Category Archives: Education

The journey through the Education system as a parent with children with Special needs, and what I have learnt along the way.

Is it down to Parents to Make sure their Children get a Fair Education?

Honestly whose responsibility is it for making sure that every child receives a fair education? As it seems to me that the quality of education falls down to the parents. Of course this could be a whole topic of private vs public and grammar schools but I am in this instance talking about the rights of the child with additional needs.school child with unseen disabilityFrom the off there seems to be a divide for children between parents who recognise and fight for their children’s educational rights (and get them an EHCP) and those who do not know what they are doing, or are less willing or capable to fight. Shouldn’t training be provided to ensure that early identification is made for all children who need to access the additional help? Too many hoops have to be jumped through to prove it isn’t just bad parenting before actually getting anywhere when you are prepared to fight – so no wonder people give in – is it fair on those other children? Children who may eventually be caught by the system – but how late and at what cost to their education? But even after identification the battle does not end there. With meetings and appointments which usually relies on the parent educating those being paid to help on their child’s condition. Having to read up every piece of information they can and fight to have the right support in place.alone at playtime

Maybe this doesn’t happen as often as I think – perhaps we are the unlucky ones. Personally I feel The Sensory Seeker is very lucky in that I am able to best support him – but what about children who don’t have that? My renewed annoyance comes from the annual EHCP review.

From the off I felt patronised as the SENCO kindly explained how it was the first EHCP annual review (because let’s be honest it was SO different from a statement review right?). Then I had to go through and correct any errors – you know like making sure they had identified the right child which includes the right date of birth! Okay I am being harsh now that was such a little slip right. But then we came to the part about the family’s views – the work I had put in before the meeting – and the SENCO had no idea what I meant when describing the sensory needs. In fact she was quite sure that he didn’t have any!!!! Deciding that I would just deal with his meltdowns at home as he apparently was coping in school I almost just let her remove them from the EHCP – I mean what would I know about Sensory Processing Disorder compared to the trained SENCO? But as luck would have it his class teacher popped in and agreed that yes he did have sensory needs and straight away was able to give an example (you can read more about that meeting in the post about them not wanting him to be different).he is disabled

I was advised that the SENCO would send me a draft copy to approve before she sent it off. But that never materialised. What did come was a letter saying that it had been received and that my draft copy would arrive shortly. Of course that arrived giving me 15 days from when the letter was written and not received to make any changes. IN THE SUMMER HOLIDAYS! I kid you not – I have no-one to go to for advice, I am pretty sure the SENCO is not in school and I have 4 children (3 of whom have additional needs) at home with changes they don’t adjust to and now I need time for this! But surely you think I just need to read it through and agree with it – because I already sat through the meeting and discussed and agreed things – right? Wrong big fat wrong. There are so many unbelievable errors in this draft it is untrue. Including matters such as who his key worker is and even what school he goes to! Never mind moving on through the report. Somehow I am going to have to find some time to go through it all. And then what – do they just accept my corrections? Doesn’t the SENCO actually have to do that? Or does she get a draft copy of my amendments and have to approve them – meaning that it isn’t actually all sorted for September? I am sure in The Sensory Seeker’s case it doesn’t matter as he already has one but what about those children sorting out one for the first time?

I know I may come across as angry at the SENCO but I am not. She is a lovely lady and am sure she is trying her best. It is the system that is letting these children down and parents who are already under a lot of pressure are just further feeling the strain.

special needs and the eleven plus

Special Needs and the Eleven Plus

The eleven plus and special educational needs can be a bit of a minefield. With our oldest he should have got into a certain school but on the day did not do as well on the eleven plus tests as we expected for his capabilities. He had no provisions made for his Asperger’s Syndrome (I have since heard of others having a separate room and longer time), not even to become more familiar with the building. But he was always a very able child and “grammar school material”  and we knew that the eleven plus would put no added pressure on him. But the time is getting closer that The Sensory Seeker needs to think about high school and he assumes that he will take the eleven plus following in the footsteps of (what will be) all three of his older brothers. The trouble is he has a Global Developmental Delay and his Sensory Processing Disorder also makes it harder to learn new things. So the question is what to do?special needs and the eleven plusAnnie Spratt

Do we let our son with Special Needs take the Eleven Plus?

Do we let The Sensory Seeker sit the eleven plus tests, in an environment that is most likely going to be difficult for him, so that we have given him the chance and opportunity just like all our other sons? Or do we make the decision that the test/school would not be suitable for him. Which will knock his confidence more – trying and not succeeding, or not been given a chance in the first place? I mean he is a bright lad and he may even surprise us! He has a few years to go yet and may even close the gap and catch up with his peers. He works so hard. Or when the time gets closer he may just be happy to move up to the local comprehensive school – which he is familiar with because of after school activities and will know lots of people there/going up. Oh how it would be wonderful if they never had to grow up!alone at playtime

Of course I have been suggested another option of paying for him to be tutored (which I haven’t done with any of my other sons), but then I really would be worried that the work would be too hard once he passed the eleven plus entrance exam. That then he’d end up switching schools anyway and then find it even harder to settle as the new boy. Other people have suggested this would be just filling the gaps in his knowledge where the education system has failed him.

Has anyone else been through anything similar? Any thoughts please?

inclusion means not being different

Inclusion means not being Different

Inclusion what do schools think that means? I recently went to The Sensory Seeker’s annual review of his EHCP to find out that his school means that they don’t want him to be different. I guess it is a feeling of once again coming back to rubbish parenting really, as it sounded like that the only thing causing any problems is him being treated in a way not like the others! They said that even with a one-to-one teacher he hasn’t made “extra” progress (just in-line with his peers) and that actually he needs to be encouraged to be more “independent.”inclusion means not being different

They did not seem to even understand Sensory Processing Disorder (which unfortunately is not a diagnosed condition in the UK) so it is no wonder that they don’t “get” that his one-to-one helps The Sensory Seeker deal with sensory input that may distract him and need his focus brought back. In fact the SENCO and his teaching assistant didn’t seem to think he had ANY sensory needs at school – which I found really surprising. They were thinking about just taking that section out of his EHCP all together. I thought that there was no point in arguing with them after I tried to explain some of his difficulties, because they just said it did not happen. Or well, that time he was hugging someone else all the time was okay because that person wanted him to do it. Of course the good old social stories came up – as obviously if he understood that he couldn’t just go around touching people then that tactile need will just disappear!sensory processing disorder

His EHCP actually has good guidance in it about his Sensory Issues from the Occupational Therapist, but because they discharged us they no longer come to the meetings. I can’t even really get her involved whilst the school are saying there aren’t any issues either! Luckily his class teacher was able to quickly pop in to the meeting at the time we were just about to move on to the next bit of the EHCP. She was then asked about The Sensory Seeker’s sensory issues (in a tone that he did not have any). But, thankfully, straight away she said that yes he clearly did and came up with an example straight away. In fact, ironically, it was to do with their sensory time where a few children go off to practice writing. She said that music was played to help them feel calm – but actually it stopped The Sensory Seeker from concentrating. That he was able to let her know it was a problem. The SENCO again was immediately in the frame of mind of not wanting him to be “different” so asked what the teacher did to resolve it. The teacher explained that they just turned the music off! That they didn’t *need* it. It is a shame that next year not only isn’t she his class teacher but she is leaving to go on to another school.party planning sensory processing disorder

We will have to see how things go in year 4 because I am concerned that they are just knocking his confidence by ignoring his sensory needs and treating him no differently – such as setting him the same homework as the others for example. And then when it is not complete (because he has struggled with it so much, or not in the right sensory frame when he has come home) he is then punished (like the other children) by missing break times. I fear that this will then further impact his social skills and relations with his peers -especially as he becomes more aware of things such as being the only child not invited to parties. They have also mixed up the children in his year group and this change has already upset him. Unfortunately he was sick and missed move up day too – so we shall have to see how it goes. It isn’t all bad however, and I am not blaming the school it is because the knowledge just isn’t there. Things I mentioned (such as his inability to use a dictionary as he does not know the alphabet) they tried to help straight away. He seems to have a good relationship with his TA and in our opinion has helped him come on leaps and bounds.

Our Inclusive Home
Spectrum Sunday
party sensory processing disorder

The Only Child Not Invited

It is that time of year again – Party Season. I know it is hard when a child is different to others to cope with their additional needs at a party – but honestly The Sensory Seeker is doing so well that I would actually say he isn’t much different to the others. I do understand that not everyone needs to be invited to every party but it is hard (probably more for me than him) when he is that child: You know the only child out of the whole class who hasn’t been invited.party sensory processing disorder

It isn’t even so much about the party it’s about him knowing he’s not fitting in. That it is okay for everyone else to go so why not him as well? The ironic thing today was that he came out with a sheet about worries – the school obviously trying to get disclosures for social services with the use of a Worry Monster. Ironic because they weren’t very sympathetic to listening to these worries; simply saying there’s nothing we can do. I explained that I knew they couldn’t make him be invited to the party (although I am sure his EHC Plan probably does make provision to ensure that he socialises/fits in with his peers) and that I didn’t like how it was so apparent to him that he was the only one not invited (erm like they had all been handed out in front of him). I was reassured that they had only been given out at break time. It is real progress that he is getting so smart. Previously he never noticed this happening but still wanted a party to invite everyone to. A blessing and a curse of his development.

His birthday is coming up and we are taking him out of the country but he wants to have a sleepover a different day this year. He doesn’t really care who it is (well actually his first preference is his 14 year old cousin who doesn’t live near us!) he just wants a friend – someone who wants to spend time with him. But again the school will tell me that he does have friends, that he is a happy and likable member of the class – so how come he doesn’t feel that he is/has because he isn’t invited?alone at playtime

Disclaimer: He is invited to the odd party and I am very thankful to those parents. I just wish this wasn’t even a thing. Why invite all but one?!

Alone at Playtime

Friendships. When it comes to friendships it is the one thing I really struggle with. Whether that is because I am actually Autistic or not makes no odds because either way I don’t seem to be able to keep friends. So when my children come home and tell me that they have no friends I really do not have the right words for them. I want to go and make people be friends with them, or tell my kids – fuck them they don’t deserve your friendship anyway. But it is the most painful thing and I know I long for that bond that others seem to have so easily.

It started when The Sensory Seeker made an imaginary friend – his name is a crossed between Mr Invisible and Mr Invincible (he gets the two mixed up and when I tried to correct him he said, “He’s my friend and so I can call him what I like!” I have never had any imaginary friends in my house before and I am glad that he is able to be creative but I do hope it is not because the school are failing him socially – and I fear that that may be the case.alone at playtime

I would go in and speak to the school about it but I haven’t for two reasons – the first being that when we go into the playground other children call his name in a way that seems to be pleased to see him. Plus he hasn’t been sobbing and breaking his heart, he just tells me that no-one plays with him at break time. Oh and because the school don’t really seem to care. No schools seem to be bothered about the social side of my children’s disabilities in my opinion – but maybe that’s because I am one of “those” parents.

The really heart breaking thing though was, not to hear that no-one wants to play with The Sensory Seeker, but that his confident, well-loved, well-liked older brother confided in my that his close friends no longer want to play with him because of his brother (The Sensory Seeker). Although I would like to hope this is not true since he told me I have actually stopped to notice what happens in the playground in the morning and there is a shift in the dynamics.  I want to be able to tell him how to fix it, how to either get that friendship back on track or deal with it and move on – but I am no good at any of that and really don’t know how. I can’t go and speak to the other children’s parents because it is just one of those things – and you can’t make people be friends.

I hope it isn’t true and my children are just trying to get even more attention from me, and actually they are happy and well-liked at school – but my own fears choke me up – and I am just glad they have each other.

Do you have any experience with this? Any tips or advice for me and/or them?

Please note that the photo was taken in the morning before school and he wasn’t actually alone in the playground at playtime – which is also why he looks so happy.

Changing from a Statement to an EHCP

Changing from a Statement to an EHCP

Experience of EHCP Paperwork

The hardest thing for me during the whole process of switching from a Statement to an EHCP was time – and the fact that I had to think so much about the answers to the questions I had to keep answering what seemed like over and over and over again. I was glad to have a degree when filling in the Family Contribution form and cannot imagine how difficult it must be for some families to do. I opted to type mine on the computer which meant I could just add to it, or draw out relevant bits when asked for the information again by someone new. I completely forgot to ask to be referred back to Occupational Therapy in time and so they have not been part of the process.Changing from a Statement to an EHCP

Experience of The EHCP Meeting

Well I have to say that the meeting itself was not as hard as I thought it would be and I guess it is because no-one mentioned any levels and I already knew that he was behind his peers – so that was not a big shock. I feel that I did not really know or understand what was going on and had to just trust the professionals. In attendance I had the current school SENCo/Head, the new school SENCo, his new TA, The Speech and Language Therapist, The School Advisory Teacher, and the lady from the council.

Changing from a Statement to an EHCPWhen I asked about adding in his Sensory Issues it became a little awkward as here in the UK there isn’t an official diagnosis for Sensory Processing Disorder. I hadn’t included information from the Occupational Therapist or Paediatrician as their reports were longer than the date – but the lady from the council said she would see if she could include them. I do think that the people in the room were a little under-educate in sensory issues and they seemed to think everything could be sorted with some tactile toys (least it is a start I guess). I suppose the problem also lies in the fact that I did not really know what to say as how to include it into the EHCP either.

It was good to hear his progress and that he has a good work ethic. He just wants to be like everyone else and tries so hard to obtain it. Fingers crossed he even may have passed his phonics screening this year! There was a lot of emphasis on making sure his transition to his new school goes well and I met his new TA. His old TA will also be moving schools and working as a classroom assistant. It was hard to hear how much me going away affected him and his behaviour – but was good in a way as it highlighted how he needs extra support to deal with changes. It was good to hear that the schools were liaising on the best ways to help him.

I now have to wait for the draft EHCP and then I have a very short period of time to read through it, making any changes needed and send it back. I am feeling hopeful -fingers crossed now.

Starting School Fears with SEN - The Reality

Starting School Fears with SEN – The Reality

When The Sensory Seeker was offered a place at a Mainstream school I had many worries. I felt that the best place for him was in a special needs school and that he just would not cope. I wrote the post Starting School Fears with SEN – in which I wrote about my worries and how irrational I thought that they really were. Now the end has come of his time at this school and he has to move on to another Mainstream school so I thought I would come back to that post to explain what happened now he is 7 years old.Starting School Fears with SEN - The Reality

Fears when The Sensory Seeker Started School

  1. Will my child eat?
  2. Will my child be able to use the toilet?
  3. Will my child make friends?
  4. Will my child with Sensory Issues keep their clothes on at school?
  5. Will my child struggle getting changed for PE?
  6. Will my child ever hold a pen?
  7. Will the staff in a Mainstream school be supportive of my child’s additional needs

Will my child eat?

Thanks to the introduction of free school meals The Sensory Seeker not only eats at school but he eats better at home too – even trying new foods that he would have never considered before. We can even encourage him to eat foods he would rather not eat (when given an incentive). He has even got much better with his cutlery.Starting School Fears with SEN - The Reality

Will my child be able to use the toilet?

At first The Sensory Seeker did wet himself – but now he is doing fine. Yes he uses the toilet completely independently. I think at school he is probably doing better than some other children – as he doesn’t ALWAYS forget to flush and wash his hands! At home we sometimes have trouble with toilet paper, but on the whole he is doing really well. Yesterday my husband told me that our son was even happy to use the urinals (which was a great time saver too!) We still have the odd toilet accident but they are the rare occasion rather than the norm.

Will my child make friends?

Yes The Sensory Seeker has people he considers are his friends, gets invited to the odd party and has a couple of children coming to our house for his birthday. He also goes to groups outside of school time and he has made friends there too. In fact I am really proud of how he has coped in those groups – another sign of how well he is doing independently.Starting School Fears with SEN - The Reality

Will my child with Sensory Issues keep their clothes on at school? And Will my child struggle getting changed for PE?

With his sensory issues he often takes his jumper off when it is still cold, or ends up walking down the road topless on the way home, but by and large he is okay and not doing daft clothing stripping in school. The Sensory Seeker is fine at dressing and undressing and has just asked for trainers with laces so that he can try to learn how to do knots (obviously I am doing them up for him but helping to encourage him to pull them undone).

Will my child ever hold a pen?

The Sensory Seeker can now not only hold a pen but is trying to create sentences, recall them and write them down (trying to remember them all is the tricky bit for him right now but the Teaching Advisory Service told me to write his sentence down, cut it up and then let him sequence it. It is hard to believe that it was considered whether he was better off just using an iPad rather than writing.writing name

Will the staff in a Mainstream school be supportive of my child’s additional needs?

Will the staff be supportive – well I could not have asked for more! I think the right attitude from the staff can make so much difference and The Sensory Seeker has come on in leaps and bounds. They are always there for me (to listen to worries no matter how small) and have brought him on from P levels to that of a child securely in the year below!

Other Posts of interest:

 

Sensory Processing Disorder and Mainstream School

Sensory Processing Disorder and Mainstream School

Children with Sensory Processing Disorder may end up attending a mainstream school. This could be for many number of reasons including the lack of availability of special schools, not meeting the criteria for special schools or just wanting them to attend a mainstream school. You may want to just send the child who has sensory difficulties to the local mainstream school so that they mix locally with their peers or you may want to consider what they will offer in terms of help and support.

Sensory Processing Disorder and Mainstream School

Sensory Processing Disorder and Mainstream School things to consider:

I was really nervous about The Sensory Seeker starting at a mainstream school but actually I think it was the best thing for him. He is now going into year 2 and doing really well. I believe this is down to the support of the school.

  1. A school that cares..

For me it was very important for me (as well as my child) to know that the school would talk to me before my son attended, to help alleviate any fears. Unfortunately the primary school my other 2 boys were at did not care and said lots of negative things about my child (and my parenting). It was then that I looked for alternatives (for ALL of them).

  1. A school that understands.

The school that my boys moved to had a good understanding of Sensory Processing disorder and offered suggestions on how they could help. I don’t think the school needs to have previous experience (which they did) but they DO need to listen. I think this is especially important as individuals have different Sensory Diets and therefore will be affected differently.

  1. A school that supports.

I feel that we have been really lucky and the Head Teacher/SENCO has been really supportive. She works long & hard, knows her stuff, researches what she does not know, asks for our input, is always approachable – and found the money required for full time support as needed for our Sensory Seeker. She even has helped with suggestions to help support him out of school.

Sensory Processing Disorder and Mainstream School

Each of the Senses and Problems in Mainstream School

Auditory – how are the classrooms laid out? Is their provision if the child needs extra noise stimulation, or somewhere quiet? Will the teachers shout? How to they handle undesirable behaviour? Will the individual be told off, or just praised for desirable behaviour?

Visual Sense – What are the displays like? Is there too much or not enough stimulation around?

Proprioception & Vestibular Sense – Is there playground equipment? Are there rules? Do the school have any gross motor skills programmes? Will they ensure the child is supported during PE lessons? Does the school have stairs? Will there be additional support with toileting and eating (not stuffing too much food into their mouth so that they choke) and/or getting food all over the place. That the right amount of stimulation is provided so that they do not appear too rough on others.

Tactile – that they have enough input through touch and are given clear rules and guidelines about touching others (without feeling that they are being told off). Help with food (again) to take into account any texture problems as they can be very particular about things touching or the sensations from the food. Help dealing with not getting covered in things (food, paint, mud etc) if a tactile sensory seeker. Also helping to develop peer relationships and explaining why the individual is standing too close/trying to touch/covering themselves in food. Will the school allow the child to bring in sensory aids such as a weighted blanket and/or chewy toy?

Olfactory – Is food cooked on the premises? Are there any other obvious smells? Can the child bring in a hankie or something else with fragrance?

Other Posts you may find of interest:

Obviously I have written this post with my very limited experience of our own Sensory Seeker who seems to be quite mild and coping really well. I would love to hear feedback and suggestions for other parents of children with Sensory Processing Disorder in the comments below. Thank you.

Logan Osborne: Man with Autism Graduates with Masters Degree

Logan Osborne: Man with Autism Graduates with Masters Degree

It shouldn’t be a big deal that a man has graduated with a Masters degree but I am sure that anyone touched by autism will know how much of a battle it can be. Their little habits, rituals, anxieties and lack of health care and social skills make it all the more difficult for them.  Any parents would be proud that their child has a first degree, so to go on to gain a Masters is even more impressive. I have written previously about my oldest son who has Asperger’s Syndrome going to University and so it is really reassuring to hear of the success of Logan Osborne.

Logan Osborne Autistic Msc StudentLogan Osborne first gained a BSc(Hons) Geography at University of Brighton in 2013. Now he has an MSc in Geographical Information Systems and Environmental Management and is looking for a job in geographical information systems.

Logan’s parents want to give some comfort to others that with the right support anything can be achieved. They say that the University of Brighton’s Disability and Dyslexia team gave Logan excellent support. Logan said that he felt that he could always talk things over with them, including checking his work, if he needed help.

If you or your child is thinking of going to University and have a disability then it should be declared in order to obtain the right support.

The Disability and Dyslexia team at the University of Brighton provides one-to-one mentoring and specialist study support, advice and help with applying for funding. Contact: disability@brighton.ac.uk 01273 643799, and for more information go to: www.brighton.ac.uk/current-students/my-studies/declaring-a-disability-or-learning-difficulty

 

real life measuring

Real Life Measuring

One of the ways of helping bring Maths to life is by making your very own Skeleton. This exercise was beneficial to The Sensory Seeker because it was a very concrete activity. By that I mean he had a visual way of processing the information – as opposed to an abstract idea in his  head.

Real Life Measuring

real life measuringFirst we measured different things – our hands, a chair, the table. We measured them using our hands. We compared how different sized hands (mine Vs the children’s) needed a different number of them for the measurement of the different objects. We then moved onto tape measures (soft and hard), rulers etc and talked about cms and inches.

This was a fun way to introduce measuring and was much better at holding The Sensory Seeker’s Interest.

 

 

Measuring Yourself to Make a Life-Sized Skeleton

real life measuringreal life measuringThe following week we made a life sized skeleton. We did this by taking different measurements on the body and then drew the same size for each part on a piece of paper. We then cut it out and attached it together. It was good to demonstrate how something the size of The Sensory Seeker could be put together from the smaller parts. It also gave him a better understanding of his bone structure – as well as things like fine motor practice (drawing and cutting), number sequencing, attention, instructions etc. We used blue tac and a biro to make holes for the split pins.

I think it was also good for self-esteem as now we have a bony version of The Sensory Seeker proudly hanging on the back of our kitchen door. It also fits in very nicely with our Pirate theme – which really began when we spent the night in a Pirate room at Legoland Windsor.