It’s Not Fair

It is clear from the few forums I am on that there are a number whose children’s chronic and prolonged school related distress has resulted in serious and significant harm to their mental health.  Damage that isn’t all reversible and has sometimes led to children being admitted to mental health inpatient units whilst still in primary school.  Bright children who just want to learn and to make friends – so damaged they end up being admitted to psychiatric units 100’s miles from home.  Siblings needing extensive CAMHS support to help them to make sense of the chronic trauma of witnessing their sibling’s distress over and over for years.

You know if your child is distressed in school.  Chronic stress and distress of this sort needs to be addressed (despite what ‘professionals’ advise).  There are plenty of people that can give you examples of what happens if it isn’t.  The recent growth of social media forums means we are no longer isolated thinking it is just us.  We can learn about the common issues and support those who are newer to this overwhelming process.   I want encourage people to keep going and to share what we learned so here is a summary and plenty to think about…….

Tune in to your children.  Don’t use phrases such as ” school refusal” when your children are too stressed and exhausted to cope with another 7 hours of masking their trauma – or being punished for not concealing their distress well enough.  Keep them at home to recover when they need to.  Protect them from trips and “non uniform days” and sports days if necessary.  Do what you know is right and communicate clearly and calmly the reasons.

Getting support is a long game and generally follows awful paths some of the time.  Don’t be surprised when you are lied to and manipulated – but don’t take it personally either.  Don’t expect a single member of school staff to ‘get it’.

Learn to distinguish between an observation and an assumption (Professionals in Education make Too Many Assumptions?) and ask for clarification when you are presented with assumptions rather than observations.

Expect assessments to be just that: “an assessment” and when reports are written based on a conversation with a TA in a pub (yes really) and no meaningful assessment of the child (a chat is not an assessment, a classroom observation is not an assessment…..) write and ask that that is made explicitly clear.

Check out IPSEA and familiarise yourselves with the SEN Code of Practice as there is so much in there that will help you to take a little more control and move the processes forward when you are told “no” or “she won’t qualify for x, y and z”.  Also take a quick look at Geraldine Hills’ book on disability discrimination.  Learn a few bits around illegal exclusion.  The links are here: Useful Links

Make friends with the Education Welfare Officer at your Local Authority before your school calls them!  Tell them you want your child in school all the time and that that is what you are trying to achieve, explain to them how.  For every absence send an email so you have evidence of why each time, don’t take your child home from school early without the proper exclusion paperwork (not my area of expertise but others can advise).

When the same things keep happening start your emails with things like “This is the third time I have emailed in addition to my 2 phone calls”  then the next time “This is my 4th email asking about this difficulty in addition to my 3 calls and our meeting and it seems we are still struggling to get this support right for x”  and so on……

Keep notes and records wherever you can.  When there are gaps in their paperwork, crazy statements and glaring omissions SEND IT BACK!  Send it back again and again till it’s done. If the LA / school don’t have the information they need to fill the gaps then they need to arrange for an additional assessment.

One thing I have noticed is that the parents must behave in a “professional” way at all times.  Calm, respectful and responsive to other people’s ideas.  “Professionals” on the other hand can be breathtakingly dishonest, disrespectful, can act outside of everything that would be considered fair, sensible, reasonable and legal and no one will care about that.  That is the way it is and often we just have to ‘get over’ that and move on.  Complaints generally end in the school making further dishonest statements and for those inclined to bully parents it simply adds an opportunity to do this.

Make full use of the Graduated Approach (page 100 of the SEN COP) whether there is an EHCP in place or not.  Remember “barriers to learning” affect children of all ability levels.  “barriers to learning” can be anxiety, social communication, processing and working memory levels that don’t match overall ability, organising themselves, difficulties managing sensory demands, a mind that is impulsive and flits all over the place and a body that needs to move if the mind is to focus.  Children need to eat and drink if they are to learn!  If they can’t do that in the dining room then REALLY! the school needs to enable it.  Being hungry and thirsty is surely a barrier to learning!!!

I’ll leave it at that for now.  Thanks for reading to the end!  Your comments and views would be much appreciated, and if there is anything in here that a more detailed post would useful about let us know.

Posted by Peter and Lily’s mum.

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