D received her Statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN) at age five and a half. It was very much welcomed as she wasn’t coping in mainstream education at all and we knew that for her to go down the special needs school route, she needed a statement.

Her statement was refused at the first attempt and I remember feeling so absolutely powerless, very emotional and really quite baffled that someone who had never met our daughter and was unlikely to meet her, decided her fate based on budgetary assumptions, she was a number on a sheet.  

It was an extremely emotional time, on the occasions that D would enter the classroom willingly (not that often), she’d soon become overwhelmed by the sensory issues associated with a class of over 30, and as I understand it, spent most of her school day either outside in the hallway with her teaching assistant or on the lowest grade table because staff didn’t understand her needs.

One of her teachers described her to me as “flighty”. Nice eh? So, a statement was very much needed, both to meet D’s future needs and to reassure us, as D’s parents, that she was in the setting most appropriate for her needs.

Luckily D’s statement was granted after an appeal and within six weeks she was offered a place at a Special Educational Needs school, somewhere where she has felt safe and with the smaller class size and higher staff ratio she has flourished.  

She entered her new school too traumatised to read, could just about trace her name, and totally unable to enter a busy classroom/dinner hall/assembly without being overcome and melting down.

She’s 13 now and school is still working to her original statement. Every annual review the box that says “amendment needed” is ticked and then we get a letter from the Local Education Authority saying they’ve checked it and it doesn’t!

Tomorrow though we take the first steps to transferring D to an EHCP, one that should see her through to age 25. Finally!

Having a SEN child (or children) can make for a large number of meetings and I thought I’d share our tips for preparing for them.

Write down what you want to mention -It’s easy to imagine you’ll remember something you want to say, but write it down! Any meetings regarding your child can get emotional as you are concerned for their wellbeing and want the best for them, it’s natural to cry, we invest so much time and energy into trying to do our best.  Write it down and have a tissue in your bag/pocket.  Put a water bottle in too. 

Invite others -If you have been consulting a professional (e.g. speech and language, educational psychologist) and you feel their input would benefit the meeting but they haven’t been invited, ask them to attend.  It would be a reassurance for you. If they can’t attend, ask that they submit a report.

Take a picture -I don’t mean of the meeting attendees, but a picture of your child, show the people at the meeting who they are, a reminder that you’re talking about someone rather than “x” on a budget sheet. Or, if a video of your child would help demonstrate needs, ask if it can be played.  

Are we set? Hopefully, as long as my “scarfeet” behave (affectionate term for my post-op feet since last October) and I’ve had a coffee, I hope so.

Because our D is depending on us and we want the very best we can for her. 

Read more of Jeannette's Blogs at Autismmumma