day everything is rosy in the land of education, but then before you know it, it’s all changed! It could come along and take any parent/career by surprise! It happened to me and it could happen to you!

When I discovered little man had Aspergers I didn’t know the first thing about Sen. The thing is as far as I was aware my child wasn’t on the sen register at school. As many fail to understand… “Having a child with an autism spectrum disorder don’t necessary mean they have special educational needs” I suppose the fact little man refused to even attend school most days, meant the extent of his problems were not seen within his school environment. Well, my point is… I had a great deal to learn back then!

Of course now we are in a completely different situation! Yes, my little man does have problems in school, considerably so that at present his going through the statutory assessment process, is currently part-time schooling and we have a pending DDA tribunal case in the near future. I suddenly had to learn everything from IEPs to exclusion.. all things I’ve never needed to think about before. It’s bloody hard when it goes from being told your child has no issues within school to issues so bad and complex your child now awaits the decision of an emergency “Special school placement” Because their level of need is now so high they cannot cope within the mainstream environment they currently with-side. You hear all this mind-boggling jargon and all you wanna do is SCREAM…”WHAT IN GODS NAME ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?” School action, school action+, statutory assessments and statements.. “WHAT?” So much time is spent trying to work out what you as the parent needs to be doing to make sure your child is getting the very best education available that you have little time for anything else. I know when I first stepped into the world of autism and special ed I didn’t have a clue! Much of my day was spent running back and forth to and from school only later  spending hours trailing the net for answers or calling autism/education advice lines.

It was from then I armed myself with a hardback copy of the  Sen code and got myself a tool kit. I  also started reading the Education Act (Mainly schedules 26 & 27)  & The Education (Special Educational Needs) (Information) (England) Regulations. With this I began to gradually feel more confident in dealing with little mans special educational needs. The loneliness you feel when your child is diagnosed and when autism and Sen come together is immense. I thank all those that were there advising me along the way, making me strong! If it wasn’t for the likes of .…NAS, Ace, Ipsea and other organisations of this kind I would not have been this strong, I would have likely gone insane! I certainly would not have chosen this route (advising others on their rights within the education system) But that’s just it! By going through it I discovered that I wanted/needed to do more. I cannot thank those that have helped me enough, now this is my way of giving something back.

There was many reasons that made this chosen position feel right for me! The prospect that I will help other parents that like me had no clue where to turn, not knowing when and if they have a right to appeal, deadlines looming while all the time their child is failing or worse still being failed. This was my biggest reason! If my work helps just one family then all this training was worth it!

So… finally here’s the good news!. I passed the distance learning modules (All ten of them) These modules covered a great deal. I swear I’ve read the entire Ed act on Sen, followed by the Cop. I got the email in the middle of last week confirming my place on the two training weekends in Canary Wharf in the Clifford Chance Law offices. The trainers, managers and co-ordinator of the TSS service are fantastic and made us all feel relaxed and very welcome. The first day (Saturday) after a really long training session 10-5:30 p.m. (Ok it’s been a while since I did anything other then be mummy) me and the other trainees were taken out for dinner in this lovely Italian restaurant situated right below one of the tallest buildings, not far from the water. It was a wonderful evening and although I had just met everybody that day I was really comfortable in their company. Sundays training was very practical.. Yes I worried half the night I would mess this one up but it went pretty well.

Well, I’m back for my last bit of training on the last weekend of this Month, and yep I’m looking forward to seeing everybody again and getting stuck in! After that… It’s for real, I’m on my own!! As well as being on the front-line I will also undertake casework, and to be honest I can’t wait!!!

Canary Wharf London




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