There’s a sense of calm in the house that we haven’t experienced in years. A sense of promise for the summer to come. A quiet determination to wring out every single ounce of fun. It’s a really lovely feeling.
And it’s no coincidence that this is my first blog for months. I felt I should try to share the positives on this parenting journey too (not just the horror) but I’ve found the positives harder to write. So first, a little backstory…
J had his first annual review in February 2018. I prepared like a military campaign. Agreed date with SENDCO – check. Organise up-to-date assessments from J’s therapists – check. SENDCO invites case manager – check. SENDCO invites LA therapists – check. SENDCO invites Head of SEN Services – wait, what!? SENDCO invites teacher and 1-2-1 – now this is getting silly! There were so many people there on the day that we had to co-opt the deputy heads office.
I had a full folder of documents with me and took notes on a laptop. I find that the appearance of professionalism and efficiency helps me to get my point over firmly but fairly. It’s my own mask. It helps me take the emotion and the fear out of the situation. It helps me get the results J needs.
It was a very productive 2-hour meeting. J had only hit 2 of his 10 objectives and the school and I agreed that an alternative placement was required. The LA did not object. I was to be given a list of potential in-borough schools. I flagged the out of borough private schools that may also be a match.
After the meeting, I felt like I’d been punched hard. I think the enormity and the emotion just came rushing in. My baby would be moving out of mainstream. The threat now would be getting him into the right provision rather than the one convenient for the LA. If it went wrong he could end up in a worse place. I was gambling with his future.
Knowing that there was a strong possibility of a tribunal I had begun to prepare the groundwork months earlier. I contacted a couple of renowned educational psychologists and organised a full assessment of J at huge expense. I had also spoken to an advocate through a local charity about how to put a case together for the best possible school. He’d been assessed by two private specialist schools and one had offered a place. I was ready… I was in full fight mode.
As requested by the LA I dutifully called round and emailed all the schools the LA had asked me to. Six in all. Some didn’t respond, one sent me an email full of legalise about why meeting my son’s needs would negatively impact children in that provision, one asked to see his paperwork but then said they couldn’t meet his sensory needs. So far so standard.
It was then that the unthinkable happened. The closest and best autism unit (an SRP attached to a local church school) called and asked to see J’s paperwork. Right age. Right profile. Could I come in to meet them? Could they visit him at school the following week?
They offered him a place the same day.
Did I want him to start at the next half-term? It would be a better transition experience for him than waiting until September. Well yes – that would be great.
Six weeks in and our world has changed so much. He misses his friends from his old class but he’s in a class of 8 with two great teachers and TA’s. Therapies are integrated. Sensory diets are managed in the classroom. Communication between home and school is good-natured, led entirely by J’s needs, and we have calls where we simply explore ideas (testing his medication levels, managing extra-curricular and social activities, anything that I need and which helps them) and we make plans.
He is calmer. He is happy. He isn’t the only child like him in the classroom. Life is moving at his pace. He may never catch up academically but we have three calm years in a positive environment to look forward to and for once the deck seems to be stacked in his favour.
So now you’re up to date. And we have 5 weeks of fun and frolics ahead of us this summer. Beyond this single summer I can only pray for stability – a well-matched placement, a quiet period to try and get my work life back on track, start to save again, create some financial stability, and to get us both mentally ready for what lies beyond primary. But not today….