Heads up, a warning: I am enraged. White hot, scalding anger that is making me vitriolic and bitter.
I know it’s doing me no good and I should channel some inner zen but there’s no yin in my yang and frankly I need something else to focus on; some kind of drive to power forward instead of zoning out passively. Time to create a stink.
I don’t as a rule swear very much. Mainly because I have spent and continue to spend a great deal of time round small folk, be they my own or other people’s and the fact that mummy has a potty mouth is not the kind of accolade I want to be renowned for. It doesn’t mean I don’t think in creative Anglo-Saxon oaths but I try to restrain myself from actually launching into a tirade that would make a sailor blush.
Over the years, it’s been quite amusing to find substitute words for the things that have nearly slipped out & turn them into something socially acceptable before the offspring absorbed it as their latest word du jour.
Try to teach them please/thank you/hello/goodbye in polite company, you would think I was attempting to teach them the full works of William Shakespeare… in Flemish. Yet one *almost* expletive of a wangdoodling, cowbunkerling f-bomb amd such like and they have absorbed it by osmosis. 🙄
Tonight however. I make an exception. I am angry. So fucking angry. The fact that fucking just autocorrected to ducking as I typed it, has incensed me further still. 😡😡
I feel sweary. I feel ranty and shouty and full of words my Dad would get cross with me for using (even though he taught me most of them) I’m even tempted to use the ‘c’ one (& I don’t meant Christmas) – sharp intake of breath.
But I can’t have a good shout, unleash a stream of invective because yet again we are in-patient on Hotel NHS and there are a lot of very small people around whose parents would quite understandably be distinctly unimpressed.
So I’ll do my ranting, raving and effing and jeffing here on my blog; after all I did start my musings some years back in an effort to make sense of it all. Life that is. It’s been cathartic to brain fart away. Download and dump the crap (d’ya see what I did there?!)
Half the time I start a blog post with some vague notion of what I want to write about but no idea what will spout forth. I usually feel better by the end. I’d love to be all coy and twee and say I don’t care if people read it or not but actually that would be a lie. I do care. I suppose I need some validation.
Tonight however I REALLY need you to read it, share it, spread the word. Because I’m sick of the powers that be getting away with it. Letting down vulnerable children. Leaving families in crisis, drowning in despair and fracturing already fraught and taut relationships.
3 weeks ago today we took our local authority (LA) to a special educational needs tribunal in an effort to secure an appropriate, residential school placement for our high-functioning autistic son.
This was a culmination of 18 months of fighting and battling and relentlessly dealing with the stalling, the hoop jumping bureaucratic, bean-counting process.
Our 14 year old who should have chosen his GCSE options last school year and commenced this September term on the pathway forward to achieve his future potential has been entirely let down and cast aside by THE SYSTEM.
Would it shock and surprise you to learn he’s received less than 2 hours education per day since March 2016? I know it does me.
I also know if we personally elected he only attend school for this woefully inadequate amount of time, over such a long period, we would have been threatened with fines and imprisonment by the education department. But this situation is not of our making so apparently that makes it legal, ok, just tickety-boo and we can all smile sweetly, nod and wave because they are trying THEIR BEST. Except they are not.
The powers that be are far more concerned with covering their departments backside, zealously guarding their pot of funds so they don’t actually have to put it towards what’s in the best interests of the child.
I hasten to add this is NOT the fault of his current school who have done everything and then some to support him and us as a family in providing him with a suitable education whilst time ticks on relentlessly. But they don’t have the resources or specialist autism knowledge to support the style of learning and can’t provide the low-sensory low-stimulating environment he needs to facilitate his learning.
Even so his mainstream school have strived to do all they can; he has 1:1, sometimes even 2:1 sessions in an area well away from the hustle and bustle of the main school. They have come up with creative and thoughtful ways to stimulate him; to forge a kinesthetic approach that captures his imagination where they can. But it’s not working.
On that at least the LA are in agreement on. But that’s pretty much where it ends.
I knew I should have smelled a stinking, great dirty rat when the placement panel convened in October last year and agreed that our son did indeed require a specialised educational establishment.
Not for us the refusal to assess for an education health care plan (EHCP), not for us the refusal to grant such a plan and not for us the dispute over main stream or specialist placement. So I should have known. It had all come to us far too easily.
Having had the benefit and heartbreak of reading other parents accounts of the lengths they have had to go to even just to get their LA to agree to assess, I knew we had been extremely, for want of a better word, ‘lucky’
But really that’s where our luck ran out. It’s much harder than you think to find appropriate, specialist education. There are a myriad of schools out there meeting complex and varied needs but how do you narrow it down?
In actuality your LA are supposed to help you with this too. They paid lip service to it so I ended up resorting to google and a pick and mix approach, narrowed down by area of expertise and geographical location.
I’ll spare you the laborious ins and outs of the very lengthy and exhausting process. Suffice to say, after panel sat in January 2017, they decided they didn’t have enough information on our case to make a decision. Sigh.
In February 2017, although all the information from the 3 schools we had received provisional offers of placement from (we had approached more than 12 by this point who couldn’t meet our son’s needs) the panel asked to consult with yet another 3 schools. Of course if they had read the case notes properly they would have seen that 2 out of the 3 had already been approached by us and felt unable to offer a place. The remaining school was full and wasn’t suitable for reasons I’m not at liberty to go into. It would be an understatement to say I was fuming.
The assessment and review officer (ARO) acting for the LA tried her best and wanted to expedite matters instead of making us wait till the March sitting. She was new and fed duff information from people higher up the food chain who left her carrying the can after dangling false promises.
The people with THE POWER don’t like taking your phone calls. They are it seems unable to respond to email, even when you have their direct email address. Their phones must also be unable to make out going calls as they never call back and mysteriously all voicemails go awol. Or something.
Apparently they can reply to your local MP if he/she gets in touch after you have involved them and made them aware of your dissatisfaction but only with vague promises that matters are in hand and will be dealt with. A word to the wise: don’t hold your breath.
So March 2017: to our dismay, panel named a wholly inappropriate day-placement school some hour or so away from our home which they expected our son to travel to and fro on a twice daily basis.
Having previously viewed this particular school, I had submitted a lengthy explanation highlighting why the establishment, the cohort of students, the academic remit (or lack thereof) and lack of opportunity to promote our son’s social/emotional development in a holistic over-arching approach to his education were not just incompatible but potentially very damaging and in the worst case scenario likely to exacerbate his anxiety, self harm tendencies, suicidal idealisations and more extreme behavioural difficulties. These concerns were also backed up by his psychiatrist and psychologist from CAMHS (child adolescent mental health) in 2 separate letters.
It will hardly comes as a surprise that the school the LA had selected was the cheapest option.
I was swiftly reminded that the LA only have a duty to provide an education for my child and if they can prove that is enough, it doesn’t matter what we know to be in his best interest, what has already proved dividends in students with a similar make up, what’s in the best interest of society over the long term in aiding him to achieve his potential, thus ensuring he contributes economically, socially and attains independence; to negate relying on the state for benefits, or support services. The school we have found and the costs associated with it are ‘incompatible with the public purse’ and therefore they can refuse to provide it.
They accepted the school we had found is superior in every way; they accepted it could meet need and that like on like it would (based on past performance of students very like our son) offer him the best opportunity and chance of success going forward. Indeed The Judge at tribunal was very clear on all these points.
Yet the LA refused to concede. They have played dirty; suggested we have stalled the case by refusing to ask for an earlier tribunal date – although fully aware that the independent educational psychologist we had asked for input from couldn’t assess until the end of June. Paradoxically, once the extremely enlightening report had been shared with the LA and we suggested moving up court proceedings, they couldn’t accede to our request.
Although the statutory dates for submission of evidence were clearly set out in writing and which both parties agree to abide by, the LA suddenly found a pressing need for their own educational psychologist to assess our son, although they hadn’t deemed it necessary since the previous visit a year ago. Funnily enough they then asked for the revised report be admitted into late evidence.
Surprisingly they also suddenly discovered a letter that had been ‘misplaced’ from our son’s psychiatrist (and which we had never been party to even though we have always been copied into all other correspondence to date) which were counter to 2 previous letters she had written supporting the need for a residential specialist school and expressing her grave concerns to him being placed in an environment such as that outlined in the LA’s chosen school. How very curious indeed that all this information had only just come to light…..
To be continued….