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.From 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.
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).
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.
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.”
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
When 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.