Thrilling news - The Special Needs Jungle blog as been shortlisted in the BritMums Brilliance in Blogging Awards "Change" Category
The Special Needs Jungle blog is all about change - changing the SEN system for the better and bringing information and resources to the attention of those who can use it to change their families' lives for the better. It's about amplifying the voices of families and professionals involved or coping with special needs issues - there are so many out there, but they far too often go unheard or unheeded. I am passionate about using this public forum to spotlight their views.
Special Needs Jungle has changed my life too, in ways I never imagined.
I started Special Needs Jungle back in 2008 when my younger son was going through the statementing process. I had amassed all this knowledge about the process and decided to write it down in a form that could help others, so I tentatively started the Special Needs Jungle blog. A year later, when I came to apply for my older son's statement (they both have Asperger's), I used my own site to refresh my memory of what to do!
One morning last September, I sat up in bed and knew that I had to write a book explaining in greater detail to parents facing the stressful and exhausting statementing process, just how to sit down and start setting out their child's story. The book, Special Educational Needs - Getting Started With Statements, took five weeks to complete, including examples from real, successful applications as well as contributions from other parents with their own stories. It has been very well received, the Kindle version of it hitting the top spot in the special needs category several times.
Last week, I spoke at a special needs parents' coffee morning in Guildford and took ten books along with me, thinking I might sell a couple if I was lucky. Within minutes, they were all snapped up! There are more speaking engagements coming up, including at the 'Towards a Positive Future' conference in June. I'm on just before NAS President, Jane Asher, which everyone says is better than being on after her, as she'd be impossible to follow!
Through SNJ, I have been able to highlight SEN issues, great practice, fab resources and the most amazing, dedicated people who are working to help children and young people facing sometimes extreme challenges. I do not make money from or have sponsored posts on the blog - every guest post is given and accepted free of charge or payment and I only feature posts that bring something useful or inspirational to families caring for special needs children. It is a privilege to do so.
I haven't mentioned this before, but a percentage of anything I make from book sales will be donated to my boys' independent special school, More House School, who are trying to raise a million pounds to fund a School of Engineering, so that its boys can leave with real skills that will benefit themselves and the UK economy. My donation won't be much - as authors know, not many make a million, especially from such a niche book, but it will be a small contribution to say thank you for everything they do for my sons. If you have any links with engineering companies who might like to sponsor such a worthwhile project, do let me know.
I've also, this year, joined the committee of Family Voice Surrey, a parent-carer forum involved with the development of the new SEN Green Paper to make sure that the proposed changes really do make life better for families with SEN and disabilities. We are one of many such forums across the country, all of whom donate their time to help others.
And there are rewards: next month, as a result of the skills I have learned from working online and in social media, I will start work as PR and Community Manager for EDRIC, a European NGO aimed at helping people with Dysmelia - congenital limb reduction - across the whole of Europe. It's a challenge I'm really excited about and it will also bring a wider context to Special Needs Jungle.