SEND

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Loss

Published July 2, 2019 by thefamilyof5

At big girls special school the year 11’s left last Friday. Big girl told me Thursday night. (Last year the first I knew of it was an email from school telling me she’s cried the entire day, and then she came home and raged).

A quick e-mail to school and I was assured by the head that big girl would not be involved in the leavers assembly and she could be taken somewhere quiet instead. I explained how the themes of loss would be too much and likely to trigger her own feelings of loss. I also explained that as the day was likely to be tainted by themes of loss they’d need to keep a close eye on her. I asked them to move her to somewhere quiet if she showed any signs of upset during the day. I explained that it was unlikely she would be able to explain how she was feeling and would likely misplace any feelings of sadness to the ‘leavers’. I was assured this would be fine and staff would be made aware to keep a close eye on her.

I got an email late Friday to let me know big girl had been upset most of the day and was still upset when she’d left school. I replied instantly to check they’d moved her to somewhere quiet as agreed, but no reply came.

Shortly after I received the email, big girl burst though the door. Dysregulated and clearly overwhelmed. It wasn’t safe for me to ask her about her day. It wasn’t really safe for me to engage in any communication at all.

Until Sunday.

Big girl told me that on Friday she’d expressed feeling sad to her teacher. So it was then decided that because she was ‘missing out’ on the leavers assembly, they’d make special arrangements for her to attend the leavers party instead!!

So Friday, in an already unregulated state, she was taken the leavers party, for almost 2hours, with music, sugary foods (we have explained to school the issues big girl has with food and why it’s important she isnt given food treats/rewards in school) and dancing, in fact, all of the things that she hates and finds utterly overwhelming, with an extra huge helping of ‘loss’ to go with it.

Explains our difficult weekend!

Mr FO5 and I explained to big girl that we were concerned by the actions of school and as such she wouldn’t able to return. She was instantly a much happier child. Like a huge weight had been lifted. I asked her to grab a pen and paper and write down exactly how she was feeling at that very moment.

So now I await an explanation from school about what happened Friday and why.

I also received a phonecall Friday from our local authority who advised me that they’d reassessed big girls EHCP and decided that the current provision could meet her needs. I can’t repeat my response but I can tell you it’s unlikely they’ll ever telephone me again! In fact, I followed up the conversation with an email and requested they keep all communications in e-mail from now on.

Given the on-going issues over the last 18 months, we’ve requested tuition that takes place outside of the home i.e. local library or some type place. This will mean she isn’t home full time, which we’ve already discovered doesn’t work for her, and it will give her an opportunity to eventually, independently, travel to her place of study which would be a huge step in boosting her self confidence and independence skills, of which at almost 15, she has none. She will be able to attend social activities with us meaning she isn’t constantly overwhelmed by peers. Big girl isn’t really very sociable when it comes to peers. She much prefers adult company or to be with very young children/toddlers.

I received a draft copy of the EHCP yesterday, it makes for difficult reading, it’s very clear that big girl struggles with all aspects of a school environment. I’m not sure what the panel within the LEA read but it can’t have been the same as what I read.

So I now have big girl at home which means she’s super happy but it’s super hard for everyone else, I have to appeal the draft of big girls EHCP and get the LEA to agree a school setting just isn’t right for her, oh and I still haven’t heard a single word about the safeguarding referral that was made 4 weeks ago!

I’m tired of everything being such a huge battle, I’d really like to be able to get on with being a mom to ALL of my children. I just need professionals to take the time to understand my children and their needs.

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Let there be light….

Published December 1, 2017 by thefamilyof5

The second bit of good news from this week came yesterday in the form of a phone call.

Last year, when we were fighting to get funding for tuition from big girls ECHP, we built a really supportive and understanding relationship with a manager in the local authority SEND team. She really took the time to get to know us as a family and really heard us when we explained what the girls needs were. I’m confident if it wasn’t for her, taking the time to really listen to us, we’d still be fighting for tuition now. 

After visiting our local special school with that same manager from the SEND team this week, it was agreed that it wasn’t suitable for big girl. The upshot of this, is that the school we really feel is the most likely to be manageable for big girl, is now considered our nearest suitable school. This means that the local authority will provide transport! (If none of this makes sense, go back about 3 posts and all will fall in to place, I think).

The plan was always for her (and her sisters) to return to formal education, this is perhaps just slightly sooner than we planned, but it feels right and even more so with recent events.

Big girls attachment difficulties impact her ability to receive an education from me and inturn that can impact our schedule each day. Her autism makes socialising more difficult, and her attachment style means she avoids it. This really isn’t helpful for her, she needs friends, she needs  ‘no strings’ connections and social interactions with peers. I’m hopeful that she will eventually feel a sense of belonging at this school once she realises she is with children just like her, and who make no emotional demands of her (unlike family, inadvertently, does). Hopefully she’ll find herself.

So now we plan the transition. Big girl is still unaware of this plan, until we have concrete plans to share with her it’s better kept quiet, she’s far too emotionally fragile at the moment to manage such uncertainty. I’m hoping that we can start things pretty quickly, ideally before Christmas with a full time timetable implemented early January. 

I can’t fix everything for her, but I can do everything in my power to give her everything she needs to be the best that she can be. 

If only she knew how much she was loved.

Who’s to blame?

Published March 22, 2016 by thefamilyof5

I’m feeling really annoyed right now, REALLY annoyed, let me fill you in.

When we first heard about the girls we were told there were no developmental or learning concerns, we met with their school and nursery and were told they were ‘an absolute pleasure’, meeting all their milestones and learning inline with average expectations. Alarm bells should have rang in my head when Big girls year 1 Teacher couldn’t quite remember who her friends were or whether she wrote with her left hand or her right hand, or ate school dinners or packed lunches, ‘she’s a happy little soul’ we were told. Baby girl and Middle girl attended a nursery together and aside from lots of wishy washy information about how lovely they were and how pretty they were, they didn’t really tell us much either. Id never spoken to a teacher before that day, in fact the last time I’d been inside a school at that point, was as a student myself. I didn’t know what to ask, or what to look out for and none of the professionals supporting us gave us any pointers either, they were all too busy telling us how great it would all be. And we believed them.

We enrolled them all in school/nursery before we’d even met them, on the advice of the social workers that did know them. Apparently getting them in to a routine was paramount. No one suggested a period at home attaching to their new family, might be of benefit and I didn’t for one minute think it would be, why would I when I was surrounded by social workers that I believed to be experienced and far more knowledgeable than me about the needs of these 3 children, I hadn’t yet met. So they started school a few weeks after placement at the beginning of the school year in September with everyone else, apparently this was important to helping them feel they belonged. In hindsight, a year at home, attaching and building secure foundations would have been what would have really helped them feel like they truly belonged in this world, never mind in school.

It quickly became apparent that the reading that the foster carer had said big girl had been doing every day, was a lie. Turned out big girl did ‘read’ a book every night and she ‘got’ a sticker on her reward chart for doing so, but she read alone, in her head, with no one listening to her and apparently she never really got a sticker either because they didn’t get round to buying any (hardly surprising she finds it so difficult to let people know her needs is it). Big girl had become very skilled at being invisible, that’s why her teacher had been so vague, she barely knew big girl. She started year 2 at her new school barely able to read her own name.  The social worker and schools answer to this was to use a fund available for Looked After Children, aged over 5, for educational support to fund some additional tuition. So at ages 5 and 6 Big girl and Middle girl went off to a tutor for an hour a week for around 12 weeks (that’s all the fund would cover). Yes its true, I’m not making this up, and yes, I was stupid enough to believe this would be beneficial learning for them. Of course it wasn’t and had absolutely zero impact on anything other than the placing authority being able to tick a box. We plodded on. They fell more and more behind as their anxiety levels increased.

It was approximately 4 years before we requested the girls adoption files from the placing authority, they didn’t make it easy for us to access files and refused to share most of them with us. We discovered, along with some more alarming stuff, that Big girl and Middle girl had been in their nursery setting when the social workers arrived and took them in to care. No one thought to mention this, or how the impact of being taken away from their family, whilst in an educational setting, might impact their ability to feel safe in similar environments in the future ie anywhere away from home. I don’t know ‘how’ baby girl was taken, how traumatic that may have been, I guess that information is within one of the withheld files, given her issues with separation anxiety, I’m guessing it wasn’t pretty.

We battled on through primary schools trying to educate school staff about trauma and neglect and the lasting effects it has on children, whilst also trying to get to grips with things ourselves and navigate our way through an education system, with its confusing abbreviations that no one ever really explains to you; IEP’s, EYFS, EHCP’s, SENCO’s and SEN, with no one there to help us, or even guide us. There is no parent support school advisory service that is experienced, or even has a vague idea on the needs and rights of Adopted children. Hell, schools don’t even know this stuff. Your on ya own!

Here we are, 6 years later, battered and bruised, at our wits end and forced to Home Educate 3 traumatised children. They are all academically many many years behind their peers (despite cognitive results that say they’re more than capable of average progress, in fact baby girl should have been top of her class, not years behind), all completely unable to feel safe in a school environment, and at least 2 of which appear likely to be dyslexic. Its all now left to me to close those gaps, recap the missed EYFS, provide an education and do what schools have been unable to do with their loud busy unpredictable environments, oh and with zero help. Their entire future prospects now lie in my hands! No pressure eh!

Yes zero help, you did read that right! The girls are finally in a position whereby they actually CAN learn, their anxiety is at an all time low, they’re feeling safe in their environment and they’re finally learning! Our LEA have decided though that because we have ‘chosen’ to home educate, yes they feel its was completely our ‘choice’, that they are under no obligation to provide any support, not even via the EHCP that provided £1000’s of pounds worth of funding to school to support Big girls needs, or even a sniff of the £5700 (£1900 each) in pupil premium plus that schools got to support their needs, no, nothing, not a penny, no tutor, no help, no support what so ever. Because apparently ‘a school can meet their needs’. Pah!

Now is it just me that thinks that if a school could meet their needs then they wouldn’t have progressively fallen so far behind academically, that mental health wouldn’t have deteriorated to the point that Big girl needed antidepressants, just to manage school!? Does that sound like ‘school can meet their needs’ to you? No, I didn’t think so. It is in fact just a pathetic excuse for the LEA to absolve themselves of any responsibility for providing my already vulnerable children with the education they deserve and so desperately need due to not having had their educational needs met in school for the last 6 years!

So who’s to blame?

The placing authority for not being realistic about what my girls really needed in those early days?

The Local Education Authority for not providing a good enough education for my girls for the last 6 years?

The local authority for not helping us now?

Or me, for trusting them all?

I guess the real question is which one do I take to court first!

 

 

 

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