At times, I feel inadequate and unable to look after my child in all the ways that I need to. There are so many battles for any parent with a disabled child to fight that at times it feels that no matter how hard I try, some I will eventually lose. This has been the case with the Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP). The panel basically decided my child’s needs were not significant enough and that the Local Offer would suffice unless her new teachers feel she needs more.

For us, from before my daughter’s diagnosis, it was obvious that she was not at the same academic level as those of the same age. Though struggles with hearing loss and then later with the symptoms of ADHD also had an impact on how she was learning, it has always been a worry. However I feel especially lucky that people who work with my child have always tried to do their best, and that my daughter is a force to be reckoned with despite her special needs, she has never stopped progressing at her own speed which is amazing.

At times, I was under the illusion that EHCPs were magical and that having one would offer her something more. The sad truth is that the EHCP does not offer much more. I was told not to expect much as there is no provision and it was just a piece of legal paper. The whole process I found to be totally parent un-friendly, it made me feel inadequate, stressed and frustrated. We were regularly told that hardly anyone actually manages to get an EHCP, so why bother?

We applied for an EHCP when our daughter was nine, which was two years after she had been diagnosed, and it was obvious in tests that she was under the expected level. I had no idea what I was doing; at times the whole process seemed to consume me, trying to get reports and advice, chasing letters from specialists, taking advice from everyone involved in our child’s care. 18 months later we finally had the decision for the first attempt, which was a no. During those 18 months we had already taken the decision to move our daughter to a smaller school that was able to offer smaller class sizes and was geared towards children with special needs. Our daughter’s school was managing under the Local Offer to provide support, and teachers went above and beyond in regards to helping her learn and grow in confidence. This was reflected in the decision.

Due to a change seven months after the last one was declined, we did it again. This time she was refused on the grounds that she would be in the nurture unit of the local high school. OK, but at the time she wasn't even guaranteed a place in the nurture unit, but the Local Authority decided that even so, she would have support under the Local Offer. We were left with “if the needs of the child change, apply again”. Luckily we haven’t had to, her high school have been supportive and have agreed to start putting evidence together in case a decision is made to re-apply.

I don’t understand why they have to make the process so painful and difficult for parents. At times it made me feel like I was the bad guy, like I had been given this beautiful talented girl who needs support to help her and that I was just wasting someone’s time. I know I am not the bad guy, I'm her mum and I will continue to fight for her, any which way I can.

If you do consider an EHCP I would suggest:

  • Reading up - specialists and doctors all like to use long words.
  • Talk to your child’s teachers, they may have been through the process before and could help explain and gather evidence.
  • Research your Local Offer, get advice from websites like Special Needs Jungle or local organisations.
  • Take any offers of help and advice from those that have been through the process or those that know the process.
  • Make sure you read up on your rights and the rights of your child, take notes, write everything down so you don't forget it.

Most importantly, give yourself a break. Don't get so bogged down in the process that it makes you stressed, remember – you’re doing your best!!!

Find out more about Leanne and raising a daughter with ADD at www.leannesihm.wordpress.com