“Well if she had tried everything, then that was the time to bring in someone with some more expertise.”
…said the rather sound, very experienced, occupational therapist (OT).
Peter’s Year 1 teacher had told me that she had tried “Lots of carrot and lots of stick” and that “Nothing worked”.
Peter’s OT was intuitive, inquisitive, child-led and had had additional post-graduate level training in sensory integration. He first saw her in Year 4 and for some reason the subject of his Year 1 difficulties had come up in conversation.
Sounds so obvious to me now, but until the OT uttered these words it had never even crossed my mind that the Year 1 teacher should have realised that Peter needed a more skilled assessment of his learning needs.
Had the Year 1 teacher been more enquiring then she might have seen the signs of communication difficulties, of dyslexia, of visual motor integration difficulties and the complexities that come with literal and rigid thinking in a bright child, desperate to camouflage and to blend in, at school. The clues were there, and he was already being seen by a Clinical Psychologist for anxiety and probable social communication difficulties.
The moral of the story is this – if your child isn’t managing well then there is more that should be considered.
The school may be supportive and you may feel that they are doing all they can, but all children should be supported so that they have a fair chance of ‘achieving their best‘ – it says so in the SEND Code of Practice.
So, even if school are supportive and seem to be trying their best:
- if your child is still struggling to manage in school (anxiety, sensory overload….)
- becoming exhausted after school with ‘coping’
- not learning at a pace that properly reflects their ability or
- unable to manage a few fulfilling friendships
then, frankly, it’s not enough and their ‘barriers to learning’ should be re-assessed.
“Barriers to learning” is a real thing. Every child with SEN should have a written plan of support that identifies them and the support they need. It says that in the SEND Code of Practice too.
If your school and his or her teacher are helpful and supportive then that is worth a huge amount, but on its own it’s not always enough. Our children don’t need a “Gold Standard” education (as we can sometimes be accused of aiming for) – they need “good enough” education and one that gives them the same chance as their peers of achieving their best. Some children need accommodations and additional targeted support to enable this, so if their existing support isn’t working then I suggest it may need to be reviewed.
What does “good enough” look like? I would expect that a child receiving ‘good enough’ education:
- can go to school everyday without elaborate support before and afterwards and debilitating mental exhaustion every few weeks
- can comfortably attend lessons
- are taught in a way that enables them to learn
- produce work that properly reflects their level of ability
- can participate in and enjoy social aspects, the wider curriculum and perhaps extra curricular activities?
What should happen if “good enough” isn’t happening?
- … the SEN Plan of Support that they have and which identifies their barriers to learning, how these have been assessed and the support they need… should be reviewed
yeah right… and pigs might fly…
- … and then an appropriately trained expert will come and support the teacher and assess your child
again… those pigs are more likely to be airborne 😦
Peter’s Year 1 teacher was the one with the patronising head tilt that accompanied “But he’s fine in school” (see part 4) and the knowing and ‘authoritative’ “it’s quite normal, normal, normal” in relation to Peter’s difficulties. She was relatively new and told us she had only ever worked (and trained) in this one village school. When he was 5 ½ she wrote this in his book:
“Peter was very unfocused. Rest of table quiet and writing and not distracting. Peter entered discussion and oral retell but when prompted to write he replied “I’m just thinking about it at the moment” but could verbalise sentence perfectly and knew letters etc for writing. Needs a lot of 1:1 pushing/prompting/assisting even though perfectly able and capable”
The school report she wrote was crazy, each sentence contradicting the previous one, but in a way this was right. In a way it did describe Peter and I can’t help but think that with a good dollop of humility, some SEN training, a good skilled mentor should could have been really good.
Even in this economic climate training and support is possible, humility though is another matter altogether.
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