SEND, parents and the word ‘SOME’ 

  • Parents push for incorrect diagnoses
  • Children are diagnosed incorrectly
  • Parents are rude & aggressive towards teachers
  • Parents need to discipline their children
  • Parents are never happy with SEN support

…… you get the idea. 

When teachers make comments or write blogs which contain such big statements, they immediately alienate parents, the very people they are trying to work ‘with’. Why? What possible good can come from that? 

Now insert the word ‘some’ into those sentences and I’d imagine many parents would agree that these things are possible.

I’d like to take this opportunity to say that I’ve never ‘pushed’ for a diagnosis of anything. Some may think I’m lucky, some might think I’m lying, nevertheless that’s still our experience. All of my children have been diagnosed via multi-agency assessments and I’ve ensure they have been thorough assessments (even check the qualifications of some of them!). Personally I think this is the best way to assess and diagnose, but that’s my opinion. Teachers haven’t always agreed with the diagnoses, and in a few cases this has caused my children harm, but that’s not what this blog is about. 

I’ve never raised my voice or shouted at a Teacher. Even during or after 4 educational Tribunals, 1 Judicial Review and taking one school to a 5th Tribunal for disability discrimination. They were all extremely stressful experiences, but I don’t think that shouting or threatening anyone, let alone the very people I was trying to work with is any way to behave and it certainly would’t have helped.

I don’t hate Teachers, I genuinely admire and respect the vast majority of them. I see they are trying to do a very difficult job under a huge amount of pressure with very little support……doesn’t that sound familiar though? *SEND parent*.  I’m over the moon with the support my son gets in school now. Yes it’s been a long and often bumpy road, but his current Teacher is brilliant & he’s thriving. 

SEND parents often have a very hard time navigating their children through education. We often have to fight very hard for our children, and as a result may well be expecting the next battle, but that doesn’t mean we are blinkered to the wider problems, or that we don’t want to help. Some parents have career experience, expertise and skills that can really help problem solve issues.

So Teachers, please don’t alienate the very people you need to work with in order to make your job easier. Please insert the word ‘some’ into your statements, bring us into the discussion and let us try and help.  


The results are in…. SATS & SEN

It’s the end of a long school year and in my sons case, the end of Junior school. I thought long and hard about whether I was going to allow his specialist ASD school put him in for the SATS tests, but they assured me reasonable adjustments would be put into place so I followed their lead. The week before the tests, he came home very upset as he’d missed his art lesson (the highlight of his week) to attend a booster class. Despite this, he still wanted to sit the tests as he’d already worked very hard in preparation for them.

Last week we had his Annual Review (or person centred review as its now called). I asked about the SATS results but the Head teacher was reluctant to give me them and said I had to wait until we received his school report. I’ve always wondered if the school wait until the last day of the school year to give us reports to avoid awkward telephone calls from upset, angry or confused parents, so I thought I’d ask for as much clarification at the meeting as I could, not really knowing at that time, the right questions to ask.

It was explained that the SATS results are different this year, that the tests were much harder and I was reassured I should be very proud of what my son had achieved. ‘Ok’ I thought, that sounds positive, I’ll wait and see with a degree of optimism. Then the report arrived……

3 pages of his report describe his achievement this year. 3 pages all using different methods to show his results. My son has ASD, ADHD, Tourettes, Dyspraxia and was assessed by an Educational Psychologist last year as having a ‘highly superior IQ’. I read this report and was left very confused. Is he achieving what he is capable of? Is he being taught/encouraged properly or enough? Are his needs being met? Have his needs changed or improved? Where does he go from here? What does this tell his next school about his educational needs, potential and ability? 

The Head teacher at his Annual Review had a go at explaining the new method of testing and presenting results but the truth is, I had no idea then and still have no idea what any of this means. Im no genius but do consider myself to be reasonably intelligent,however as far as I’m concerned, this may as well have been written in another language. My older daughter left Junior school with levels 6/7 and she went onto Grammar school. Although didn’t my son’s Head teacher said these levels have changed so they don’t relate to those given out last year? 

It seems the teacher assessments show there are some areas he isn’t achieving yet and hasn’t met the ‘expected standard’ for. How can that be right when his SATS results show his achievements in the tests were average or above average? Is this because he had booster classes and these skills weren’t embedded properly? 

So I’m left none the wiser. I’ve no idea if he’s progressed academically since last year, no idea if he’s meeting his potential and, if he didn’t have an EHCP, his new school in September wouldn’t have any idea what his educational needs and strengths are. The results are in, but what’s the point? 

Thank you Mr Small

I think most people in the SEN world are aware of the recent events with Baker Small, the Solicitors who represent Local Authorities at Special Educational Needs Tribunals. 

I’ve read all of the articles written by the press and each time I end up feeling that they have missed a very important element to this story. What it’s like for us, Parents of children with SEN. Although very real, It’s not just the anger at Mr Smalls comments that is relevant here, it’s the fact we, as parents, have to fight in the first place. It’s that the Tribunal process can take months, sometimes longer to complete from start to finish and this is not including the months, years even, of fighting we’ve had to go through before even getting to this stage. I want to thank Mr Small. Why? Well I’ll get to that later.

I have 3 children with SEN and over 10 years, I have gone through 5 Tribunals. 4 went to hearings and one was conceded by the Local Authority after months of preparation. I’ve been asked many times over the years to talk about what Trubunal is like for parents and have never felt it appropriate to give the full unedited details. I have never wanted to put any parent off appealing. It is there for us to use and we need to use it, because in many situations it’s the only way we can get our children’s needs met. Now I want to talk about it, not to put parents off, but whilst there is an interest out there I want people to know the root of our upset, that it goes much deeper than Mr Smalls’ comments. That the system we have no option but to use is stacked against children with SEN and Parents and about the very real injustice we feel. 

The first point I want to make is that Parents aren’t fighting to get costly provision which they have decided by themselves is appropriate. It’s medical and educational professionals who have assessed our children and made recommendations for the provision they need in order to access education and learn, to gain and/or keep good mental health, to be given the chance to succeed and become a part of their community one day. Much of the provision initially suggested for my children wasn’t costly at all, but the effects of not providing this in a timely manner resulted in them failing and eventually needing much more. 

The next point I want to make is that this isn’t a new problem. This system, in my experience, has always been adversarial. It’s not meant to be, it shouldn’t be, but it is and I’ve never experienced it any other way. 

My first Tribunal was for DDA (Disability discrimination). My daughter had diagnoses of Asperger Syndrome, Dyspraxia, ADHD and Dyslexia. We weren’t asking for anything that cost money. I had bought all of the ‘fine motor skills’ equipment so my daughter could carry out the Occupational Therapy activities her therapist said she needed. She could hardly hold a pencil let alone write legibly. I had made visual timetables and produced all of the equipment to the school so it was ready to go. I asked for 5 minutes of TA time in the morning and after lunch so she could be monitored and they could check she was doing it properly. They refused. I asked they warn her before change to her routine. They didn’t. I asked they stop telling her off for fidgeting and other things relating to her disability especially in assemblies and in front of the whole school. They wouldn’t. I asked they sit her at the front of the class to stop her being distracted. They ‘Couldnt’. There were other similar requests, all recommended by medical and educational professionals, all refused by the school, and a Tribunal Judge agreed with us and that the effect of the school not carrying these out had a significant detrimental effect on our daughter and we won the Tribunal. 

I would like to point out here that the school hired a QC. Not a run of the mill Local Authority representative, not a Solicitor, not even a Barrister. A QC paid for out of the children’s educational money to defend an indefensible case. I’d also like to point out that this wasn’t about suing or compensation of any kind. I’m not even sure if that’s a possibility in these cases but we certainly didn’t want that. It was about justice. About my daughter learning at 9 years old that adults do care, they do see her struggling and they do want to help. 

Tribunals start a very long time before a hearing. There’s year after year of assessments, meetings, forms, paperwork, watching your child fail enough educationally and emotionally to finally have the evidence to ‘prove’ what you and the professionals have been saying all along. Then comes preparing for the appeal. Days, weeks even of sorting through paperwork & reports. Securing costly independent reports, depleting savings, loans, stress, desperation. Finally, when you’ve gathered all the evidence together and sent it into the Tribunal only to receive the LAs response. Now I can only comment about my children’s cases but reading them left me in pieces every time. Written by Solicitors, they are full of Legal quotes, law and every comment is aimed at dismissing your case. They have a tone of ‘neurotic, over anxious mother’ about them, the tone that I’ve had from the very start of my children’s SEN journey. I remember reading them (the last one arriving promptly on Christmas Eve) thinking I don’t stand a chance. How can I fight that? They know the law, I don’t, I’m just a parent.

That’s the thing about the Law. You can use the same ‘quote’ for various situations so it can be applied to dismiss one parent or applied to support another. I’m no genius but I do like to think I’m fairly intelligent and able to learn the basics of SEn Law so I can fight back. However then comes ‘the bundle, a huge pile of paperwork sent to everyone attending the Tribunal including the Judge and panel members. Every paragraph, every page is full of your child’s struggles. How your child has failed. Comments dismissing the (professionally recommended) support you know, without any doubt your child desperately needs. Dismissive statements combatting the very real effect of them not receiving the support. Everything they can’t do in black and white and with that comes emotion, memories, pain and natural instinct to protect your child. Add to that, this bundle is shared for all involved to see whilst knowing the other side is going to try in every way possible to use these words to fight you. They hold meetings in private discussing the evidence they will use against you, although as we see it, against our child. 

Now imagine the hearing. A panel of 3 people, one of them a Judge. Now I have to say, the panels and Judges at every one of our Tribunals have been very supportive. They haven’t used Legal-speak with us or ‘grilled’ us like they have the other side. However the LAs Barrister, calmly, with no emotion (why should he? It’s not his child) fires Law at the Judge and they engage in lengthy discussion about whether it applies in this case. It’s not ‘a case’ though. It’s my child. I can’t engage in these discussions, I’ve no idea if what they are saying is right or wrong. The LAs witnesses, who in my other daughters case didn’t know her or had never met her. Even the Head Teacher of her (temporary) school admitted she was aware of her but didn’t know her. They paw over the bundle, that ‘pile of papers’ to them but our child’s life and struggles to us. They sift through, quoting things you said months ago in a meeting when you had been up all night dealing with your SEN child. That meeting when you’d had no sleep and a week full of assessments not to mention caring for your child 24/7. The professionals were fine at that meeting, they had slept as usual. Gone home the night before, leaving their stresses behind including that pesky up coming Tribunal. Parents can’t do that. They can’t leave the stress of the ‘battle’ behind, it’s there every day, every weekend. We deal with the effects of the wrong or no support and it’s draining, upsetting, painful. 

Then comes the summing up. My emotional plea versus the LAs Legal team and their ‘Law quoting’ masterpiece. All I can do now is wait, wait for 2 weeks going over every comment made, coming up with a blinder of a response for that question posed by the LAs Barrister, or that hidden dismissive remark designed to make me look like I’m making it all up….. just far too late. All this, again, whilst caring for my struggling, failing child. 

I think people know now that it’s pretty standard for SEN parents to fight. It is. But what I also want people to know it’s not an easy option. We wouldn’t go through all of this if our children were just a bit behind where we think they should be. This isn’t about a few comments made by a Solicitor on Twitter. I’m sure I speak for a lot of SEN parents when I say his attitude isn’t unique. Most of us have met LA Reps and Legal people with the same view point as Mr Small. Although I’m sort of grateful to him so here’s the ‘thank you’. He’s the only one I’ve known to be this honest, open and public about his views of SEN families. I’m thankful that he’s opened up the possibility for change to a system that is meant to be supporting and protecting vulnerable children and families, but in the process of defending our children’s rights, it’s tearing lives and families apart. It’s riding us of our savings and in some cases, our homes. It’s taking years out of our precious family life and replacing it with battles, emotional turmoil and throwing us into a legal world we did nothing to deserve and shouldn’t have to go through. 

I think this is an opportunity to start real change. So thank you Mr Small. 

Stop using disability as a punchline…

For as long as I can remember words relating to disabilities have been used as insults or punchlines to jokes. Even some politicians and others in the public domain have been guilty of doing so. The Prime Minister was forced to apologise after this…. “In the Sunday Telegraph interview, the prime minister said of Mr Balls: “He just annoys me. But I’m very bad, in the House of Commons, at not getting distracted, and the endless, ceaseless banter, it’s like having someone with Tourette’s permanently sitting opposite you.” 

It’s not just politicians, I’ve seen it from a teacher in their blog. On a support page described as ‘inspiring parenting’. Shared by ‘friends’ who really should know better than to think I’d find it funny. I’ve heard people describe the weather as being ‘bi-polar’ or ‘schizophrenic’. Seen laughter over memes stating how fantastic it would be to have a friend with OCD to tidy their homes’. Had people on Facebook share jokes about Dyslexia, Tourettes, autism. Been told stories about people having a ‘meltdown’ over the amount of washing they had to do. Should we just ignore this? Brush it off as just a bit of fun, after all, surely they don’t mean to be cruel, do they? 

Are there not enough words to describe the weather or annoyances and differences in people’s personalities? Well I googled it…”The number of words in the English language is : 1,035,877.3 This is the estimate by the Global Language Monitor for January 1, 2016. The English Language passed the Million Word threshold on June 10, 2009 at 10:22 a.m. (GMT). Currently there is a new word created every 98 minutes or about 14.7 words per day.10 Jun 2015″. Not having enough words is clearly no excuse!

What is the effect of using disability in such ways? I’d argue it devalues disabled people, that it damages awareness and acceptance of difference and that is before even considering the emotional impact on the people living with disability and difference. If you saw a loved one struggling with something everyday, would you find it funny if people used it as a way of amusing themselves and others? There’s a vast difference between laughing with and laughing at or at the cost of someone else’s struggles. My daughter is dyslexic and she and her dyslexic friends often laugh at their dyslexia. She found it particularly amusing when she couldnt read what she had written on my shopping list and joked she had created new foods. My son’s Tourettes often forces new sounds or new motor tics. Sometimes he looks up at me, surprised by a new noise he’s produced and laughs. In that moment it’s funny for him, it’s not a tic that’s caused him pain like others can, and yes, at times like this I laugh with them, but never at them. 

There are also those who are acutely aware of offending so avoid using disability terminology. Knowing how to refer to someone can be a bit of a minefield. I was involved in a conversation on Twitter about the terms ‘high and low functioning’ when describing autism. Personally I think they are useless terms which tell you nothing about the level of a persons needs or their strengths. This is exacerbated by the fact many use spoken language ability as a way of determining whether a person is high/low functioning, which again is completely incorrect. This conversation ended when I was asked ‘how would you introduce your autistic child without using high/low functioning?’ My response was ‘by using their name and if it was relevant, I’d also say they’re autistic.’ Of course we need to look at adjustments needed in various situations. More description of needs is important when doing so, but labels don’t define a person. They are part of who they are not the totality of who they are. My son isn’t (as he has been described) ‘a Tourettes child’ or ‘a high functioning kid’. He’s a total, whole person with various diagnoses. He may choose to call himself autistic one day. He hasn’t so far, but I hope to do a good enough job to encourage him to positively embrace this part of who he is and this is not going to be encouraged if he sees his diagnoses and differences being used in derogatory ways. 

Some words linked to disability (which I’m pretty sure you all know) are no longer acceptable to use. They have been used for such a long time as ways of insulting or ‘joking’ that they are now, and have been for a long time, offensive to disabled people, their families and indeed much of the general population. If we no longer find these words acceptable, why are we allowing them to be replaced in descriptions, jokes and insults with other words describing disabilities? Why use disability as the punchline when there are so many other words?…..WORDS MATTER! 

Cheer up! Calm down!

Go on, be honest…..we’ve all said these but have you considered what these instructions mean in real life to children? I mean what are we asking of them? To switch their emotion off? To push the emotion deep down inside so it doesn’t spoil the flow of the day? Or do we really believe that children are able to recognise, understand and modulate their emotion in such a way that they can self talk themselves into a better emotional state?

A few years ago one of my autistic children developed serious mental health difficulties. This gave me a determination to study and learn as much as I could about children’s mental health in order to help. What I learned surprised me because it became apparent I had to look deep inside myself, into my experiences, my ego, my mental health in order to understand how that impacted on how I engaged with children when they showed emotion. 

I talked to a family member about my studies. He has worked for many years as a Police Officer and is exposed to extreme emotion every day. His method of reacting (or not) can have huge implications in how a situation develops and he began telling me about an elderly lady who had her bag snatched on her way home. As a result, she struggled to leave her home and that crime had a devistating impact on her life. We compared it to another family member (also a Police Officer) who was dragged into a alleyway by a group of men, mugged and roughed up. He had a few days to recover but was back at work soon after and carried on with his life. That elderly lady didn’t have the experience and training to instinctively deal with conflict or the training to know how to defend herself. She hadn’t seen the horrific scenes the Police Officer had which helped him put his emotion and experience into perspective. At the same time, he hadn’t experienced living each day feeling vulnerable as the elderly lady had. They were both victims of a similar crime but the emotions they showed and the impact on their lives were very different. I felt surprise at my family members reaction to being mugged and sympathy that he had to go through that. That surprise and sympathy came from my emotion, not his. Although he understood, my feelings of surprise offended him and sympathy was the last thing he wanted or needed. 

It’s interesting how much vast differences in skills and experiences shape our reaction towards emotional situations and the impact these have on our daily lives. It made me think about how this related to my learning about children’s emotions. Do we consider the emotional impact of everyday problems children face? Do we think about how much of our emotional reaction is helpful to the situation? Some children struggle with issues that no child should be exposed to and some that many adults would have great difficulty dealing with. However what about the issues we might consider to be less valid of extreme emotions? For example, if a child cries or gets angry because they lost their pencil, who are we to say that their emotion is less valid than the child who has lost something (which we consider to be) much more valuable? What if a child becomes aggressive because another child says they smell? Do we know what previous experience that child has had to cause them to react aggressively? If we knew the whole picture, would our opinion change? Should our opinion matter? Should we be rating situations as being valid of expression of emotion or not?

So back to ‘Cheer up! Calm down!’ What if we didn’t give these instructions but instead we encouraged the negative feeling to be expressed and acknowledged?  I mean we can all have our ‘moments’ as adults. If you were feeling upset and someone told you to ‘cheer up’ would you? If you were having a metaphorical feet stamping moment and someone said ‘calm down’ could you? We might be able to hold the emotion inside until we are safely at home and let it pour out there, but should we really be asking children to do this in school? How can they hold in those big feelings and concentrate on school work, retain new information, navigate social situations in the playground? 

Children who throw chairs in classrooms do so because they have reached a point where they can’t cheer up or calm down. Many children withdraw, shut down and internalise emotion but feel it just as strongly and need just as much support as those who externalise it. Many core features of SENs cause children to struggle with emotion and become particularly apparent when their needs are not being met. I don’t think there’s any doubt that not meeting SENs of a child is linked closely to behaviour and mental health issues and should always be the first consideration. Aggression towards themselves and others is not something that should be accepted or ignored, but these children need nurture not disipline. They need mutually trusting relationships so they can be guided and taught another way to deal with situations they find challenging. Speaking as a Mum who has bought (and replaced due to much use!) punch bags, biting toys, balls on string which can be kicked as hard as you like and still come back for more, cushions for headbanging which give feedback but protect delicate heads, this stuff WORKS! The more we say ‘don’t feel these emotions’, the more powerful the emotions can become. The more we ignore emotion and encourage children to bury and suppress it, the more it festers, grows, damages.

I’d like to throw one more phrase into the mix ‘go and find something to do’. Many children with SEN (and without) can’t do this. It’s an empty instruction which can lead to more problems especially at times when children are struggling with emotion. Planning is key. The incredible 5-point scale has worked well with my children (available on NAS website or Amazon). It encourages self monitoring and self scaling of emotion which is especially helpful for children who appear to go from 0-60 in seconds. It also allows you to work with the child to pre-plan what to do when they are at various stages of emotion. Another thing which worked for us was having a box full of index cards with different sections for different emotions. After acknowledging they were feeling, for example – upset, they would go to the box and look in the ‘What makes me happy’ section where there will find pre-planned activities to help. 

Many children with SEN can’t tell you what’s wrong or what happened and often it’s not a single event but a whole range of things all adding up to an overspill of emotion. How does it make you feel if someone asks ‘What’s wrong?’ Or says ‘Talk to me’. You might be a talker, articulate, emotionally and cognitively able to structure your feelings into words which not only capture the intensity of your feelings but also envoke others to sympathise, empathise and offer solutions. You might be someone who internalises, unable or unwilling to share your emotion with others. You might be someone who feels the need to fix problems for others, but is that what they need or want? So instead of ‘Cheer up! Calm down!’ Let’s acknowledge children’s emotions more, encourage them to feel what they feel in a safe supportive way. Children’s mental health is vital to their development and shouldn’t be pushed into the background or minimised by instructing them to ‘Cheer up! Calm down!’

*That Kid*

A few weeks ago I came across a conversation (among many others) on Twitter about dealing with children’s behaviour in school. One tweet which stuck in my mind was from a teacher in response to a popular blog on the subject. It read ”Massive drain on teacher time is dealing with *That Kid*”

I spent a long time considering how to try & fight *That Kid*’s corner, however with every idea came questions I’d like to ask that teacher. I decided that in order to try and change their opinions, I must first try and understand how and when they started seeing problems to be fixed rather than children to be supported. Without the background information and understanding, how can I help? How can I change those opinions? How can I help them to see past anything other than a problem to be fixed?

*That Kid*’s story………..(Permission has been gained to share, although It’s adapted slightly to ensure anonymity)

P started on the road to becoming *That Kid* in year 2. He screamed, kicked and punched his way into school everyday. He screamed at pupils, his teachers and the dedicated TAs assigned to help him. He screamed until he crossed the threshold to the classroom where he suddenly became silent apart from his quiet sobbing. P’s mother was excluded by other parents, her parenting questioned and judged by teachers who openly stated it was ‘a home problem not a school based one’. She didn’t know it had a name, she had no idea her son was a ‘School refuser’. He was too old for support from the Helath visitor, his needs weren’t considered great enough to warrant a referral to CAMHS so P and his mum were alone.

In junior school P began to hide from his teachers at times he knew he couldnt cope. He would go to the toilet and not return causing the teacher or TA to go hunting for his new hiding place and spending precious time persuading him to come out. He was told he was not trying hard enough and that he mustn’t refuse to speak when he was asked a question in class. His teachers knew he was bright but felt he wasn’t working hard enough and said he really needed to ‘apply himself’. He fidgeted and tapped his pencils and feet disturbing the other children in the class. He chewed his clothes, his school books and school equipment much to the annoyance of everyone. He was the last to class and often late, walking as slowly as he could to each lesson often forgetting or losing things along the way. P was *That Kid* and his mother was, well you know, one of *those parents*. A parent alone and unsupported. A parent judged and dismissed for never agreeing that it was a ‘home based problem’ or one which would be solved by attending a parenting course. A parent who fought tirelessly right up until year 5 when P was diagnosed with a significant anxiety disorder and Asperger Syndrome. P wasn’t naughty and P’s mum wasn’t a bad parent. P was living everyday terrified to go to school. Terrified of the social interactions he so desperately wanted to master. Overwhelmed by the crowds and noise in the playground before school, in the corridors, at playtime and he was expected to cope with all of this whilst wearing clothes that made his skin feel like it was on fire. Unable to focus or sit still, unable to organise his own thoughts and feelings let alone the equipment needed for each lesson.

P went on to develop serious mental health problems after years of what he described as being ‘pure torture’. P’s secondary school said his behaviour was attention seeking and that his mother was just too anxious and overprotective. P announced to his teachers that he went to school for an education, not to make friends and refused to go outside at breaktimes. His school viewed this as defiance so rather than looking deeper, and against the professional advice, they took their own path of support placing P in social situations which he neither had the skills nor the mental health to cope with, and it was only at crisis point that he got the help he so desperately needed. He was out of formal education for 18 months whilst he recovered. He had already experienced years of disrupted education from being viewed as *That Kid*. His needs had been overlooked. His background hadn’t been considered. Why had no one ever asked those questions? Never listened to his desperate mother? Never looked deeper than what they saw on the surface? Instead they questioned his diagnoses and the support suggested by professionals designed to help him. What he needed was nurture and guidance to help him into trusting relationships where his needs could have been uncovered so much sooner.

For many years P’s mother had been told he was ‘too bright for a Statement of SEN’ but he couldn’t go back to mainstream school. She fought tirelessly through Tribunals and the High Court where her parenting was scrutinised, where she was again villainised for not agreeing with the education authority. Despite the odds being stacked against them, she won…..P went on to receive specialist help for 18 months and his life began to change for the better. He had teachers who looked deeper, who saw a desperate child in need of their help and guidance. They gave him space and time to consider another way of dealing with situations. They praised and encouraged every small achievement and stood by his side through his bad choices. He is at University no with a Tutor who accepts P as the amazing talented person he is. He owns his own car which he pays for with his part time job. He’s in a relationship with another autistic person and he’s finally experiencing the stability and understanding he’s craved throughout his precious childhood. P lives with anxiety and challenge every moment of everyday but he looks forward to the future now and P wants to live.

‘Dealing with *That Kid*’ isn’t an option to be considered. They need you more than the others and yes, they will take up more time and resources than others, but *That Kid* is just as valid as everyone else and deserves a childhood free from unnecessary pain. If you have the power to help how can you even consider not looking past the challenges and seeing a child in need of support and understanding rather than *That Kid*?

Sweeping statements in SEN



Disclaimer: This is my very first blog (of this sort anyway) so I may well ramble a bit….

You may (or may not) know that I’m a Mum to 3 children with SENs. They are all on the spectrum and all very bright, but that’s where the similarity ends.

I’m not an expert in education, but I know what one looks like when I meet them and I have met some, many in fact. Some of the opinions I’ve read recently are that children with SENs should be grouped together, moved on when problems arise, put in secure units and that certain types of SENs shouldn’t be allowed in mainstream classrooms. Such sweeping statements certainly don’t come from the education experts out there, but these voices do seem to be getting louder. It gives the impression of looking at children as a cluster of SENs and not a real valid individuals. I struggle to believe anyone choosing a career in education would agree that was ok.

One example of how harmful such sweeping statements are, was from a teacher on Twitter who said that children with Tourettes Syndrome shouldn’t be allowed in mainstream classrooms, this was because they would disrupt the other children & implied it would stop the others getting their rightful education. This was personally a hurtful statement but I accept it wasn’t made to hurt. It did however illustrate the ‘problem to be fixed first, child second’ opinion. I should point out here that my son has Tourette’s Syndrome as well as ASD, ADHD and dyspraxia. I’d imagine that combination would be enough to worry most teachers, but the reality is very different. He was recently assessed as having a ‘highly superior IQ’ so where should my son go to school? The specialist SEN schools in my area cater for children with learning difficulties, my son doesn’t have those. A behaviour unit? My son has only ever shown aggression during meltdowns and only ever towards himself, so that won’t work. If he was starting education now, the ASD/mainstream units are now taking children with a much higher level of need than my son so he wouldn’t fit there either socially or academically.

So my son fits under the heading of ‘a child with SEN’ but where does he fit in education? He’s just one child, just one under that heading. He, like all children has a set of skills, a set of needs, a set of hopes and dreams and a right to be educated and helped towards those dreams. Take the SEN heading away and it leaves a 10 year old boy, very bright, capable of achieving and becoming independent one day. One who holds in his tics for most of the day because he hates them so much and they hurt him. A boy who mentors younger autistic children and has leaned basic sign so he can interact with them. A boy who has had a best friend from the age of 4 and they’ve never once said a bad word to each other or fallen out. He is funny, cheeky and loving. A boy with so much dedication and focus towards his interests, so much inventive skill that he could achieve something really special one day.

I don’t believe there is a type of child that fits mainstream education and a type who doesn’t. I’ve seen children with profound needs being educated in mainstream and thriving. I’ve also seen children in specialist settings who, if you’d met elsewhere, you’d never guess they would need that level of support. SENs just can’t be boxed! I know it’s a phrase that’s been overused but it fits….’thinking outside of the box’ the only things in ‘the box’ should be sweeping statements used to describe children with SENs, ideas of grouping children by their SENs and the pressure put on struggling children to change when things go wrong rather than first looking at the support around them (then please seal said box firmly shut!)