This review is kindly reproduced with permission from Claire Sarcone, author of the award-winning "A Boy With Asperger's" Blog
I remember all too well what it's like to come up against the system when you haven’t even got the slightest clue what the words “Statement” and “SEN” mean.
I had to wise up fast, and I did! I learnt everything that needed to be learnt, because I knew I needed to for my child to get where he is now. Once I had wised up, I stated advising parents on their tribunal rights on a voluntary basis which is extremely rewarding. Yes, it was hard to learn education law as it applies to special educational needs but it's given me great satisfaction.
This is why I was keen to read the new parent to parent hand book, “Special Educational Needs, Getting Started with Statements” By, ‘Tania Tirraoro’ a mother to two autistic boys from Farnham Surrey.
Tania’s aim is to help other parents navigate their way through the educational needs jungle.
I’ve been a follower of Tania’s for the past 2-3 years, as like myself she writes her own blog and started around the same time as myself back in 2008. Some of you may already know of Tania’s work from her site “Special Needs Jungle” which I have always found to be a valuable resource not only for parents who have children that are on the autism spectrum, but those with children with special educational needs (SEN). Tania’s book is available as an Ebook as well as a published paperback.
THE MAIN STRUCTURE OF THE BOOK
What’s particularly difficult when trying to explain the statementing process to another in way of written content, is the need to keep it simple (well, as simple as it can be when advising on a complex process such as SEN). It's my opinion that Tania has done this extremely well! She has broken up the procedure into sections and remained on topic within each area. I feel that many books and sites that are explaining the statementing procedure tend to wonder off course, making the reader quite confused.
The forward within the book is by Maria Hutchings, SEN Campaigner and former parliamentary candidate who handbagged Tony Blair during the 2005 election over the closure of special schools.
Maria states how she only wished she had a book like this one when fighting for her own children’s education.
This is followed by an introduction and then a description on what “Statementing” actually is. Parents who are new to the statementing process should read this chapter in order to fully understand the book further. Tania has done a great job explaining what a statement is and why your child may require one! Readers are then introduced to some resources such as the ‘SEN Code of Practice’ and the Education Act, before reading a detailed chapter headed “Getting Prepared”
The book then explains the whole procedure in detail from start to finish, supplying real example from successful applications with the injection of relevant quotes from the ‘SEN Code Of Practice’ (COP)
Tania really does cover every step in great detail and is sure to warn parents that they shouldn’t expect an easy ride. Regardless of this fact, Tania is always sure to follow up on a positive, the book is extremely motivating, empowering parents to go with their instincts and not give up. The fact that the writer has been through the process and came out the other-side having got what her boys need to succeed in education, is truly uplifting and inspiring for the reader. I feel the use of material from successful applications was also extremely beneficial as well as uplifting and helpful. There were some great common examples where a case seemed a little doomed, yet succeeded. This shows parents that although the LEA do have these big fancy solicitors, that sadly most can't afford, they can still do it, on their own.
This is very true as nobody knows our child better than us, the parent! I like the very honest and direct approach Tania has provide, there is no sugar coating, she doesn’t state it’s a walk in the park, which helps the parent/reader become fully prepared for what may lay ahead!
It is my belief that this is what parents need, the whole package, of what can happen, the good but also the not so good.
I liked that Tania went a little deeper by covering the issue of relationships (between parents and school/SENCos [special educational needs co-ordinator]) She explains why the break-down of these relationships can make it that bit more difficult when going through the process.
One of the most impressive sections of the book for me, had to be the statementing checklist, that has made some excellent points. Like Tania states, many parents feel their child’s needs are evident! This simply isn’t the case and parent needs to know this. I feel it is very common for a parent to assume that a diagnosis will automatically entitle their child to everything else. Parents are often shocked when they discover this isn’t the way in which it works.
Tania covers everything from the writing of the application for statutory assessment; the refusal of that application; the application to appeal; the agreement to assess, the stages of the assessment and time-scales; the proposed statement; time scales; parental response and request for the school named in part 4, plus more.
WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS BOOK FROM ALL THE OTHERS
I have read many books that are written by mothers of a child on the autism spectrum, however, most are personal stories that are not told in a way that offers advice and guidelines, it’s more like a life story you can relate to.
The book, “Special Educational Needs, Getting Started with Statements” still has that personal feel, after all it’s written by a mother of two son’s with autism who has fought the same system! Nonetheless it's also a very well written resource and guideline for parents facing the same battles.
What’s nice is the fact that Tania is providing a much needed service for fellow parents and is doing so as a parent and not a professional. This is something most parents of children with SEN prefer, advice from a parent not a professional. Sadly it gets to the stage when you feel fellow parents are the only valid source of information when you are going through such a process and battling against your very powerful Local Education Authority.
What I found very appealing throughout the book, was Tania’s words of motivation, and having gone through the process myself, can verify that at this stressful time encouraging words are most welcome, you cling to any positiveness with both hands right till the very end.
Tania has done very well to draw attention to some very interesting and important points, such as, “How a child’s social & emotional needs must be taken into consideration when requesting a statutory assessment” I myself hear all too often on my Facebook page, many mothers stating, “They told me I can’t apply for a statement, as my son is too bright” (Ok, so it doesn’t matter that his social communication is so poor it makes them depressed, or the child can’t cope at break-time etc., etc....) Tania very clearly wipes out these myths making the statementing criteria easy to understand.
WAS THERE ANYTHING MISSING
I wouldn’t say that there wasn’t anything missing, however I would state that it would have been a nice touch to have added a little jargon buster (explanation of some of the terms used) Even though Tania has been excellent at keeping Jargon to a minimum, not all can be avoided, a little list would have just been nice, though not essential.
From a parent who has embarked on such a journey, with that added pressure to secure an independent special school, who has succeed in both, I think the book is a spectacular resource that will benefit many parents and carers who are desperately trying to secure a statement of SEN for their child.
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