Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Where's Your Head At?

This post has taken the best part of a month to write. I wrote bits, I deleted bits, I spilled every little thought that was in my head when I felt I couldn't say them out loud and then I wiped the slate clean because I didn't think anybody would want to listen to me, or would understand.

I was asked earlier this month 'Where's your head at?' and ever since all I've had stuck in my head is the music video from Basement Jaxx with the monkeys in the science lab. I wasn't able to answer the question at the time because I just couldn't find the words.

July has been a little bit turbulent and a little bit stressful.

It started with a Next Steps meeting with the school and SENSAP. SENSAP stands for Special Educational Needs Statutory Assessment and Provision team.

A quick recap and some terms:
Earlier in the school year we applied for an EHCP for J (Education Health and Care Plan) which would provide a plan that would set out what help and support J needs whilst in education. Due to miscommunication on SENSAP's behalf we were declined an assessment. I contacted Sendiass (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Services) who assigned us a case worker who knows all the policies and is able to offer me advice. The lovely Imogen came out and we looked at our options which were - appeal, mediation or reapply. We decided due to it being a miscommunication that we would reapply. This time Lydia the SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator) from school added as much info as possible to our application and me and Imogen got together and wrote a statement about what Jake wants and needs. This time our application (which was about an inch and a half thick and very very thorough) was sent to MAP (Multi Agency Panel) and myself, Lydia and the Headteacher met with the panel made up of Educational Psychologists, Social Workers and caseworkers from SENSAP to argue our case - and it was a bit of an argument as I wasn't leaving that room with a no. The MAP eventually agreed that they thought J may need more support and they would look at reports as well as assess him and decide if he needed an EHCP and that would be determined at the Next Steps meeting.

Fast Forward to now and we get to the Next Steps meeting and I am told they have done their assessments and J definitely needs an EHCP - Hooray! We read through the draft plan which has been put together by a caseworker from SENSAP and make some suggestions on edits as I have 15 days to confirm the plan and then we get to the elephant in the room:

 The School Setting. 

It has been very apparent to us for a while that KSS wasn't a suitable school for J and that he would need to change to a different school. Which isn't an issue apart from the caseworker was going on holiday in 7 days and schools broke up for the summer holidays in 10 days. Time was of the essence. 
One big thing that worried me was that I didn't think it would be a good idea for J to go back to KSS in September and transition to Year 1 to then be pulled out and have to transition to another school, yet the SENSAP case-worker said he thought J would be there till December! A school already noted as not being suitable for him! Both myself and the Head objected and said this wasn't acceptable. Without being harsh the Head said he didn't want J back and that we needed a new school ready for September. As devastated as I was to hear that because I love KSS I had to agree. 

Me and Ant visited a local SILC school which is a Specialist Unit attached to a mainstream school, a couple of days before the Next Steps meeting and we were really really impressed and so I mentioned this and was told it was full so not really a possibility. Crap. They mentioned several other schools but they were all specialist only provisions and I will admit I was put off. J hasn't got a formal diagnosis yet and because he's not been able to be in a classroom setting none of us really know his full academic potential so I was a little worried a Specialist only Provision would be putting a ceiling on him and stopping him from reaching his full potential. I will be honest now this is purely due to my own preconceptions based on a unit I worked in when younger which dealt with extremely disabled children and they didn't do academic learning which is something I still want J to access. 

I agreed to consider them though but in the meantime I rang the school we had visited and asked if I could take J up to look as if he liked it we could name it and ask the LA to make adjustments to accomodate him there. This was where things kind of went a bit wrong. Just a few days earlier me and Ant were convinced this was THE ONE and then I took J there and he hated it. I can't really explain what was wrong with it, I've even said I'm not sure if they were trying to dissuade me due to being full but something just didn't feel right.

 J was very vocal about the fact he wouldn't be going there and so I relayed this to the SENCO who mentioned another school that had received a preliminary copy of the EHCP and said they had a space and could meet J's needs. They are a Specialist Provision and sounded fantastic on paper, the only issue being they are 8.5 miles away and as I don't drive and rely on help from family to help me get J to and from school or a mix of walking/taxi's that was going to mean we will need to apply for transport from the LA. I also worry that if he is there and something happens I won't be able to get there as quickly as I could KSS. I kept an open mind though and I agreed to go have a look.

A learning mentor from KSS went with me to look at the school and we sat in the entrance waiting with two other parents who were looking at sending their children there. I was nervous and still doubting, especially as I now knew this was my only choice. Then, Sam appeared. Sam is the Primary Manager at the new school and just his introduction to us to say hello changed the mood in the room. He was lively, bubbly, passionate, warm. He showed us round the school and you could see how much all the staff enjoyed their jobs and what they did. I loved that they had rebound rooms and sensory spaces and wildlife gardens. I met children who went to the school and they made me smile with the things they were doing and saying and I had such a great feeling about things that I was sure this was it. But, I'd felt that way before and so I needed to make sure Ant and J felt the same way.

Ant is very much in denial about J and how he is, and so is my granddad. They both dismiss any talk of autism and just say he's a bit hyperactive. I'm not sure if it's because it dents their male ego's but Ant was very much anti-specialist school and wanted to send J to another mainstream school and so I needed to get him on board. I arranged for Ant and J to go view the school and so we met up on Ant's lunch break and Sam showed us all around, and I saw Ant melt the same way I had earlier in the week, I saw him warm to the school and by the end of our visit all three of us were in agreement that this was the one.

I quickly emailed the SENSAP case worker confirming this was our choice and hoped I was in time but I had no reply and it was a waiting game. Imogen has checked the online system and says that the new school has been notified of our choices but I'm still waiting for any formal notification. I hope it comes through soon.

The whole process has really taken it's toll on me both physically and mentally. With my health issues having a week where I was having several meetings a day with different professionals, rehashing through all the negatives about J really exhausted me and it even got to the point I was having nosebleeds from being so run down. Mentally well, what can I say, I suffer with depression and anxiety and I was on high alert for most of the month, constantly questioning myself about my choices and actions, worrying I was a bad mum, worrying I was failing J, crying, feeling numb, having panic attack upon panic attack and having nobody I could talk to because I felt like such a bad person. I felt broken and sad and I struggled to do normal things, although I'm still having dark days the start of the school holidays has really helped.

Summer is long, and it's hard keeping J active and occupied but the pressure of no meetings, and no school, and no having to make choices that massively impact my sons future is nice.

So that's where my head is at. Muddled but clearing. 

1 comment:

  1. Sorry that you had such a bad time. I work as an LSA supporting a child accessing the mainstream class so can sympathise with you in your efforts to get the right support for your child and the many hoops you have to jump through!


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