Are those with SEN let down by the system?


Misdiagnosis and a lack of support wreaked havoc on my daughter’s education

At the age of two years, my daughter, Holly, was diagnosed with a learning difficulty and was subsequently sent to a special school. When she was 21, I pushed for a re-diagnosis and was given additional diagnoses of global developmental delay and dyspraxia. However, I didn’t accept this and, after a simple genetic blood test, Holly was then diagnosed with Turner’s syndrome. We are currently making a complaint against the NHS.

During her school years, Holly had problems with maths and English which became much more noticeable from the age of twelve. Numerous visits to her school and conversations with teachers only made me feel that Holly was incapable of learning. Holly felt that nobody was listening to her at school and eventually she stopped saying much at all, except comments in her diary, such as “get me out of this prison”.

The negative feedback she received affected her mind and her confidence, and she is now undergoing a clinical psychological assessment to help her cope with comments made by some teachers at school. Bullying was also a serious problem for Holly and now she is so angry and feels that, despite asking for help, she never received it and was basically told that she lived in her own world.

At seventeen, she was still unable to do her tables and had no idea about money matters or anything else to do with maths. Holly paid for a private tutor who taught her for one hour a week for two years; she finally learned her tables and was doing long multiplication to the standard of A level. Her confidence was boosted and she, herself, began to wonder why she had not reached any kind of standard in maths at school. A problems with maths is now recognised as being part of Turner’s syndrome.

She then started a course at college involving basic skills and a performing arts course. However, she found herself unable to do the simplest maths and had lost everything that the private teacher had taught her. She was unable to cope with computer systems and the level of noise in class, and she hated the Government’s new key skills tests. She ended up with no qualifications and felt she had achieved nothing. Holly recognised that what she needed was blackboard teaching, not simply to be given piles of paperwork and left to cope alone.

Her level of English meant that should could not understand the complicated language used on courses and she was unable to complete assignments without constant help from me. Her SEN school had certainly not prepared her for life at university and her statement of SEN barely covered anything.

At 22, she now sits at home unable to go on any courses that offer her anything meaningful. She has no friends and her only communication is with me. She feels robbed of her life and she knows she is capable of more than she was taught.

University left her with little hope. She never received the help she deserved and was basically told she should have done something simpler, even though performing arts is her passion.

Holly knows that without English and maths she will not be able to find work or live her life to the full. She feels sure that, with the right teaching methods, she is capable of learning English, but all that’s on offer are the same courses that have not worked. We have little hope that Holly will be able to catch up and learn what she was not taught at school and this will have an impact on her future life, health and well being.

Article first published in SEN Magazine issue 46: May/June 2010.

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