Here is a parent's view of the statementing battle for her son and her advice about the process. I wish I could say this mother's story was unusual, but other parents will recognise features of it in their own efforts to get the right education for their children. Thank you to the mum who has kindly allowed me to publish it here.
"Our first hurdle was with the school not recognising or knowing how to cope with a processing issue – if the child can’t process what the teacher is saying, learning doesn’t have a chance. As parents, it took us a long time to realise the implications of this at home and we experienced outrageous behaviour not realising that the child wasn’t just being belligerent but that his understanding of what words meant and the complexity of how they were presented to him were totally beyond his comprehension. Any number of parenting books didn’t fit the bill until we found ‘The Explosive Child’ by Ross Greene.
As soon as you feel your child has a learning issue, make sure you keep notes of meetings you have with the school Senco and email them to them after each meeting to confirm that your recollection is correct. (Also ensures that they have a record on file.) Challenge learning plans – if your child isn’t meeting the targets on learning plans, try to get to the bottom of it rather than allowing the school to gloss over it.
Schools, the School Educational Psychologist and the Council will procrastinate as much as they can – the classic is having to wait weeks for meetings and then having them rearranged at last minute to push them further back. Meetings cost money and budgets are tight so your child’s needs are not the top priority – he or she really does need you to fight their corner. This is really hard for the parent who doesn’t feel particularly articulate or confident but they need to overcome this reticence.
Private tests (OT, Ed Psych, Language, etc) are really expensive – ensure that the recommendations are very clear and quantifiable stating how many hours each week of what help is needed and by what level of professional. Any opportunity to put an untrained teacher’s assistant to provide specialist help will be taken if there is any ambiguity in the recommendation.
SOS!SEN provides a great service in Twickenham. We used solicitor Robert Love because we felt incompetent to fight a case where the school wasn’t supporting the statement application (the teacher wanted to but the school wouldn’t!) One of the most galling aspects of it was when the Council didn’t turn up to the tribunal – surely there should be a case for Councils paying for the cost of the tribunal when they abuse it in this way."
You can read more stories like this in my new book, Getting Started with Statements. Ebook out now, paperback coming very soon.
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We had a similar experience. Our 11-year-old son has Asperger’s and ADHD. He’s clever and was reaching ‘average’ grades, but socially, he was struggling. He was bullied and found the hurly burly of the school playground really stressful. Our SENCO told me not to bother trying for a statement as I would never get one. There was only one teacher in the school who dared to speak out and say on record that my son had serious difficulties.
I work as a freelance journalist and quickly realised that pursuing a statement would be like taking on another full time job, so we hired Melinda Nettleton at SEN Legal. I got a diagnostic report from the NHS and commissioned reports from a Speech and Language Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Educational Psychologist and Psychiatrist. It cost a LOT of money, but their opinion backed up my argument. After 18 months of wrangling, we got what we wanted – a place at More House School. My son started eight days ago and he is already so much happier. The LEA pulled out of two Tribunals – the one where we appealed their decision not to do a statutory assessment and another, appealing the content of the statement (they were providing 1.5 hours per week with a learning assistant in a mainstream school). We are delighted with the result. I am really impressed with More House and know my son has a bright future ahead. If you can’t afford a lawyer, find and talk to parents who have fought the battle and won – we’ve all been on an intense learning experience and are only to happy to help others. The most important lesson? Never take ‘no’ for an answer!