About Tania

My name is Tania Tirraoro, founder and co-director of Special Needs Jungle Ltd. We registered SNJ as a non-profit organisation in August 2014.

I am a journalist, author and parent of two sons who, a few years after this photo was taken, were both diagnosed with autism

I started this blog back in 2008, to help other parents, like us, who are entering the jungle of special needs education. It's a scary, stressful place. I was born in North Wales, and raised in a village near Warrington, Cheshire, in a single-parent family. I was always taught that if you wanted something you had to go out and get it, which is what I've always done. I may live in Surrey, but my northern working-class girl roots formed my character and I firmly believe the weakest among us should be supported and not vilified, victimised or abandoned.

I worked in broadcast news for a decade before we had our boys. Going back to work full-time wasn't feasible because we knew instinctively that they were not, "your average bears". But it was a journey, and one that many others will recognise, to discover why that was, what it was that was different and how to find the help they needed.  There was little help from schools; not because they didn't want, to but because they didn't have the knowledge or the resources.

We have been through the process and come out the other side with our sons being funded by statements of SEN to attend an independent special school. It wasn't easy, it took a lot of research, time and hard work. We didn't use a lawyer but did have support from the National Autistic Society's Advocacy Service, which is an excellent port of call.

We were initially told our younger son wouldn't get a statement because his needs weren't severe enough so it wasn't worth trying. However by the time he was in junior school his progress had stalled and because his learning style was so different to most children it became apparent that he could not be adequately supported in mainstream.


We applied for a Statutory Assessment but were turned down. We appealed to SENDIST and the LA backed down before the hearing, agreeing to assess our son.

I realised if I wanted my son to get what he needed I had to put in the work myself. For many long hours, I researched all the policies and information available from the LEA on the internet, analysed all my son's reports, and wrote an extremely long document complete with many appendices about why my son should have a statement. I included Ed Psych reports, Paediatricians reports, OT reports, examples of his work, lists of strategies tried and IEPs generated and quoted any relevant information I could.

I also built up a good relationship with our SENCo who provided me with as much information as I needed, without overstepping the boundaries of what she was "permitted" to do by the LEA.

My son was given a statement without further argument but the Draft Statement said the LEA thought he could be supported in mainstream. I wrote another long document, using the reports in his Draft Statement that I had not previously seen and went through the statement's recommendations line by line finding it was full of holes. I sent my new document back to the LEA, including a basic cost analysis for the support it said he needed compared with the fees at the independent special school we had found that could meet his needs. I pointed out that having put this much effort in I would be fully prepared to go back to Tribunal if necessary.

Within a week, they had agreed to pay my son's fees at his new school, much to our relief and that of our bank manager. Having learned so much during the process, I wanted to use the information I had gathered to help others in our situation. The moral of my story is, I believe, never give up on what you believe in, ask for help if you need it and be prepared to put the work in because no one else will.

A year later, we walked the same road getting a statement for our older son. I found the resources on this site useful for myself to refresh my memory! Again we were initially turned down but minds were changed and now he too is funded at the same school. I didn't have to go to Tribunal myself, largely, I believe because of the case I put together, but I know many who have.

It shouldn't be like this but so far, the new SEND system has caused chaos, pain and confusion for many families.

I hope parents can use this blog to find useful information and resources and that you will feel able to share your own experiences and resources with you.

I worked on the Surrey Pathfinder trialling and developing the changes, as co-chair of Surrey's Parent Carer Forum, and I'm now on Surrey's Local Offer steering group and have set up and currently run, the social media for the Local Offer. I also sit on the new Ofsted SEND Advisory group.

My sons have now left school and successfully won places for university, thanks to the help they received. Please take this as hope that your child, if similar to mine, will be able to do the same.

  • buy the webinar
  • Become an SNJ Squad patron
  • Home education resources for learners with SEND
  • glasshouse college

Tania’s Bio

Founder of Special Needs Jungle. Parent of two young adults with autism. Tania is a member of the Whole School SEND Expert Reference Group for SEND Leadership, the Ofsted SEND Inspections Stakeholders Group, and sits on the Advisory Board of the Royal Holloway, University of London Centre of Gene and Cell Therapy.
She is also an experienced broadcast and print journalist & author. Tania also runs a PR, web & social media consultancy, SocialOro Media. She is a Rare Disease & chronic pain patient advocate with Ehlers Danlos syndrome.

Read Tania's posts

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Karen Sutton

If my son is already at a special independant school. Should I say why we think he should continue in this school and that this is the school for him

Special Needs Mum

Karen – yes you should point out what this school is doing for your son and why you do not think it can be replicated in a mainstream school.

Aspergers Girls

Thank you for sharing. You did an amazing job advocating for your sons. I, too, had to do much advocating for my middle son. Beautiful boys!

Special Needs Mum

Thank you for your kind words and I hope your son has the provision he needs now x

amanda walsh

My son is currenlty in yeat 3 main stream with a full 25 hour statement, but latey his behaviours have become extreme and he has been refusing to attend school. He isnt managing his school work and it usually very bright and itelllgent, we just dont know what to do and the school seem to be no helo. we kow he would be much happoer in a specialist school were he would get full support in the right form, but dont know how to go about this. We are based in manchester. any advice would be most helpful


I think my son had PDA and am fighting to get it recognised. Would love to add you on FB or twitter but can’t find you xxx

Special Needs Mum

I’m @TaniaLT and @SpcialNdsJungle and on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/specialneedsjungle. There is an article on SNJ about PDA- have you spotted it? Tania


Tania, i have just come across your website and it is such an apt title because it really is a jungle. i am trying to find a way of having information in a more structured way for parents to understand the system of special educational needs and how to get the help their child needs. i am going to look at everything on your website in more detail but in the meantime, do you think this is possible and if so, can you help me start. It just seems so much confusion in what you can get or not get,… Read more »

Tania Tirraoro

Hi Smita
I have a paperback and Kindle book that details how to get started with a statement and you can find more information on the Contact a Family site as well


I just wanted to say what a great website,my little boy starts school this year. He is very behind in his speech and Early years have recommended for him to be statemented. Speech and language have finally agreed to back early years and myself in wanting this for my little boy. Still a long road I know! He was born at 26 wks and has had numerous issues with bronchial and tummy problems/feeding and food sensitivities.

I will be ordering your book to help me along my way.



Tania Tirraoro

Hi Janine Good luck to you, I’m sure you won’t have any problems with the statement as he is such a young age. Just make sure it says everything it needs to say (my book will help with this). Depending on where you live, you may be able to be part of a pathfinder trial (there are 31 local authorities) When he gets a statement it will be changed in due course to an EHCP when the new system comes in, in 2014. Be informed and be your boy’s advocate. To do this, you need to take care of yourself… Read more »

Kulsoom Rizvi (@klrizvi)

Hi! I’m trying to use the contact form, however an error message keeps popping up when I press send! I’m a freelance journalist based in London working on a series of stories about children with disabilities/special needs in the UK. This is part of my final master’s project and parts of it will be published for an NGO called Safe World for Women. The organisation focuses on women and children’s rights. Hayley Goleniowska from Down Side Up suggested I contact you concerning the Children and Families Bill and SEN reforms. If you’re interested in talking to me, I prefer to… Read more »

Tania Tirraoro

Hi You can email on info@specialneedsjungle.com


Tania and Debs – I am new to the SNJ site but wanted to tell you that it is a brilliant resource for parents! – thank you SO MUCH for all the work that has gone into making this site very easy to understand and VERY VERY helpful! I have a 15YO son with ASD and feel very scared about all the upcoming changes. It’s wonderful knowing that you guys are out there!