Tag Archives: SEN

Changing

23 Apr

A teenage terror!

Is terror a little harsh a word? Um, No, Probably not!

I myself went from a sweet little girl with pigtails to some unrecognisable rebellious monster with too many hormones! Ok, I gave my mum headache for a couple of years but then I got it out my system and grew up.

Nonetheless, I do remember the total chaos I caused in the house. My terrible attitude and stinking mood swings. Now as a mother I’m totally crapping myself at whats to come.

Little man is 12. His almost a teenager and already seems to be experiencing the changes puberty brings.

For many years family and friends have commented that when Little man becomes challenging he displays the many traits of a teenage boy. For this reason and others i’m left asking myself the question… “is the mix of Asperger’s traits and those of puberty going to create an explosive combination?”

Meltdowns are already highly charged. A trigger, depending on what it is, can spark some of the most explosive meltdowns that go on for hours on end. Will these triggers become more heightened or will we be faced with new ones all together?

I’ve already started to notice changes in little man’s behaviour. Having worked extremely hard to master the signs, these are now becoming harder to spot. Its that feeling that your walking on eggshells that or there is some ticking time bomb in the room.

I am extremely grateful to little man’s school. If he never had this placement he may have had to struggle through secondary school. For some children with Aspergers this can be a trying experience! I guess what I’m trying to say is at least he is in a supportive school who can help him through those sometimes confusing teenage years. This is one less thing to worry about.

But its not just meltdowns and mood swings that concern me. As a mother of a teenage boy I worry about all the normal stuff but then with Aspergers thrown into the mix I guess I worry a tad more. For one, there’s the issue of girls… Just because his on the autism spectrum doesn’t mean he won’t experience all those new and confusing feelings when it comes to the opposite sex.

Little man can be somewhat blunt when it comes to saying what he thinks so here’s hoping social skills training will make this area of concern less of a problem.

Changing bodies, feelings and an injection of hormones are sure to bring about a some important lessons for little man and of course for me, his mother.

We are currently working on issues surrounding personal hygiene. With tactile defensiveness little man absolutely hates to bath. He loves to use a power shower and this is something I’m currently requesting from the housing association (which isn’t a walk in the park). Having a shower fitment would make the world of difference to us as a family. Instead of wrestling him into a bubble filled tub, I’d instead have to wrestle him out of the shower. Both myself and his father have both talked with little man about the importance of personal hygiene, especially as he gets older. His already Experimenting with different brands of deodorants because as dad clearly stated… ‘No body likes to be friends with somebody who smells of BO’

As for sex education, the school have already began to teach little man and his peers the basics. There has already been lots of discussions on how their bodies will change as they go through puberty so that there will be no surprises or sudden shocks in the future.

Just yesterday little man informed me that he was developing a few teenage spots that were completely normal for a boy of his age. We talked about the importance of washing his face and reframing from spot popping to which he responded with, ‘ Yuck… I won’t pop them thats disgusting!’ Yes I too was pleased we agreed on something.

I don’t know what these teenage years hold for us. But like everything, its just a case of taking the rough with the smooth. No doubt there will be problems but I’m guessing there will be many achievements made by little man along the way.

These are the years in which little man will become a not so little man. The lessons both myself as his parent and his school teach him, will now be some of the most important to date! Now is the time to work together to get it right, shaping my little man for the future. The end results… A promising life as an independent working adult who looks forward to life’s little surprises instead of fearing them.

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My Child’s Diagnosis Didn’t Give Me Depression! The SEN System Did That!

7 Apr

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Its funny, Just recently I found myself engaged in conversation With a fellow parent at my daughter’s school. We were discussing depression, a subject I won’t hide from!

This parent reads my blog and is aware that depression has sometimes been a part of my life… More so than not.

So, if I’m ever asked a question I will try to answer it openly and Honestly. I’m not ashamed to say… “Yes I had depression” Why should I be? So, Having engaged in conversation for at least five-minutes with this lady I suddenly came to realise that there was some type of crossed wires on her part in regards to a depressive episode I experienced around 3 years ago! This started me thinking… Does everybody think the same way?

So I wanted to explain something, and do so very clearly! My son’s diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome didn’t bring out any episode of depression within me. My child being on the autism spectrum has never actually left me feeling depressed! However, what has had me running for the antidepressants is that of the things that come with that diagnosis (like it being stuffed in a brown envelope and shoved in your hands). I’m not talking in relation to little man’s autistic traits, his sleepless nights or sudden angry outbursts! I’m talking about the battles to get others to sit up and listen. Basically, It wasn’t my child’s Asperger’s syndrome that depressed me it was the system in which I now found myself battling with.

You think a diagnosis is going to change thinks. The right help and support will come and be handed to you on a plate… Well dream on, it most certainly won’t! I learnt almost instantly, that for some, my sons diagnosis wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.

Over the years I’ve come to realise that being a parent to a child on the autism spectrum makes you a stronger person. It gives you fighting power, the type you never even knew you had! Because when your a mother its not only your job to ensure your child has everything they need to lead a full and happy life but the love you have for them that drives you. Almost any mother can relate to this regardless if their child is autistic.

Battling schools for appropriate educational services, educating society about autism and getting your child’s voice heard is all part of the package but it doesn’t necessarily mean its going to come with instructions, and I guess it was this aspect of his diagnosis that hit me the hardest.

Being told little man had Aspergers Syndrome was hard, I can’t deny it! No matter how prepared you think you are, you never are… Not really! Even when you’re told by specialists that its almost a certainty and you’ve therefore done all your own research and have reached the conclusion that “Yes, they are right… you can see it too!” I guess its because it makes it all the more definite, more final! But what must be remembered is that little man was the same child he had been the day before receiving a final diagnosis and I wasn’t depressed then!

Its all to easy to assume that the giving of a diagnosis is the reason why a mother crumbles and starts suffering such conditions as depression. What one must remember is that its all that comes after… The fight to make others do the right thing by your child, its this that can really drain your energy both physically and emotionally.

So if your about to receive that final slip of paper enclosed within a brown envelope, then brace yourselves… As the battle begins.

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A Much Closer Look At The Children And Families Bill 2013 (Adoption & Family Justice)

20 Mar

Today I want to talk about the Children and families bill 2013, I’ve already shared some thoughts on the sections covering SEN but today I’m writing my personal views in relation to those sections of the bill mainly concerning ‘Adoption and children looked after by local authorities’ & that of family justice (public family law).

People maybe somewhat surprised to hear me say this, but the proposed changes within this section actually worry me more than any other part of the bill! Yes, that does include SEN! Despite SEN being of great importance to me, as it affects my own family and is what I campaign for, there is ever increasing campaigning for the issues the surround SEN, and over time more knowledge and awareness has been developed. Its the issues surrounding adoption and family justice that concern me somewhat more, mainly due to societies ignorance when it comes to this dark and somewhat hidden area of law, one that leaves families broken. I honestly believe that if every single person in the UK really knew how the laws surrounding these issues were applied, then things may have moved with the times and the true meaning of justice would have been found by now.

Its an area that doesn’t affect many of us. Many will never have to deal with family courts, social services and the possible heartache of losing a child to the state when no crime has been committed. Yes, many children do need to be taken from parents who fail to provide the right home environment, parental care and so forth, but it may surprise you when I say that many children are in fact taken from loving homes, from the parents who are able to care for them and Is desperately long to do so. These parents haven’t inflicted any sort of harm or pose any risk of future harm to their children, but have them removed from their care all the same.

Are children really taken by the state when really they should remain with the loving family they were born into? Yes! Believe it or not this is true and thousands would tell you so if given such an opportunity to do so!

I apologise for such a long post, but firstly, before I go on to enlist the reasons why I think some of the areas of the bill have left myself and many others concerned, let me highlight the current problems within this somewhat hidden area of our family justice system and that of the laws that surround child protection (Children’s Act 1989) & that of the ‘Adoption and Children Act 2002.

Do you actually know any of the following?

Children are currently placed on child protection registers with a huge proportion being removed from the care of their birth parents, simply because the local authorities claims that there is a “Risk” of emotional abuse to child one day in the future. Here’s a few examples when this happens…

A child born into a family where a mother has been abused by a partner! This can be physically, emotionally or sexually! This could be before the child was even born or in some cases, even conceived. What’s more the mother may have left the relationship having built up the courage to do so, but is now faced with the involvement of the Social Services (SS).

Example… A woman who is to frighten to leave her partner, a man who controls and bullies her, finally gets up the courage to report him to the police and bravely leaves the family home with the children. With no place to live she contacts family support services. Someone, either the police or support service has approached the SS (Social Services) as the child protection laws permit them to do so. Now the children of the woman are placed on the child protection register because the mother “Allowed” herself to be emotionally abused by their father. The woman is a mother who has never hurt her children, her local GP and Health Visitors have no concerns, school is happy with her children’s progress, yet this mother now has to report every move she makes to SS. The SS eventually do apply for care proceedings and she eventually loses her children. The reason given… “Risk of Emotional Abuse!”

Next time you hear about a battered wife or even husband, who didn’t speak out, the chances are they were not only afraid of their partner but also of the involvement of their local authority and its Social Services team. Because as I’ve explained… Such a situation can warrant the authorise to apply for interim care orders.

Basically, there is a strong that children are removed from parental care because the mother has reported a crime in which she has sadly fallen victim to!

Then their are those parents who have Special Educational Needs or a disability!

Believe it or not, many of these parents have there children removed from their care, having only just given birth to them. In many cases this is within hours! Their only crime, they have been born with SEN or a disability. Instead of support, these babies are removed and placed on adoption registers where many are adopted quickly due to them being newborns. In actual fact, most adoptive parents have been decided upon by the authority during the birth mothers pregnancy, sometimes before she is even aware of the looming situation.

The majority of children taken by the state and put up for adoption are children under 3 years old. It is known by all that these children are much easier to adopt out.

I know of a case where the Local authority is awaiting care proceedings for a 3 year old toddler. She is the daughter of a mother with slight SEN and is said to be too advanced. They claim there is a risk the child will become to clever for the parent in later years (this therefore highlights as RISK OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE)!! The parent only has a mild learning disability due to the radiotherapy she received for her childhood cancer! Sadly I know all this because the mother involved is in fact that of my little sister. Yes, having asked the SS for support following an abusive relationship she now could lose her child too.

Another issue in need of highlighting is how local authorities claim there to be “Risk of Abuse” if the parent of a child has sadly been the victim of child abuse during their own childhood years. This gives the social workers another reason to step in and take the child. Many mothers have lost their children for such reasons and this is never really brought to light. You may think, “No there must be additional reasons’ I know I used to think so too! The truth is, many of these mothers have their babies taken at birth, they don’t have the opportunity to prove they are able to be a good parent, let alone there be any other reason for the removal of their child from their care.

Many parents desperately do all that they can to cooperate with SS. They later find that by having done so, the SS have written poor reports on there parenting. Normal everyday small issues such as lack of time to do the housework are extremely exaggerated and blown out of proportion in court.

And here’s the really scary bit that up in till last year I was totally unaware off…

Are you aware of any of the following?

SS can use evidence in a family court that is based on hearsay! It will normally be evidence that is made up of unfounded information and sadly false allegations.The court will except and permit evidence of such type regardless of it having not been investigated or validated! The judge will use this along with other reports (often including that of expert reports given by those who have never even met the child) to decide a child’s future, one that can potentially rip a loving family apart. The family courts are the only courts that use such evidence. If we tried to use hearsay evidence in a court of criminal law a judge would refuse to even permit it let alone use it.

This means you could technically upset your neighbour who thinks its awesome to ruin your life by making a little call to the SS telling them a load of untruths. SS may then get involved, stick your children on the register and then a year down the line, start care proceedings and once in court, produce that silly hearsay evidence which is the icing on the cake and inferences the decision of the judge, leaving you hopeless and without a voice.

Now, I say without a voice as my next point is just that! Its the “Gagging of parents” by the family courts.

We can argue all we want that family courts should be transparent and open to the public but lets be honest, this isn’t going to happen anytime soon. This is because of the child protection laws and the need to keep children safe from the media and allow for family privacy. However, what we as a society fail to realise is that families who lose their children when no crime is committed are gagged by the court. If they leave the court having lost their child and therefore go on to campaign their innocence, taking it to the media in a desperate attempt of gaining justice and being reunited with their children, they are actually thrown into prison for having done so. The parent will not have named their child but this doesn’t actually matter as they are still seen to have broken this unknown law. Where is the justice in that.

If a women is rapped she is able to tell her story if she wishes. She can even do it anomalously if desired. A loving parent desperately trying to get her children back, can however not do this without receiving punishment. Its like living in the dark ages, so much so it scares me.

This is where other laws are discredited, such as that of the human rights laws. Yes, honestly it sounds unbelievable that a parent can be punished for exercising their right to freedom of speech.

Basically, when a child is taken under the category that is “Risk off emotional abuse” parents are being punished for crimes not yet committed, ones that more then likely, possibly, never actually will be! These are simply risks that are based on a strangers report.

A court of law wouldn’t punish someone for looking in a clothing store where the Security guard felt that the person in question looked suspicious and therefore posed a “Risk”of shoplifting! They just wouldn’t, would they? Could you imagine the public outrage? Then why is this any different?

Why don’t many of you know about all this? Because you are not meant too. Its not that its some type of a conspiracy, all of the above is there to be discovered if you look close and hard enough! Just ask the press! National papers headline Newspapers have repeatedly reported the darker sides such as the allocation of bonuses for given to social workers for hitting adoption targets. Even though this was abolished some years back, it still doesn’t do the local authorities reports and statistics a bad turn or even that of the Individual social workers CV.

Other problems faced…

Lack of funding and current cuts for support services aimed at helping families combat areas of concern that some local authorities see as a green light to place children on the “At Risk Registers” These could be services to support single parents, parents with disabilities or those in need of support to leave violent or abusive partners.

The benefit cuts only add to pressures already inflicted on low income families, sadly creating a risk of State intervention for reasons beyond their own control.

Thoughts…

The way in which social workers work, has to under go a complete reform for things to change. You may ask why they miss some children, why certain cases highlight how SS left abused children with parents who later killed them. This is because the SS spend to much time chasing around families of those they wish to label “At Risk Of…”

Sadly, many of those cases we read about in the paper, concerning SS lack of intervention despite the many reports and noted concerns, would have likely ended up in a state children’s home’s or with foster parents if they were saved in time. These Children are harder to adopt, the ones who are abused! Adoption agency who are constantly in battle with one another, struggle to find them adopters because of the great psychological impact that has been left with the child. Sadly it seems that putting children up for adoption under the age of 3 and with a label that reads “Risk off” as opposed to “Abused” makes them all the more disirable!

Only once changes have been made in the way the system operates, can that of the changes proposed in the Children’s and families bill 2013, actually be of great benefit to all. However, to pass these clauses within this bill as legislation, and to do so as things currently stand, will only make the above issues a whole lot worse.

Areas of concern in the 2013 Children’s and Families Bill…

Part 1 Clause 6
The Adoption and Children Act Register

Relates to when a local authority can add children to the adoption register

Supply of information for the register …
Children suitable for adoption or for whom a local authority in
England are considering adoption

Children suitable for adoption or for whom a local authority in England are considering adoption can be added to the Adoption register.

Search and inspection of the register by prospective adopters…

Regulations may make provision enabling prospective adopters who
are suitable to adopt a child to search and inspect the register, for the
purposes of assisting them to find a child for whom they would be
appropriate adopters.

This is extremely unclear to me and I’m left asking myself “Can I be mistaken here?” You see from what I have read of the proposed legislation is that Local authorities will have the power to place a child on an adoption register, even before a court has made an order! Now are we just talking children in state care or those who remain with birth parents who are currently awaiting for a court hearing to decide if to oppose a care order?

I understand that for those children in long term care or foster placements, those who’s parents are not capable of caring for them, this may in fact be beneficial, especially if they have been in state care sometime. Given that these children are not in contact with birth parents and the ones who are, are in support of this then OK maybe! But for those parents who feel that the system is failing them, those fighting for children to remain with them or at least another family member as a last option, should most defiantly not have their child added to a register for prospective adopters to search through. This is a decision for a judge alone. By allowing the local authorities to add children they feel suitable for adoption to an adoption register is ludicrous. Parents will feel they have little hope in keeping their child at home with them. Especially if once at the hearing the local authority announces that prospective adopters have shown an interest in the child. This shouldn’t sway a judges decision but I lack confidence that it won’t. Social workers should be busy assessing appointed family members for suitability of becoming long term Carers if these have been put forward. Its important that all avenues have been fully explored before a child should be seen as a suitable candidate for adoption, especially when evidence is built upon hearsay evidence. If anything its not fair on both potential adopters and birth parents if a courts decision has yet to be made.

What’s more hasn’t it been said that we already have an overload of children needing loving homes? Why add those who’s futures have yet to be decided upon. We all know that children under the age of 3 are adopted more easily and these children shouldn’t be added to registers just for desirability.

Part 2 The Family Justice System

Clause 14 introduces a 26 week time limit to proceedings for care & supervision orders, with provision for extensions in certain circumstances.

Although I understand that it is of extreme importance to ensure more children who are truly unable to be cared for by birth parents, are placed into loving permeant homes more quickly. Removing the disruption of constant foster placements and state care homes, I fear that this rule will leave judges in a position to make life changing decisions on a whim.

With the use of hearsay evidence still being allowed to continue and the lack of independent support and advice for the parent, its my opinion that more parents who can, and in fact already do provide a safe and loving home for their child, will end up losing them to the state, simply because the SS claim their is a future “risk”

It is a great concern, that resources needed to ensure an effective 26 week timetable, will not be put in place at the same time as when the bill becomes a legislation.

With a 26 week timescale I am deeply concerned that this will reduce the time in which birth parents have to build a decent case for defence, access appropriate advice and support (especially given the long waiting times for such services due to funding cut backs). Above all, it will reduce the time needed to demonstrate to the court their parenting abilities. Although it is stated that family courts will always consider the best interest of the child and if able, will always aim to keep children within the family network by placing children with potential family members/relatives as opposed to placing them in state care and on adoption registers, the proposed timescales will leave less time for assessments of these potential family members/possible carers leaving the judge with no choice but to consider additional arrangements.

Above all it saddens me to see that this section of the bill has put empathise on the need for speeder timescales to unable a court to make an order for a child to be placed up for adoption and not one that ensures it makes the right decisions, whatever that maybe. Personally with such empathise given on adoption (including the addition of adding children to the adoption register even before that decision has reached at court) makes me think families will stand less hope then the little they may currently hold.

Sorry for such a long winded post. I could have most probably created all this into a more managing piece, though I’ve just felt a need to get it all off my chest and lay it out there for all to see and read.

I’d really love to hear the thoughts of others, whether the bill directly affects them in someway or they just want to make an opinion. After all… As they say… “Two voices are always better than one!”

You can click here to see proposed registration and changes as a result of the Children’s and Families Bill 2013

The Children And Families Bill 2013 – Are You Worried?

15 Mar

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Worried about the child and family bill 2013? Well, if your child has SEN or a disability then you should be!

This is a post I’ve needed to write since I first read the published Children and Families Bill 2013 but ended up having so many questions flying around in my own head that I couldn’t find a way to relax enough to put them in to words (well, words that made sense anyway).

I have now been given the opportunity to head up to Westminster on Monday, to meet with the Minster Ed Timpson where I will be able to put those questions and opinions forward! So…I thought it would be a good idea to share them here with you guys first and also see if you had any opinions to add.

If you remember the post I wrote last year relating to the Green Paper you will know that back then I had already developed grave concerns relating to the proposed reforms relating the that of Special educational Needs (SEN). Now reading the Children and Families Bill it is only fair to say that those initial concerns have now been greatly heightened and with good cause too.

1: One of my major concerns surrounded that of the removal of school action/action plus. The green paper offered little indication on what was therefore being implemented to make things easier for those children without Statements/Education Health Care Plans [EHCP] to obtain appropriate support and services. Looking at the bill it seems that as I feared, “Nothing” is actually being put in place that will truly benefit the child who doesn’t fit the criteria for SEN. The Department Of Education (DFE) has stated that these children will have some degree of support through that of the “Local Offer” Though it should be noted that the bill as written states that the Local Authority (LA) are required to make information available relating to the education, health and social care services it “expects” to be available within its local area! This seems to hold no legal duty and therefore leaves these children in a somewhat similar situation than the one they are already in.

2: The Bill states that it has expanded the list of schools parents can request as a preference when naming the school in their child’s EHCP. This maybe so, but the fact the LA can still claim that for the child to attend the parents preferred school would be an inefficient use of resources, therefore meaning they wont name that school, actually means parents are in no way a better position than the one they are currently facing now! Well, I fail to see the difference.

3: At the start of the process the green paper promised a much quicker assessment process, with timescales being greatly reduced and parents not having to battle their way through the SEN System. However, the Bill fails to reflect this and actually fails to make known any sort of timescales for assessments, reassessments or appeals whatsoever.

4: The suggested requirement for parents to meet with LA officials before an application is made to tribunal is just pointless. It was first suggested that Mediation would become compulsory, meaning parents needed to take this route before applications for appeals to the tribunal were omitted. However, it was later agreed that this type of requirement was somewhat unfair, one making little if no sense! But then the the bill has stated the possibility of a meeting to discuss possible mediation etc is to be held before submitting an appeal to the tribunal! Come on… This will again make an already long process longer. If parents thought they could just pop down the LA and sort the whole mess out over a cuppa then don’t you think they would? No mother likes to endure the whole stressful notion of having to battle the LA at the tribunal, don’t you think we’d avoid it if we could. Again the whole lacking of timescales contributes here greatly. Why shouldn’t appeals be submitted at the first instance of it being denied. Its already known that it is only then that most LAs will actually start putting things into action and communicating with parents.

5: Another huge concern for me is the lack of information given on how the integration of the new EHCP will affect those children who currently have statements of SEN? Given a great deal of the law and SEN code will need to be rewritten to fit in with the new sen reforms how is this going to work with the statement! After all, if statements are going to be replaced this cant possibly be done by the time the new laws come into practice! With many of the laws that relate to those statements being written off, where is the legal protection to ensure the provision is still provided to the child who obtains that statements? Will statements be gradually phased out, scrapped and reproduced as EHCP as a result of annual reviews? What about those who have had annual reviews shortly before the legislation is made official? Will they hold a statement that offers no protection for a year? What happens when they are older will they receive the same protection if they remain in education? How will these new changes incorporate the social care side of things? Will those who have SALT on part 3 of their statement find that it then becomes a requirement of the health care system, no longer the duty of the LA to provide? A health care system that has no legal duty to provide it?

Which brings me to my next concern…

6: The lack of duty with the health sector. As it stands most of the areas which the LEA consider to be non educational are tossed over to part 5 of a child’s statement! I don’t think anybody from the health sector currently ever sees that part of little man’s statement or that of any other childs! Why? because they have no duty to provide any advised provisions, thats why! So, I guess I should be excited about the LAs joint commissioning with the health sector. Sadly I’ve already lost faith in this proposal.

The fact is that the LA have a duty to provide educational provision and regardless of joint commissioning it will stay that way! So, them “non” educational support needs will fall in the hands of the health sector right? With the guys at the LA actively communicating with those in the health sector things will now be hunky dory, right? Don’t be fooled! Their will be no legal requirements made of the health sector so basically… Nothing’s changed! Its just like having the non educational aspects of a statement tossed in part 5. The only difference is the health sector will know they are there, but in no way does this mean they will have to provide such services! What with waiting lists for a basic blood test on the rise and government funding cuts that have already had detrimental impacts on the NHS and related services, it looks like even more children will be left without the support they need to succeed. Yes, they made it sound so promising when talking about it all in the green paper, but in reality, it isn’t really that pretty no matter how much you dress it up!

As mentioned Little man receives SALT and OT which the LA tried its best to toss into part 5 of his statement. It took two independent assessments and reports, a pending tribunal case (that luckily didn’t make it to the hearing) for the LEA to throw the towel in. Which brings me to the issue of legal aid, if this ends up restricted then I guess children all over England and Wales are gonna be in huge trouble.

7: My next point to make is that of the funding issue. Again the bill has been very careful not to give many clues on the budgeting side of things. Delegations of school’s budgets for those children just outside the SEN scoop have not been discussed, and very little information on the individual funding of a child’s EHCP has been offered. Ok, so we know about the idea of personal budgets, yet the finer details are still up in the air. However, at this early stage my concerns currently surround the area of passing money to families and letting them go about it themselves. Ok, this way we know what our children are getting and we can hopefully obtain the services needed to cater for our child’s needs, but isn’t this just another way of removing the responsibility and the workload from the LA. I want to know how they are going to monitor the situation to ensure that the provision on the EHCP is being implemented? Will the parents be required to document spending of the budget having to knock up an annual spending report for the LAs records? I don’t know about you guys but I’m to busy being a mother and an advocate for all that!

8: Is this just another way to lower spends? Honestly this is a serious question, one that deeply worries me! How can we as a country struggling against a Recession with cuts already hitting children’s services the hardest, have faith that our children’s needs will be met this way. The bill is missing huge chunks of legalities that although haven’t been great have all the same protected us somewhat, giving us a case to fright for our children. With the bill being very unclear when it comes to appeals, timescales and a duty to provide services who can blame me for thinking that this isn’t a way to slowly help refill the governments penny jar. After all legal expenses are just that expensive so by removing many of the legal rights associated with the statement, less appeals can be lodged and the expenses decrease… Sad but logical!

9: Has anyone else noticed that the idea of a key worker, a single person to point us parents in the right direction, has suddenly been dropped from the bill. I’ve read many of the governments responses to the concerns raised, though I failed to uncover concerns relating to a family key worker! I therefore wonder why it suddenly disappeared without trace, especially considering it was one specific aspect of the green paper most of us parents applauded? Too expensive an idea maybe?

10: The EHCP is for those with SEN between the ages of 0-25 years. However, what most people fail to realise is that this is not exactly true! Its pretty clear from reading the bill that once your child/young person leaves education then the plan will crease. This actually makes sense, after all the only aspect anyone really plans to fulfil is those provisions given in the EHCP is that of the educational part of the plan. As mentioned the area of health and social care will have no legalities attached meaning it won’t be worth the paper its written on. It will be this part that your child will probably need most when leaving education, yet it seems that more assessments from social services to obtain the help needed to help young people with the transition into adult life may well require that of you having to fight for it… Again!

Thanks for reading my thoughts and opinions on the Bill. I actually have some strong views on the sections covering adoption and children in care and have decided to express them in a separate post which I’ll try and publish sometime over the next couple of days.

Now I would love to pick my readers brains a little and ask… “What would be the most important aspects of the bill you would want to raise with the Minster?” Please it would be great to hear your thoughts.

To access the Children and Families Bill and associated documents, click HERE

ITS TIME THAT OFSTED PUT A STOP TO ILLEGAL EXCLUSIONS AGAINST CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

20 Feb

Yesterday was a rather productive day.

Its a day that two years ago, I longed to see.

Yesterday was all about reaching out, creating awareness and getting heard.

It was those important factors above, and a few more besides that encouraged me on the given tasks I had been set. Tasks I thought would never happen but was now about to suddenly surface.

The task was that of sharing our story with the world.

Two years ago I felt as if no one would listen. I was able to successfully bring every aspect of our story to light and people would take notice… Every aspect but this one! Now I’d been given an opportunity to change this.

It all began when the charity “Contact A Family” sent me an email with an attached survey surrounding the topic of “Illegal exclusions from school” Of course I had a lot to say on the given subject. I hoped that others affected would have too. The results could finally prove the extent of the problem and finally a campaign set in motion.

Thankfully this is what happened! The results have lead to the charity “Contact A Family” launching a national campaign highlighting the results of the survey entitled “Falling Through The Net”…

The charity’s Falling Through The Net survey, collected the opinions off over 400 families of children with disabilities or additional needs.

The results indicated that more than half (53%) of families have been asked to collect their child during the school day because there are not enough staff available to support them.

• More than half (56%) of families have• been told by the school that their child can’t take part in a class activity or trips because it is unsuitable for them.

• Almost a quarter (22%) are illegally excluded every week and 15% every day.

• More than half (53%) of affected disabled children are falling behind with school work and 43% feel depressed because of illegal exclusions.

• Half of parents (50%) are unable to work due to being called to school frequently.

The charity is making the following recommendations to improve the situation:

• Where exclusion is necessary, schools must follow statutory procedure to ensure decisions are lawful, reasonable and fair.

• The most frequently illegally excluded pupils with a disability or additional needs are those who have conditions which affect behaviour. Schools should take early action to tackle the underlying cause, and to put in support before a crisis occurs.

• Schools and teachers should work closely with parents to understand a child’s condition or disability and their extra support needs and ensure the child gets the help they need.

• Ofsted has an important role in identifying unlawful practice in the course of an inspection. School should be offered additional support to help them improve their practice. A grading of “inadequate” should be considered if schools continue to illegally exclude children with a disability, SEN or additional need.

Looking back through some of my blog post that I had written back when Little man was being regularly excluded from school (both officially and unofficially) I am reminded of the sheer frustration and anger this situation was causing for both myself and my child.

I’m reminded of them painful days full of tears and disbelief as we struggled to get of a never ending rollercoster of emotional terror.

My post remind me that I am in fact a much stronger person than I myself give credit too. Despite the forming of depression and a certain degree of hopelessness, I never once give up… even though I often found myself close to the edge I remained there by a thread… A very thin one.

It wasn’t just our family feeling the pressure, although at that specific moment in time I felt like the only one and that felling was a somewhat lonely one! There was many more like me and it was during those months that followed that I discovered many others like myself living in fear of the daily phone calls from their child’s school demanding they collect their child for whatever reason.

The Boy With Aspergers Facebook page which is an addition to this very blog has some 5,800 + members, many looking for the same answers, huge numbers struggling to work together with their child’s school in a productive manner. Instead these parents found themselves on our page asking the same question… “Are they allowed to continually request I collect my child from school and bring him home?”

Yes, they are…. But only if the statutory procedures are carried out by the school. Its when they fail to put these procedures into action to ensure such decisions are lawful, that they then become unlawful.

What happens to the schools who chose the latter? In most cases if not all… Nothing!

You see the Education Act states that it is a parents responsibility to ensure their child is educated once they have reached compulsory school age. If parents fail to ensure regular attendances AWOs (Attendance and Welfare Officers) likely step in and local authorities proceed to take parents to court if they fail to fulfil this parental requirement (for whatever reason). This can leave parents with a hefty fine to pay or even in some cases a prison sentence to serve. The thing is parents can be found guilty of an offence under section 441 or 441(a) regardless of the reasons behind the absences. Its simple if you are (a) the parent of the child and (b) they never attended school everyday regardless of the reasons, then that parent is automatically found guilty of 441 (the lesser charge of failing to secure school attendance) and will end up with a fine or find themselves on some type of parenting order. Its the law, plain and simple!

My point?

Your child’s school phones you up, sometimes on a daily basis and requests you collect your child as they are unable to contend with their challenging behaviour. You take your child home as the school requests you do, only the official routes are not put into motion… There is no exclusion letter setting out the reasons for your child’s exclusion. This therefore means that the local authority have not been notified and your child’s school have broken the law. Maybe you don’t know this at the time but when you eventually discover this to be the case you take action. Written complaints to governing bodies, LEA officials and ofsted! Yet nothing at all happens… Instead the school seem completely disregard it all and continue to operate in such a manner! How is this allowed to continue? If parents are taken to court and hit with hefty fines then why ain’t schools? After all laws are laws.

When I was called at the ridiculous hour of 8.30pm and asked that I keep my child away from school on the same day as a planned Ofsted visit I had finally been pushed enough. I took myself and child to the school and as he throw himself around the reception area in sheer anger and frustration I just stood demanding I speak with the visiting ofsted officer.

Next thing I knew she was stood behind me, placing her arm around my shoulder as she lead me to an empty class room for a chat. I remember it all becoming to much and I sat telling her through sobs and tears, the extent of the schools treatment towards myself and my child, paying particular attention to the ongoing illegal exclusions (including the one he was currently meant to be serving). I passed her evidence I’d collected, diary notes and some written thoughts from the little man himself. She agreed that the schools activity was illegal and promised to investigated. I tried making contact with the officer as the weeks turned to months but never had any luck. I was horrors with the schools final report and grade of a “Good” school. There was absolutely no mention on the subject. It even stated the schools understanding of children with SEN and certain disabilities. To say I was horrified is an understatement! I then lost every bit of faith I had left in a failing system.

Yesterday morning I gave a live radio interview to Paul Ross on the BBC LONDON 94.9 Breakfast show.

That same afternoon I found myself agreeing to a LIVE TV interview with SKY NEWS. Now I’ve done TV interviews before and have appeared on the news as well as sharing stories in national and local newspapers, but a LIVE interview was something new to me and admittedly as I stood waiting to enter the news room my stomach did an array of huge summersaults making me feel a tad sick!

I had to constantly remind myself of the pain we suffered… How awful life was for little man during those dark days attending mainstream school. I then collaborated a huge mass of messages in my mind, all surrounding the questions parents of excluded children would leave on our Facebook page messages I’d read on the Facebook page all searching for answers and support.

I just had to remember that by doing this I could help contribute somehow to making a difference for children like my little man and their family’s too! This combined with the great encouragement given to me from some great supportive people across social networks such as twitter and Facebook, was the virtual kick in the butt I needed to get in that news room and go for it.

Thankfully I was joined by Srabani Sen, Chief Executive of Contact a Family and the whole thing went pretty well.

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So… Here’s hoping together we can bring much needed changes to the way schools deal with the challenging behaviour of children with additional needs.

Would be interested in hearing from others who like myself and many others have had fight this battle. If your interested in featuring in a post I’m planing on this subject please email me via the address on my contact page.

Links to media articles on this subject…

An article on the guardian blog from a teacher who says illegal exclusion needs to stop! Click Here

An Article in the guardian newspaper (I myself contributed too under a different name) plus it features the wonderful Mama Owl (aka Juile Sheppard) and her beautiful boy Logan. Click Here

Enable – The official Contact A Family Report featuring mine and little mans experiences Click Here

Contact A Family Article on their findings Click Here

I’m afraid I haven’t been given the permission to broadcast the Sky News Clip as yet. It was showed at 1:50pm on the 19th Feb 2013 live on Sky news (Sky and freeview). If you are a Sky account holder You maybe able to view this on Sky Go today if you would like to see it. I will share on the blog as soon as I have permission to realise the clip.

Get The Answers You Require From The Talk about Autism Family Support Live Q&A Session

18 Jan

As a parent who has a child on the Autism spectrum I know how frustrating it can be looking for answers. Thats why I’m really excited to share some excellent news with you… Ambitious about Autism the national charity dedicated to improving opportunities for people with autism, who run an online community called ‘Talk about autism‘ have come up with the Family Support Season of live online Q&A.

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The charity has come up with 4 discussion topics that parents with children on the autism spectrum voted upon late last year. The whole programme has been designed to offer both parents and carers professional advice from leading experts within the autism sector.

Each of the four sessions will take place live on the web over at the Talk about autism website. Finally parents will have the opportunity to get some of the answers they have been searching for whether its about challenging behaviour or socialising with peers the parent support season’s Q&A sessions will do its best to answer those questions.

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The first session has already taken place back on the 16th January. The session covered the topic… ‘Getting the right support at school’ Nonetheless you can still read the entire transcript on the evenings topic over on their website. The session covered areas such as access to education, statements of sen, exclusion and more. The transcript is packed full of great advice what with the specialist advisers being Jill Davies, Manager of the Special Educational Needs (SEN) Helpline at Contact and Family, and Steve Broach of Doughty Street Chambers, who is an expert on the rights of ‘children in need’ and disabled adults. This was the first of four live sessions and a great success. Its my guess the remaining three will be just as valuable in the advise they offer.

The second live Q&A session is set to take place on the 30th January 2013 and the discussion topic is that of ‘Understanding & Managing Challenging Behaviour‘. The evenings professionals will be Dr Emma Douglas, a Senior Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) Consultant from TreeHouse School, and Richard Hastings, Professor of Psychology at Bangor University in Wales. So, if you are currently experiencing problems with challenging behaviour and are looking for advice this seems like a pretty good place to start.

As a parent to a young man with Aspergers Syndrome we’ve experienced our fair share of meltdowns and aggressive behaviours. Little man is 12 now and I often worry he doesn’t know his own strength when hitting out at other. We have had some particularly bad mornings before school when little man has thrown punches in my direction. His violence scared me! With a frightening temper I had to sought help but it didn’t come easy. I just wish there was something like the live Q&A session available back when I needed it. This topic will sure to be a life line for parents all over the world.

The remaining two sessions after that will commence on the 13 February 2013 & the 27 February 2013.

These sessions will be as follows…

Puberty, sex and relationships (13th February 2013)
Experts for the session: Lesley Kerr-Edwards, Director of Image in Action, and Professor Jahoda, Professor of Learning Disabilities at the University of Glasgow.

Supporting your child to socialise and make friends (27 February 2013).
Experts for this session: Jennifer Cook O’Toole, education specialist and author of The Asperkids Book of Social Rules – the Handbook of Not-So-Obvious Social Guidelines for Tweens and Teens with Asperger’s Syndrome, and Andrew Swartfigure, Senior Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) Consultant at TreeHouse School.

Well, I’m definitely marking the 13th February 2013 in my diary. This is a topic that I myself have a number of questions in need of answering (googling can only provide so much)! My 12 year old is fast approaching puberty and don’t I know it! Puberty and the issue of sex is a hard enough topic for any parent to face but for those of children on the autism spectrum, it is an area of constant worry and struggle.

All sessions are live and will last one hour. Each live Q&A will commence at 8pm and finish at 9pm on the dates given.

To receive a reminder about any of the live support sessions visit the website and sign up for a reminder by email.

So, there you have it! Four great topics all live and interactive. How about popping along, maybe get a specific question answered or just follow the thread to see what others have to say. Don’t forget, all sessions will appear as transcripts following the live event allowing those of you who can’t make it on night, the opportunity to have a read. Who knows maybe you’ll still find the answer to that question you need answering.

Would love it if readers could share this on there chosen social networks. By reaching out we give parents the opportunity to gain the support they desperately need.

To find out how Live Q&A sessions work click Here

Disclaimer… This is a sponsored post for the autism charity Ambitious about autism. All words are my own.

Tips for preparing preschoolers with Aspergers for full time education

13 Jan

School isn’t an easy place for the child on the autism spectrum. Here’s some tips to prepare preschoolers on the autism spectrum for what lies ahead as well as some tips designed to help you, the parent, find the right school for your child.

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1- If possible introduce your child to a play school or a nursery setting so that they are given the opportunity to get used to being around other children. If you don’t, then you run the risk of problems when it becomes compulsory that your child is educated.

2- Introduce social stories that are centred around that of your child’s first day at school. Continue using social stories that cover school in general… especially trips, sports days and other activities that don’t happen on a daily basis.

3- When deciding on what school to send your child, take your time looking into the different options. If your child has a statement you also have the option of looking into special schools.

4- If possible take your child with you to look at schools. They may only be a pre-schooler but its important to see how the school sits with them. Be sure to choose a school that has experience of educating children on the spectrum and one that offers all the support your child will require.

5- Check ofsted reports as well as online reviews its important to do lots of research when it comes to schools.

6- Ask teachers if you could possibly take some pictures of the school and classroom setting (obviously not the children)! It would also be great if the class teacher and head teacher wouldn’t mind you taking a picture of them (the teaching staff). With these pictures you can build your child a social story that is centred around the school they will attend.

5- Pictures like those above could also be added to a child’s visual timetable. You could even create them a travel book. Inside this book you can display pictures of the teacher, toilets, playground etc… This would allow the child to use visual clues throughout the day in a number of ways. It would be an especially great tool for the non verbal child.

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6- Engage your child in role play. Have fun playing a game of schools, therefore preparing your child for the real deal.

7- Prepare your child for the world of education by starting out early. Giving a child a head start in education is a wonderful gift regardless of whether they have autism or special educational needs. Counting games and colour matching, arts and crafts and reading are all great ways to learn and will help your child practice concentration techniques needed for the classroom.

8- If your child has poor sensory processing then start introducing them into the world of sensory play. By playing a number of sensory games, over time such exercises could help your child adjust & adapt to different types of sensory stimuli.

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Above image from my autism and sen pinterest board (pinned from the awesome site Carrots Are Orange

9- If your child is yet to be diagnosed then do all you can to get professionals to see your child as early on as possible. Lots of children are diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum much later on once attending school. Children with Aspergers can often find themselves struggling in primary or even secondary school, while parents are battling the system for that of a medical diagnosis or a statement of SEN… quite often its usually both. Though, it should be noted that some traits of autism, especially Aspergers Syndrome may not surface till much later on, once a child is in school. Its not always a struggle to obtain the diagnosis. Good schools and SENCOs may be the first to spot a problem and therefore refer you to a specialist for an official diagnosis.

10- Children with Aspergers prefer a good set routine. School is a very structured setting and the child on the spectrum will really like this aspect of their school day. However, there are times when routines have to be slightly altered and changes need to take affect. We have found that unannounced supply teachers upset little man more than anything (even when he does have warning he still finds it hard to adjust)! Be sure that your child’s teaching team fully understand the importance of routine and the need to inform you of changes asap. Of course there will be times when changes are unavoidable and occur last minute but the earlier you know the better prepared your child will be for the change… However big or small it may be.

School is a substantial part of a child’s life. It is a place they will attend 5 days per week, for an average 6 and a half hours per day. Its imperative that they are comfortable in their learning environment. As parents it is our job to see that they are!

Ensure Your Child With Asperger’s Syndrome Gets The Education They Are Entitled To!

8 Jan

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Every child In England has a right to a education, one that is fulfilling in all areas, yet enjoyable too. Our children should start school with an array of wonderful learning opportunities ahead of them. They should be offered a variety of experiences both in and outside off their place of learning.

A good education should be one that not only provides a child with good levels of attainment but also helps build confidence, decreases vulnerability to poverty, inequality and social exclusion regardless of race, religion or that of disability and special educational needs. Sadly things are not always so black and white and regardless of laws and codes, schools and local authorities don’t always play by the book.

We as parents don’t often find ourselves worrying about whether our children will receive an education catered to their specific needs, especially before they have even started full time education. We often find ourselves assuming that professionals will teach and respect our children as one would expect them too. This is even more so if we are yet to discover our child has SEN or a diagnosis consisting of Aspergers Syndrome as this can often be picked up much later when things have already become kinda messy at school.

Maybe you are aware of your child’s specific difficulties and professionals won’t listen (sadly this is a common scenario). The situation is one made more difficult if you are still trying to obtain an official diagnosis for your child! I for one understand this, given my own son was diagnosed at the age of 8 years old, obtaining a statement of educational needs at the age of 10 following a somewhat tiresome battle with the local authority.

We all know that early intervention is the key to success. If your child is lucky enough to already have obtained their diagnosis before they have reached the age of compulsory school age, then you already have one hurdle met. This may seem strange to some…. Stating that obtaining any diagnosis of a social communication disorder is in anyway lucky! But it is lucky to have obtained this so early… Those who are still trying to get their child’s official diagnosis as they almost leave for secondary school, will likely agree!

Below I’ve listed some ‘Tips’ and “Need to know” advice, to help you ensure your child on the autism spectrum gets a full and rewarding education… one they not only deserve but more importantly… the one they are entitled to.

1: Remember just because your child has a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome this doesn’t Automatically mean they will be placed on the sen register.

2: You should know that it’s not just that of attainment levels or specific learning difficulties that leads a child to being placed on the sen register. It is also that of their emotional, social and behavioural needs. Some schools often fail to make parents aware of this when they are trying to obtain a better support for their child. Be sure to state your knowledge on the matter and don’t let them try to convince you otherwise.

3: Teachers often have the ability to “Forget” to inform parents of important developments, ones such as placing a child on the sen register. If you know your child is likely to be placed on the register or suspect so, then be sure to ask them in writing. If need be you have the right to request your child’s educational record. The Education Act clearly states parents must be informed that their child is on the register and the reasons why. All developments should be recorded and shared with parents in writing. Parents should also be even the option to contribute to their child’s IEP.

4: Always Talk to teachers ensuring they know your child’s diagnosis and more so… any traits or difficulties that may present themselves during the course of the school day.

5: You often find yourself not wanting to be seen as the overbearing, over protective mother. Nonetheless, its important to make a stand from the start. Working alongside your child’s teaching team is always the most beneficial way forward. However, letting them know you won’t be frobbed off is also OK too.

6: Its OK to ask your child’s teacher or teaching team what experience they have when educating children with additional needs, autism spectrum conditions and SEN. Here in the UK it is usually the SENCO (special educational needs coordinator) who you will want to meet with to discuss any worries or concerns as well as that of your child’s class teacher and if applicable, any teaching assistants.

7: Make an extra effort to record any incidents that occur at school. Whether it is the school that has informed you of these incidents or its something your child has told you, what may seem no big deal at the time may later be of importance, maybe even contributing to any evidence needed in order to get your child a statement of sen (soon to be health and education plan).

8: Make time to help your child at home with not only their homework but also social skills training. Use social stories to teach your child about different situations they may encounter while attending school and beyond.

9: Although it isn’t a pleasant thought you may want to bear in mind that children on the autism spectrum can often find themselves a target for bullying. Its horrible but sadly true that children can be very cruel. If your child’s traits are ones that are very apparent and stand out to other children as somewhat “Odd” I’d advise you to keep your ear close to the ground. Keep in regular contact with school and encourage your child to report any problems to a teacher they feel close to.

10: Remember, your child has the right to an education, one that is the same as that offered to his or her peers. Your child should not be made subject to discriminatory acts. Some examples are that of illegal and legal exclusions, internal exclusions or isolation, removal from certain lessons or not being allowed on school trips etc… without a very good reason. Those parents that are lucky enough to have their child’s diagnosis before they start school will have the opportunity to view schools asking questions on various subjects therefore ensuring their child’s needs can be met.

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11: If your child’s school is not informing you of any incidents especially those that affect your child’s emotional wellbeing, and therefore cause problems when at home as well as school, then request a daily school/home contact book. This means you can record any incidents that take place at home, ones you believe could affect your child during their school day. With this, the “Said” school would therefore be required to do the same. This would not only provide peace of mind but would also provide a written record that could provide useful if applying for a statement or making any claim with the first tier tribunal.

12: Watch out for illegal exclusion. No head teacher or other member of the teaching team should call you and request you collect your child unless they are officially excluding them from school. Parents may be told that their child has had a stressful day, they are tired, had a meltdown or are just being disruptive. The phone call will likely end with the school suggesting it would be better if you could collect your child so they can go home to calm down. Although you yourself may want to just take your child home avoiding them anymore stress, you should remember that the school are meant to officially exclude pupils and this exclusion needs to be put down and recorded on paper. LEAs need to be noted, work provided and letters given to parents. Schools don’t like having to record exclusions as this doesn’t look great on them (and who wants the paperwork). As parents, I guess we instantly don’t want this kind of stuff recorded on our child’s school records, especially when we are disputing the reasons surrounding an exclusion… Or do we? The school illegally excluding your child shows that actually… They cannot met your child’s needs! When trying to obtain a statement (or soon to be health and education plan) we need to show why our child’s needs can’t be met. By just telling an LEA that your child is being sent home regularly for poor behaviour, without anything to back it up, isn’t really going to get you anywhere. You need to provide evidence and this can only be provided by way of official exclusion.

Note… Even if you agree to collect your child, the school is still breaking the law by not making this official.

12: Children with Aspergers and SEN can sometimes have relatively bad attendance. This was specially the case for my little man. This has lead to three court appearances due to the lake of understanding provided by both his old mainstream school and the local authorities ‘Education Welfare Officer’ (EWO). Little man has an incredibly poor sleep pattern and this combined with the discrimination and other difficulties experienced when at school lead to the development of school phobia. It took me a long time to get him into the routine of going, so to have the school send him home at least three times a week was more than frustrating… It was shocking! Thankfully the last judge had little difficulty coming to that same conclusion.

Given this was my third appearance in court for this matter, and the EWO had stated that herself and the LEA felt that a prison sentence, alongside a grade two fine, would be the most suitable form of punishment for me (said by EWO when the judge asked her what outcome the LEA was hoping for) I was more than relieved to have the whole sorry mess come to an end.

13: Always remember to keep in contact with your child’s school if they are not attending. Make a diary and keep notes on conversations and appointments you’ve had. Cover yourself with medical evidence and like me… Request that the education welfare officer collect your child and let them endure the horrible task of trying to get your screaming child dressed and out the door to school. Especially when they are having a huge meltdown, acting violent and smashing up the house… And that’s on a good morning!

It actually took me three whole years of requests for the EWO to finally agree. Lets just say that she was now beginning to realise the stress I was under (not that it changed anything).

If your child is not attending then You should always request that work be sent home from school. Your child maybe school refusing but you don’t want them missing out on valuable education. I found that the school didn’t offer and I had to constantly request this. If you are taken to court and accused of Intentionally failing to ensure your child’s attendance (sec 4441(a) ) you can also show that your child was in fact educated during the period of time they have spent absent from school.

14: Remember the law states that your child must receive a full education at the age of five years old! The law doesn’t state that this has to be in a school environment. Home schooling is always an option and one you may consider best to ensure your child receives an efficient education. Nonetheless, its worth noting that by opting for this you remove the social opportunities a school environment presents (even if your child does struggle with such social settings). Dependent on how your child’s social skills are I’d be sure to ensure that home schooling involves lots of social skills training. When we home schooled little man after finally removing him from his mainstream primary school, I made sure he engaged in other activities alongside other children. He started boxing twice a week as well as a number of other activities. The LEA reports stated how they thought little man would have too many difficulties integrating back into a school environment as he wasn’t only left without a school for a year following mainstream but during most of his time at his mainstream school he was either excluded or hidden away in isolation! Reading such reports can be heartbreaking but in the end they only made me more determined to prove them all wrong. His now been in his independent special school for around 18 months and is popular among both the teachers and his peers.

15: Use visual timetables for both home and school. Highlight any up and coming events or changes well in advance placing them on a visual calendar. Making schedules and routines consistent between the two settings (home & school) could make things more simple for your child, therefore removing any anxiety towards school.

16: If your child has Aspergers or Autism they probably have a special interest in something or another. Little mans obsessive interest really did overtake his life as well as ours as a family. He would speak about nothing else and could quite literally drive you into a state of insanity with the non stop discussions on bus and train models. Having Asperger’s syndrome doesn’t make you stupid and as he started to get that bit older he realised that other children were taking the Micky out of his love of the big red bus. With this he did very well to suppress his interests while in school but this did have its downfalls… Once home he’d just explode. It would all come flying out and he’d normally have a huge meltdown before finally engaging in the activities he’d wanted to engage in all day. This meant little sleep… Very little sleep.

Its not so bad when your child is in an environment where other children don’t see him as particularly “Odd” They all have their very own “Special” interests to occupy their minds to even notice his. But some children ain’t this lucky.

Regardless of where your child is educated its important to try and maintain interests so that they don’t go too OTT (the point when your child can think of nothing other than their interest). Although they have passion, the lack of concentration & appropriate social engagement with others can present huge problems later.

You might want to start monitoring your child’s engagement in their interest to assess how obsessive these may be. If it shows signs of going over board you will need to try and limit the time your child engages in it. You can’t shut down their mind but distraction and routine is key. A child with a really intense special interest will probably know a lot about the subject and present some pretty impressive skills when it comes to their knowledge of the interest. This can be a real strength and as you celebrate this it will therefore help to install your child’s confidence. Just be sure they explore other areas too otherwise school work will not be tolerated if its not centred around the specific interest as they will struggle to concentrate on anything else whatsoever.

The Year That Was… 2012

31 Dec

The year of 2012 will soon be over, we will wave it farewell as we enter a new chapter.

Is it because I’m getting older or do the years really fly by so quickly? It seems not so long ago I was sat here writing a post summing up 2011 yet here we are again fast approaching the year 2013… I can hardly keep up!

So, how was 2012 for us? Well, amazingly it was pretty drama free (just the way we like it)! With little man now really settled at his new school things have been… Well… “Normal” I mean I no longer get daily phone calls from head teachers demanding I collect little man! I’m actually able to go shopping without that niggling fear that my mobiles about to ring as soon as I start loading the supermarket trolley.

We have had some wonderful highlights to this year one being our second Mad blog awards win where the blog was crown most inspiring for the second consecutive year in a row. It was a truly wonderful surprise and one we didn’t expect. Lets just say I woke up with a somewhat sore head the following morning.

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I was also a runner up for most inspirational blog in the BIBs (brilliance in blogging wards) run by Britmums.

At the beginning of the year I got to attend Little mans first ever sports day. Ok, his 12 years old so that may seem strange for some. But those who like me have a child on the autism spectrum will likely have experienced the same… Their child being excluded from everyday activities as they are branded something of a health and safety risk.

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Little mans attendance at his new special school has brought with it a lot of “firsts” this year, including his most recent Christmas performance that almost had me in floods of happy tears. I also attended the school Christmas lunch which is such a big deal when you have got to the stage of thinking “You’re child will never be given such opportunities” such negative thoughts are all based purely on the bad experiences of the past.

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Other wonderful things that have happened this year include, being chosen as Toy R Us Toyologist. Alice and little man were blue group reviewers and lots of fun was had reviewing all the great toys in the run up to Christmas. Little man discovered his love of making review videos and mini tutorials, his confidence grew and as a result his only gone and started his very own youtube channel.

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We were also invited to be LEGO Family bloggers this year and as you can guess, that news had the little man excited beyond belief.

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Another really big surprise was being chosen to be one of Butlins Ambassadors. Next year we will be visiting Bognor Regis resort and I’ll be able to share with readers our experiences including how the park caters for children with additional needs and sen. We start our holiday on the 1st April and I for one really can’t wait.

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October see me as one of ten bloggers and writers who were chosen as finalist in the Savoo smartest shopper competition. I was in with the chance of winning a prize of £10,000 plus the chance to write my own money saving blog. No I didn’t win! But looking back I do realise what a wonderful achievement it was to be in the final amongst the red hot competition.

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This year seemed to be the year for competitions. What with Alice being a runner up in the Ice Age Jr reviewer competition winning a fab trip to Bristol, Little man bagging himself an iPad Mini on an online raffle that was organised by his school reward system Vivo, and that of Alice finding out on Christmas Eve that she had won £750! This was for her amazing entry into the post card from Santa competition run by Travel Supermarket (the entry & video can be seen on my sister blog mummy of many talents).

20121231-133607.jpgAbove… A beautiful trip to bristol

On the whole the year has been a kind one. Sadly we do still have the worrying situation involving my sister and the SS (see the blog post peek a boo) following us into this coming new year. As a family we are continuing to support her the best we can while fighting the system that is destroying her.

So… What will next year bring? New opportunities, more school plays and sports days. I don’t hope its a good one I’ll be sure to make it a great one.

Look How Happy He Is Now!

24 Dec

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I never thought I’d see the day my son smiled like this… His at school, has a great role in the secondary years Christmas production and I’ve never felt so proud.

When your child is never ALLOWED to take part in the schools yearly Christmas nativity or play it tends to become somewhat disheartening. In mainstream he was either told he wasn’t allowed to be part of it all, coincidently excluded from school that day or just pulled out and told he couldn’t take part at the final rehearsals or worse on the day itself.

Some parents feel a Little disheartened for their child when they Become upset at having to preform as a star, Camel, or even tree year after year. Us… We would have been happy with just that.

Seeing him up there on the stage, contributing, being a part of it all, was amazing. Did I cry? What do you think?

He has been in his Independent special school For around 18 months now. I remember he’s harvest festival assembly Back when he first started. She was excited about doing a reading but he wasn’t used to this type of thing, given he had never been given the opportunity in the past, The poor boy just froze with stage fright.

Now look him up there, With his mass of red hair and great big smile Ironically playing the gingerbread man. He couldn’t have been happier And honestly neither could I!

It was a wonderful day that had followed a school Christmas dinner the day before. This gave me two opportunities to witness my sons happiness within his new school environment.

It feels somewhat weird Being involved in the school community. Watching your son perform in the school play and eating Christmas dinner side by side with fellow parents and your child’s teaching team. Let’s not forget my experiences of school especially when associated with my son, were anything other then awful.

Looking back to how things were, the discrimination, tears and even self harm. I would have never imagined us being here.Things were horrible and I couldn’t see the light past the darkness. We are the perfect example of hope for any parent with a child on the autism spectrum facing the same trying battle when it comes to their child’s educational environment.

There is hope… No matter how dark things may seem right now. Good, understanding schools do truly exist so please don’t give up the fight!

Big thank you to my sons school for a wonderfully festive few days and for giving my son the opportunities he deserves as a 12 year old boy.

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