butterfly minds

Before I had the special educational needs code of practice

Posted on: July 28, 2013

This post was written by @KatieScarlett03 for her blog http://senminefield.blog.com/ she has kindly allowed me to share the post here ….

I mentioned in my last post how much a parent of a SEN child or even a parent who suspects they may have a child with SEN, needs the SEN Code of Practice . I cannot stress this enough.

When my eldest son with autism was at nursery, I watched his nursery teacher apply to the Local Authority for what was then known as Stage Three Funding (I think..It was a long time ago!) three times and get refused three times. At this stage he had been identified as having a social communication difficulty but even though we all thought autism, he did not get a formal diagnosis until he was about 6 . *Insert a blog about getting a diagnosis of autism here…* I left the matter in her hands because she was a lovely lady and I believed she was the “expert” and that she knew what she was doing. I was so grateful that she was trying to get help for my son and not kicking him out of nursery for his behaviour. I had no idea of the rights I had as a parent or of the role I could play in getting him the help he needed.

On transition to Reception (as it was known then, now it would be Foundation II I think) this lovely teacher applied to the LA for a Statement of Special Educational Needs for my son. I had no idea of what it was. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted my son to have one. I wanted my son to be normal and surely, if he had a Statement that would mean he was not? The difficulties of suspecting and coming to terms with any disability is a whole other blog subject that I will only ever touch on here. I remembered the teasing and segregation/isolation that “special needs” children used to get when I was at school and the derogatory way the term was and still is used. I understand from Twitter that Americans at the moment take offence to people using the word “retard” in a similar way. Did I really want my son to be one of those “special needs” children?

When the Local Authority wrote me a letter with their decision that they would not be giving my son a Statement, my first and biggest feeling was relief. Having all the information that they had on my son, they had decided, in their ultimate wisdom, that he did not need a Statement. They were the “experts” after all so they must have known what they were doing.

However, one conversation with an acquaintance whose child had a statement at that time, stuck in my mind and will stay there forever, although it’s probably not verbatim! I gave her my news that my son hadn’t been given a Statement and before I could tell her what a relief it was that “experts” had decided he didn’t need one, she said:

“You have to contest it, you really must. They always turn people down first time but if you contest it and make a fuss they might change their mind. It’s so important. I didn’t know for (her son) so he didn’t get his Statement until his last year at Primary and then it was too late” *Insert another blog about early intervention here…*

I remember doing a pretty good impression of a goldfish after her impassioned plea but had already made up my mind that the “experts” knew best and I was going to let their decision stand.

So it was that my son started Reception. The school gave him two hours of 1:1 support every day, ironically I suppose, from their general SEN budget, for the first half term to help him settle. When that was taken away his behaviour, which was a result of his autism, went from bad to worse. He would struggle all the way to school, hitting and kicking me and/or refusing to move. He was disruptive in class, he had meltdowns, he was violent towards other pupils and ended up striking his teacher in Year 1 because the teacher had tried to move him from his place in the line when they were lining up to leave the class room. As with many autistic children, he had to either lead or end a line. With no formal diagnosis and the limited help & understanding at a mainstream school that goes with one, no-one realised how important this was to him or that it was to do with his disability. I was told by the teacher that I was lucky he hadn’t had my son excluded.

Luckily (?) this incident led to my son jumping the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) waiting list and getting his diagnosis of autism in less than a week. It also led to me going to the Head Teacher to ask her to reinstate his 1:1 support. That is when she told me the school couldn’t afford to do that without a Statement and told me that it was my right as a parent to apply for one.

Thus begun my unsignposted journey into the minefield of Special Educational Needs where I left the “experts” behind and was soon to find my guide, the SEN Code of practice

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