A step in a new direction….

When you are the parent of children who need extra support you find yourself on a hamster wheel of seeking support. Because the world rather annoyingly doesn’t say “Oh, look, your child needs extra support, I wonder why that is? Shall I easily offer you assessments and help provide you with an answer?” it is mostly left up to us parents and care givers to:

1. Firstly recognise that a question needs to be asked;

2. Work out what questions we need to ask;

3. Find the right person to ask the questions to (this is generally more than one agency);

4. Work out who can refer us to the right angency/agencies;

5. Allow time for a delay regarding funding for said agency;

6. Wait a year or more for an appointment (and generally add in more questions by the time you finally have the appointment;

7. Wait for even longer whilst the agency works out if they are the right agency to answer the question and provide a helpful answer. 

8. Most likely have to start all over again with another question and another agency. 

9. Rinse and repeat ad infinitum.

Sometimes there are people within those agencies who go that little bit above and beyond and make an enormous difference to your life. We have been lucky to have had several such people over the past few years. These have notably been our Post Adoption Social Worker; The FASD Clinic in Surrey; Pip’s Clinical Psychologist (funded by the Adoption Support Fund); Katie’s Occupational Therapist (funded by the Adoption Support Fund); both children’s CAMHS psychiatrist (they have the same one); Katie’s Head Teacher and Pip’s SEN caseworker. Pip’s school SENCO makes it onto the list because I recognise how much work she does and also Pip’s home tutor. I’m just still struggling to forgive the school for their treatment of us. For my own health I do need to let it go but there are still a few loose ends to tie up on that one first. Sadly Katie’s SEN Caseworker does not make it onto the list but that’s a post for another day. Let’s just say the complaint is still ongoing so I’ll reserve comment until the outcome of that. When I look at this paragraph I can see it’s quite a list and for that I’m grateful. It’s good to see that there is support around you because it feels like a very isolating journey at times. 

Pip has now been out of school completely for nearly 18 months. It’s been a very challenging 18 months as I have written about before. It’s been a complex time unravelling his school’s initial (and hopefully not enduring) judgements that all his problems were due to my over protective parenting. I actually don’t mind being called over protective mostly because someone had to be his caped crusader. It hasn’t been the education system, that’s for sure. When Pip was struggling to go into school he would tell me that his head wouldn’t let him go inside, even though he wanted to. A number of months ago, after a long recovery at home when his over protective mother decided that continuing to force him into school and distressing him daily possibly wasn’t a good idea, he said to me that he thought the thing inside his brain that wouldn’t let him go to school had now gone.

Once Pip had said this the hunt for the right school started. I knew he couldn’t return to his old school and he needed a specialist school that could meet his educational and emotional needs. I knew I didn’t want an environment that might feel re-traumatising which can be hard to find within an SEMH (social, emotional and mental health) school. I must have read every Ofsted report within a 25 mile radius of home. A local Facebook group provided the best lead of a school that I was hard pressed to find a single parent who was unhappy with it. I contacted the school and had a telephone reply within half an hour of my contact. This was an amazing start. Good communication is a key element for me. After speaking with admissions I knew I wanted to have a chance to look around. At this point the local authority had to send in Pip’s EHCP for the school to read to see if they felt they could meet need on paper. He was then offered an assessment visit. This concerned me because it was for nearly a whole school day and would involve a school tour followed by Pip flying solo for all the assessments (learning, SALT and OT). This is a child who struggles to engage with things like that so the question was, how would he cope? 

We had to wait 6 weeks for the day to arrive. I had prepared Pip to the best of my ability. We drove the 40 minutes to the school, set in the countryside and looking rather like Hogwarts. As first impressions go it was very positive. Nerves were bubbling but Pip and I walked up to find the entrance. We were immediately helped to find our way by a passing teacher. Another good first impression. The tour of the school went well and then Pip willingly went off with each therapist for his assessments. I was amazed. Who was this child and where was Pip? He came back looking relaxed and happy. Finally a meeting with the Head and Deputy Head. Pip was very nervous but they soon put him at his ease. Then we had lunch. Chicken nuggets! Result! 

As we returned to the car to drive home Pip’s first words to me were “What will I do if they don’t offer me a place?” I was almost blown away with emotion. I asked him how he was able to go so confidently for his assessments and he replied “I just felt safe there mum”. As endorsements go, I cannot imagine one better than that.

Less than a week later I had a call from the school offering him a place. Pip was delighted but we couldn’t celebrate just yet. We had to wait for the local authority funding panel to approve funding for the placement offer. In the meantime the national deadline for Year 7 transition meant a totally inappropriate school was named on his EHCP. Due to the time delay for the funding panel which was still 6 weeks away, I had to start an Appeal. More paperwork. Paperwork which we hoped wouldn’t be necessary for either me or the local authority but had to be done just in case funding wasn’t approved. In the current educational climate there is no given regarding funding,

Today, I received an email from Pip’s SEN caseworker to say she had managed to get Pip into an earlier funding panel and the panel had approved the funding for the school. We weren’t expecting an outcome for several weeks yet so this was wonderful news. Pip’s SEN caseworker has continually done little things to help us along and I have huge gratitude for her, just as all the professionals I named who have sat in seemingly endless meetings to clarify the provision Pip needs. Without them, this school might not have been a possibility. 

So now we await the details of when he starts. We were provisionally told he will start introductions in June and then start properly in September. Based on that I have booked in for our kitchen and bathrooms to be ripped out and rebuilt in the interim so I’m happy with that scenario. Pip was delighted with the news today. He punched the air with his hand and said he felt happy. Whilst I know from experience that this is just the first step on the ladder and reintegration may not be possible, I feel as confident and as optimistic as I can be that this is the right school for Pip to try with. It’s a wonderful opportunity and he feels positive about it. So, for today, my cup runneth over and there is a little rainbow on the horizon. That’ll do me! 

Now to finish that complaint for Katie. The gloves are already off I can tell you….


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