Early Intervention does not mean: “send them on a parenting course”

Early Intervention does not mean: “send them on a parenting course”

‘Catch all’ strategies prescribed indiscriminately (and that must be completed before other services are accessed) can’t possibly be the right approach.  Sure, it is a way to manipulate waiting time information to show an improvement.  No doubt it will reduce demand too, as some families simply can’t face it or can’t manage to get there and will stop asking for help, and yes, some may discover their issues can be resolved this way.

However, it’s no different to treating every possibly infected patient with the same bucket load of antibiotics before you allow them to see the GP – some will be made better, some will be in a diabolical state and some would have got better on their own.  It lacks intelligence and thought.  When applied without thought and judgement on an individualised basis it’s a lazy, broad brush, one size fits all pathway.

Just to state the obvious too (but digressing slightly):

  • An exhausted (possibly undiagnosed) autistic parent may find going on a course to a new venue with a bunch of strangers a tad too difficult when they are also at their wits end with exhaustion managing their child’s difficulties.
  • Families with disabled children rarely get to go out as it is – why should they spend their invaluable time away from home on a course designed for neurotypical children or those in a completely different age range.  How about this: understand the child’s difficulties first and then use the parent’s valuable time on appropriately targeted education? Now there’s a thought, eh?
  • How about… running the two things concurrently if you really think a thoughtfully tailored parenting course will help?  The referral (let’s face it parenting courses don’t cure ADHD or autism) AND the referral for assessment…


Back to the point then:

The principles underlying the SEND Code of Practice include:

  • the early identification of children and young people’s needs and early intervention to support them (1.2 page 19),

but it seems to me, that the entire system is designed to delay, delay and delay again this from happening.

There is more to the subject of early intervention that has led to me having several rants, this week in particular.  It’s August.  It’s A level results week and there are been a number of articles on the ‘success despite adversity theme’.

They seem to go as follows:

  • Some poor child (and family) have been subject to hell at school for years.
  • At nursery, the staff couldn’t manage,
  • they had their first detentions in the first few years at school and since then they
  • have racked up more than 50 detentions and
  • a good handful of school changes.  Then,
  • years after starting school – I kid you not – many YEARS later, they get a diagnosis of dyslexia/ADHD/Autism (delete as appropriate).
  • Their last school invested heavily to try to pick up the pieces and repair the damage and now, this one child, (many others will have called by the wayside) has aced their A levels and everyone thinks it’s great.

These children and their families are pretty incredible, but this is not great.  It is an appalling reflection on all those who failed them for years.

It is a demonstration that very many professionals have failed over and over, week after week, year after year to notice the bloody obvious.  The detentions didn’t work, did they?  Doh.  If they did then only a handful would have been needed.

Returning to the antibiotic analogy – it’s like going back to the GP with your symptoms unresolved and the GP continuing to simply repeatedly prescribe the same antibiotics over and over.  No swabs of the throat or wound, no ACTUAL ASSESSMENT, no, no.  Just more of the same.  “They normally work, they do for other (better) people, it’s your fault: you’re obviously using them the wrong way”.

Is there any learning when these cases come to light?  Help me with this, educationalists, OTs, SLTs…  While the general public are busy celebrating and congratulating, are there credible, intelligent professional leaders behind the scenes asking questions and determined to learn from these cases?

Does anyone look at the last 10 children diagnosed with dyslexia/ADHD/Autism (delete as appropriate) in their organisation and look at the cases?  Investigate?  What could have been better?  Why did it take this long?  What are the real costs?  What are the potential gains of getting real ‘early intervention and diagnosis’ in place?  How different would the ‘outcomes’ be?

Is no one allowed to think anymore?


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9 thoughts on “Early Intervention does not mean: “send them on a parenting course”

  1. Hi,

    Brilliant article!

    How much money would be saved on ITF, CAHMS, Social Services if they actually acknowledged there was a learning difficulty rather than ignoring it and blaming Mum???

    Ridiculous system!! ITF (early help) involved due to school refusal and anxiety (school tried to blame me for the anxiety). Because daughter was compliant and quiet at school they couldn’t see it. Well they finally saw it at school for 2 weeks once I sent her back – being sick every day going from her 1:1 back to classroom!! Doctor had recommended gently introducing something if you have a fear – no, of course schools know best!!! ….and then they wonder why I felt anxious too!!!! Bloody idiots!!!!

    ITF looking at my mental health only, rather than the actual reason for daughter’s anxiety – the system is a stitch up!!! The professionals listened to the school rather than me. Thank God it’s starting to change at her new school and daughter will get Dyslexia diagnosis ….although still very worried the school system will destroy her!!

    ….anyway, thank you for speaking up and making me feel that I am not alone. The system needs to change – are you trying to do more about it??

    Kind regards


    Sent from my iPad

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It doesn’t end when you have a diagnosis either. Short-sighted professionals only care if the child is managing t least average, never mind if they are actually capable of a lot more. So long as the child is masking and compliant they don’t care at all and prefer to blame parents and say they are exaggerating or fictionalising. Professionals who are clueless about autism and refuse to listen, are extremely dangerous and harmful.


  3. Sooo true. I have been batling with powers that be to recognise my daughter has issues the past couple of years and have lost count how many times a parenting course has been reccomended… I am a qualified nursery nurse and qualified in health and education.. . Seriously I know what I am talking about!


  4. Brilliant! Thank you for writing this!
    My little boys paediatric consultant blamed me for his issues surrounding food, and for his behaviour.
    He said I needed to go on a parenting course. No mention of my husband (now ex) even though he came to every appointment with us.
    It was a typical patriarchal approach.
    Blame the mother. Clearly she isn’t parenting the right way.


  5. I’m a SENCO and I keep fighting other professionals who won’t help children until the parents have done a parenting course. If the parent doesn’t want to (as their other 5 children are polite/ co-operative/ come to school willingly/ don’t have meltdowns etc) then that child suffers. If the parent agrees to go – as they will do anything for their child- then 12 weeks waiting list + 18 week course + 18 weeks after we-Teresa is nearly a year – it is, in my opinion, morally wrong to not help for a year.


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