Sometimes parents have to teach the teachers about SEN support
I am the parent of two beautiful autistic boys, Cameron aged eight years and Harry aged five years, and a gorgeous baby girl of ten months. I realised things were not right with Cameron’s behaviour after he started school. On the advice of a health visitor we got a referral to a specialist where, after twelve months, he received a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome.
Once you get a diagnosis for your child, not a lot happens. You leave the specialist with a handful of leaflets containing information about the disorder and, depending on the area of the country you live in, contacts for local support groups.
After Cameron’s diagnosis, which was not a surprise but a relief, we were left to get on with it. I did not know where to turn to for information and began to educate myself as much as possible, utilising all resources that were available.
Even though I informed Cameron’s school of his diagnosis, nothing was done to help him and I had to arrange meetings to get them to put some support in place. This did not work out at all and Cameron was receiving only one hour a week of specialist teaching. I later found out that my son’s special needs classes were taken either by an unqualified teaching assistant or a dinner lady. This really wasn’t the help I felt Cameron needed and I ended up educating his class teacher on what she should be doing.
I realised, after talking on forums and to people with autistic children, that some mainstream schools seem to turn a blind eye to children with SEN, and that’s how I felt with this particular school. I did not achieve much during Cameron’s time there and I became increasingly worried and frustrated.
Due to my husband’s work, we moved from the area and headed to a different town with a different local authority. Many people I knew had said that this area had some great mainstream schools with SEN departments, and this was exactly what we found at Cameron’s new school. He was offered a lot of help straight away and all went well until he moved to year three.
The school operated on a two year class system and Cameron shared his class with year four students. From September to the end of December he really struggled. He began to run away from class and was very low and sad. During this time, I began to have regular meetings with the head of the SEN department and we put in place a lot of strategies for Cameron ready to start afresh after Christmas. They worked brilliantly.
These days, I inform the school of anything that has happened which I feel may have an impact on Cameron’s behaviour and I have regular meetings to discuss new things to try. I feel I have finally found people who will listen and who also have the experience and knowledge to help. The results are fantastic and Cameron is a changed boy. He still has his good and bad days, like any child, but I feel more equipped to deal with them as I know I have some supportive professionals available to help me.
My advice to parents in similar situations is to educate yourself on the affects your child’s condition may have on their school life, including their learning, social skills or other difficulties. Request meetings to discuss how the school can support the child and come to a joint agreement where you know exactly what is in place for them when they need it. Working with the school will make it so much easier to achieve a successful outcome for your child.
This article was first published in issue 48 (September/October 2010) of SEN Magazine.