I’m in various Facebook groups for children like Jude who have learning disabilities and a very common discussion theme emerges on an almost daily basis. Education. Which school is right, do you go mainstream or special school, can non-verbal children attend certain settings, did your Local Authority help you attend an out of county school if you felt that was best for your child, etc.
It’s a minefield.
In all honesty, finding the right school for a neuro-typical child is hard enough but when your choices are marginalised and the admin related to admission is made all the more complex because your child has special needs then MY GOD, it can be a nightmare! And then when stories such as this one in the Guardian hit the shelves, you suddenly recognise that that fight is not going to get any easier any time soon.
I think I’ve told you about Jude’s educational history. We moved county when he was four and about to start infants school, wrongly assuming that because he had a Statement of Educational Needs (old school version of an EHCP) and had been promised a place at a fantastic special needs school in Cambridge, that our new county would honour the same sort of education. Wrong! Oh how wrong. For me, this was lesson one in the battle you can often face raising a special needs child. Up until this point we had been spoilt with the fantastic South Cambridgeshire services. Hertfordshire was a completely different game.
Jude was not allowed to go to a special needs school because he wasn’t “known to the system.” I kid you not. So the hours on end I and the specialists had taken to detail his Statement really meant very little. The reports saying he needed one to one support all the time were also ignored (even though he was still in nappies). Frustratingly, there was no choice but to choose a mainstream school there and then whilst I was on the phone to whoever I was on the phone to (no idea..not sure I even knew then!)
This all happened when I was still in doormat mode. Bit harsh but I wouldn’t have said boo to a goose back then so would never have challenged anyone in supposed authority. Idiot!
Fast forward a year and surprise surprise, it was unanimously decided by all involved that the school wasn’t suitable for Jude! He was moved to the special needs school of my choice and had a happy few years until he was ten. Then came that hideous blip where I mistakenly thought the local special needs secondary school would help Jude. They did not. We moved him after the Easter holiday and they were horrendous to him, destroying all of his confidence and forcing us to remove him from the education system before the term had fully ended.
Now thankfully, Jude is in the happiest place he’s ever been and I’m so so proud to be part of this wonderful school. It took a lot of fight. Nearly two years in fact and there were periods during that time where I genuinely thought I’d never see the light of day again. It was pretty dark. But looking back, it was all worth it.
Jude by one of his favourite automatic doors!
But how come this doesn’t happen for everyone?
Every day I read about people experiencing battles over their children’s education and it’s really not fair. Exclusions, schools not meeting need, schools refusing to take a child in, lack of stimulation, lack of understanding, manual handling conflicts, behavioural issues, children refusing to go to school and parents unable to get the support they need from the settings. It’s just all too much. I’m so lucky that we have got to where we have with Jude but I feel such empathy for those who are still fighting to get to their ideal place. Not everyone is looking for the same outcome but councils should help parents to find the setting that’s best for them and their child. Why are they all not doing this? Is it always about money? I find it so sad because I know the stress involved in this awful battle. It’s constant within your mind, even when you aren’t on the phone trying to get through to someone. It’s constant during the night, when you’re trying to sleep and then again when you wake up. Us parents live the details within those EHCP’s, council specialists just see us as “cases” in files.
I wrote this piece a while ago which I know some people find helpful. If you do then I’m really pleased. But if ever anyone wants me to help write letters to councils, social workers, panels, anything, please just give me a shout. I’m not an expert or a professional but you know I’m happy to help if you need someone <3
I know many of you are parenting teens – let me introduce you to another blogger you may like to follow. Stressed Mum‘s content may resonate well with many of you. Enjoy x