I recall attending a Local Authority Special Education Needs (SEN) coffee morning in 2008 for parents, where you got to meet, greet, and get close and personal with the names on the letters and voices at the other end of phone. During a segment of the speech by a figurehead, a lady began responding to him as you would a quickfire round quiz.

“We are always available to speak with you” he quipped.

“Don’t lie, don’t lie to the people” she screamed.

“At the end we will supply our contact details as it’s important to speak with parents as we recognise you to be the experts on your children”, he continued with his eyes transfixed on her.

“Heh! Look at you, lying over there. When we call you, nobody answers just a machine, and no one calls back. Liar, lying!” she screeched.

His cheeks were now as rouged as a strawberry, he cleared his throat continuing, “Even after compulsory school age, we support young people to ensure successful training and futures for them all”.

“Yeah right pull the other one mate” came a male voice at the front of the stage.

“Liar, liar, you lie, liar, don’t think I don’t know or understand because I have an accent, you will see, liar” the lady said and sat down.

All the other parents and I all stared at her in silence, in disbelief, in discomfort and confused at how such a well dressed lady could behave in such a manner. It was clear to us this wasn’t her first rodeo as two members of the Local Authority tried to usher her out, but she shouted that she had a right to be at the community hall as it wasn’t their offices like last time.

However, we all continued to stare at her until lunch was announced, it was just my luck that I had to end up behind her, great I thought.

Upon being served lunch the server had clearly seen her display as she was given half the portions of everyone else in our line, I was embarrassed by this. I offered her my plate and explained I’d share with my son.

The table she went to sit at became vacant upon her sitting down, with the evacuees laughing and sniggering. Again, I felt bad so I got my son and went to sit with her.

This is the best thing that ever happened to me, SERIOUSLY! I cheekily said her humour was clearly not appreciated and that maybe a change in tactics was required, giggling nervously. To my surprise she laughed and I wiped the bead of sweat that had been gathering on my forehead.

She explained she had three sons on the spectrum with ranging abilities. As a midwife and a professional, she has had to take extended leave as the Local Authority had not given two of them school places. Whilst the third was in school but his needs were not being met.

The SEN team were avoiding her as she had written, rang, and met the manager who had promised to give all three the parental preferred schools but had now reneged, denying that it had ever occurred.

She claimed they were making things and policies up as they were going along, it was documented that she wasn’t engaging the professionals.

Smirking she explained that she had recorded the meeting. I asked her if she wasn’t worried about possible getting in trouble for it. She clarified that it was for her own purposes and would transcribe it so she was okay.

She urged that:

  • I take a witness/moral supporter in all meetings with the Local Authority
  • I take notes/record meetings
  • I request minutes/notes of all meetings
  • I follow up meetings and phone calls with an email detailing their contents
  • I request all policies and guidelines on matters discussed, then call charities such as Independent Parental Special Education Advice (IPSEA) to verify the law
  • I review all Local Authorities minutes, make amendments and send back to them points of disagreement or inaccuracies
  • I keep a book/folder of any and all contact, timeline
  • I ensure that SEN, education delivery and young people and children’s managers are copied into correspondence.

So, in closing the moral to the story is, although we have all heard the cliché to not judge a book by its cover, we need to bear this in mind at all times and live it.

Professionals are just that. They maybe experts in their fields but not on your child and it will take their partnership, not their dictatorship to ensure positive outcomes and future progression.

The Local Authority officers that ought to know and follow their own processes don’t appear to have a clue, and a neglected very, very passionate parent could easily be perceived to be a difficult/problem parent.

The principles she instilled in me have been my saving grace to date, especially at a tribunal where the Judge told off the Local Authority asking why a professional government body had no minutes or dates of contact when a parent and lay person did! It stood me in good stead.

Sacha is a new Family Fund blogger