Welcome to our new blog which has come about as we try to update all our information technology on the website to provide helpful information for parents and families. Hope you find it useful.
On Saturday (13th Jan 2018) I had the benefit of attending a conference in London run by SOS!SEN which is an organisation with multiple outlets across the country, offering free SEN helpline and support for children who have special educational needs. I was surprised at the size of the large (and very vocal) audience in attendance and place to share some of the helpful information receied through this and subsequent posts.
The conference was opened by the Rt Hon John Bercow, MP, Speaker of the House of Commons. I was impressed by his knowledge of SEN and his manner of discussing the challenges which parents face. He shared his top tips for navigating the special needs provision process which I would like to share here:
1. Mr Bercow recommends actively seeking your MPs support to “bat” with you to work to get compliance from your local authority about SEN for your child and advised everyone to go to their local MP surgery – to go with someone else with you to, preferably your child as well if that is appropriate – and to make a direct impact on your MP, to let them see the situation you are in and your child’s needs, make them remember you and make a difference in parliament even if they cannot affect your individual case.
2. Don’t act alone. Seek advice from organisations who are there to help you navigate this complex and sadly, very stressful SEN process. Go to objective advisors – such as SOS!SEN (but Id also like to add others such as Sunshine Support here in Derby, Educational Equality, as other examples. You can also seek advice from education law solicitors for complex cases and we can share contact details of people we trust – just contact us!)
3. If you go to a meeting at school or with the Local Authority, go with someone to support you, to help remember the important points to raise, but also to take notes. Recording accurate notes is an important part of your evidence.
4. When looking at provision offered by the Local Authority for your child, given in a draft of final Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) – is it DETAILED? SPECIFIC? QUANTIFIED? Educational needs must be in Section B and provision to meet those needs must be in Section F. At this time, no other parts of the EHCP (except section I'm naming placement) is legally enforceable. Information placed in other sections has no ‘teeth’ and is unlikely to be put in place. Watch out for danger phrases such as: “Freddie will have regular sessions of…”, “Susan will have opportunities for..” This may provide flexibility for the school but is of no use on an EHCP as regular could be once a year – opportunities could be offered but never pursued… Danger terms to watch out for!
Mr Bercow concluded his talk by sharing the personal perspective he has had over the last ten years, with members of his own family needing support from SOS!SEN to obtain appropriate SEN provision, and the strain that this brings to families. He recommends following the Churchill family motto – “KBO” (keep b*g*erring on!). Being resilient, and continuing to pursue your well researched, reasonable requests and needs is essential – don’t give up!
We are here to provide support to parents in relation to Occupational Therapy needs. Don’t forget that we offer a free 30 minutes consultation and even if that does not mean you need our services, we are happy to help and signpost you to appropriate professionals.