By Rosie and Jo’s mum
This is a description of a meeting I recently attended at Jo’s school.
For an hour and a half, I set round a table with a group of people, care, education and therapy staff, who worked on three basic principles:
- A child will make progress if you remove the barriers that prevent it.
- Parents know their child best.
- Children will tell the truth about what they need.
I’m sure there are specific children, families or situations for whom these three principles do not all apply but I believe that, in general they can provide a good foundation for the planning and implementation of SEND support.
The school staff listened carefully to me and to each other, asked considered questions to gain a deeper understanding, looked for ways to provide the right support (instead of excuses not to) and agreed realistic plans that I felt confident would be implemented quickly, effectively and with integrity.
Not once did anyone suggest that Jo was asking for more than she needed, was trying to manipulate anybody, was looking for excuses to avoid things she didn’t feel like doing or was lying to me.
Nobody told me that they were surprised to hear that she had a problem with a situation they had observed because she had appeared to be fine or happy.
Nobody suggested that I was the one who was anxious or that I was meeting my own needs by exaggerating hers. Nobody questioned my parenting in any way or suggested that my expectations were unrealistic.
They talked through ideas for support with commitment and creativity. Making suggestions that they sometimes shot down themselves when it became apparent that they couldn’t work. They were clear that they wouldn’t try anything they didn’t feel confident was likely to be successful. This was no tick-box exercise.
The staff are ambitious for Jo and deeply caring. They do not expect her to become less autistic in order to access her education and they understand that chronic, unmanageable anxiety cannot be tolerated because it hampers learning and destroys mental health. They also place great importance on her being able to trust the adults caring for her and being able to enjoy her time in school.
We each ended the meeting with a deeper understanding of Jo’s needs and how they could be met in school. We agreed a plan that requires us to work in close cooperation, as a team of equals and I have every confidence this is exactly what will happen. I also believe that they will take what they learned in the meeting and build on it.
Best of all I could see that they relished the prospect of rising to new challenges and working creatively to find solutions that have evaded the professionals that preceded them.
It’s been a long road to get here. The system and some of the people along the way have been abusive in the extreme. The cost of securing the right provision has been unacceptably high in far too many ways but today’s meeting reminded me that it was worth the battle because Jo has a future again.
This school is well resourced because it is a specialist independent but the most important aspects of the provision, those three basic principles, are free. Any school could use them and, by doing so, they could possibly avoid causing trauma to other children which results in them ending up, like Jo, having to live away from home to access an education or, more likely, just being unable to access a school education.