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If you think your child’s evident (to you) needs will ensure that they will get the help they need, think again. Many parents go into applying for a statement without really knowing what it is or how difficult it can be to get one, so before you apply for a statutory assessment, read the tips below:
- Find out how the school thinks your child is doing. First of all you should speak to your child’s head teacher or the Special Educational Needs Coordinator, or SENCo. Find out what level of support they are already on, such as School Action or School Action Plus and for how long they have been on each level. Ask to see their Individual Educational Plan (IEP) and ask how it has been monitored and whether your child has achieved their targets. Get concrete evidence for whatever is said has been achieved. Ask the SENCo if they could spare the time to make a list of educational/behavioural interventions used for your child and their results. This should give you an idea of exactly what your child is achieving and you should be able to compare it with the average expected level for a child of their age.
- Gather together any reports or tests your child has ever had done. This means all their school reports and exam results, any referrals they have had to Paediatricians, Occupational Therapy, Speech and Language Therapists, Educational Psychologists, etc. Make a file up if you haven’t already and put them in chronological order. You are building up a paper profile of your child because you will need to prove that they need the help you say they do.
- Find out what your child should be achieving. The LEA will argue that just because a child is achieving below average does not mean that they need a statement of Special Educational Needs. Children in each class will have a broad spectrum of achievement according to their individual potential. Harsh as it seems, some children will never be top of the class but that doesn’t mean that they have SEN. So, how can you show that your child has a greater potential than their current achievements point to? The obvious way is to secure an Educational Psychology Assessment for them. Each LEA has its own Ed Psychs, although there is something of a shortage. Try to build up and maintain a positive relationship with your school’s SENCo if possible and ask them to request an Educational Psychology evaluation for your child, and/or an assessment from the Learning and Language Team, if appropriate. If an Ed Psych assessment is not forthcoming, you could consider a private assessment, usually at great expense, although these are often regarded with suspicion by the LEA that the report is biased towards the parents views, even though it almost certainly isn’t.
- If applicable, get a medical diagnosis for your child. Some people don’t like labelling their child, which is fine unless you want to get the state to provide them with the help they need. If little Johnny is dyslexic, ASD, ADHD, dyscalculic or any other hidden disability, you need to be able to prove that this is not just your opinion, even if you are a doctor yourself. Take your child to your GP and ask for a referral to a paediatrician. A firm medical diagnosis is harder to ignore.
- Do Your Research. Knowledge is power and in such a David v. Goliath match as the LEA vs the parent is (though the fact that it’s seen as adversarial is a scandal), this is even more important. The internet means this is not as difficult as it seems. Find out what your LEA’s SEN policies are. You can find a lot of information on their websites. The government also has an SEN Code of Practice which you can download in pdf format from: http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/wholeschool/sen/sencodeintro/.
- Work out a strategy. Once you have the information you need, you need to know what to do with it. If your LEA has a document outlining its policies, read and analyse it. Make it work for you. Use its own policies to show that your child isn’t getting what they should be. After all, if you can’t prove this, you case will be considerably weaker. When you send in your submission, don’t use their own form if you don’t want to. Write as much as you can that is relevant to your case and provide reports to back them up. Refer to the reports in your document. Approach it like you are writing a report at work or at college. This may take many redrafts and a lot of time. You may feel you need help and if so don’t be afraid to ask (see 8.) Remember this is not for you, it’s for your child.
- Stay strong There is no doubt that this process is stressful and often depressing and many parents give up along the way, which is what the LEA is hoping for. If your child has severe and visible needs, you are less likely to be reading this because those cases are self-evident and easier to prove, although this is not always true. It is where a child has a hidden disability that things get trickier. It is completely true that only the most determined will get what they want. You must look after your own physical and mental health in order to help your child. That means eating healthily, sleeping enough (not easy if your child is up a lot in the night), and just doing whatever works for you to keep you going. Remember you are your child’s greatest asset and best advocate. Don’t give up.
- Get help Not everyone is great at reading and analysing great tracts of text and complex documents. This is sometimes because the parents themselves have an ASD or are dyslexic; these conditions do, after all, have a genetic component. If this sounds like you, then ask a friend for support or approach some of the excellent charities that can help. We will be adding to the list of these elsewhere on the website in the coming months. If you know of any and would like to share them, please send the link to email@example.com. If you want to share your troubles, you can make a comment on this blog or there are other parenting sites with SEN sections.
If you’re daunted by the form, read this post on the site – SEN- Filling in the Assessment Form – Yipes!
And if you think our SNK Statementing Guide Book might be handy, you can find details here