My son, now nine, was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (#ASD) in the summer of 2015, following 3 years of stress, worry, and exhausting battles with the N.H.S, to ensure he received an accurate diagnosis.
Now, considering it was in fact my son's class teacher that contacted me, quizzing as to whether I felt my son had any 'unusual' traits and behaviours, an acknowledgement that as a parent, I was only too pleased to receive. The additional support and input directed towards my son prior to formal diagnosis was distinctly lacking.
In the 3 long, painful years it took to follow the monotonous route of testing, more testing, and repeating of information, to finally receive a formal diagnosis, despite the fact that it was the school that had made the initial referral for assessment, my son remained in a regular Primary class, receiving no additional support, or input, coasting along, by the skin of his teeth, merely 'existing' at school.
When 'Statements' were abolished, it was well publicised that the number of pupils being identified as having Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (#SEND) fell sharply, as a direct result, therefore a substantial number of children, requiring additional academic support, fell by the wayside, and, like my son, coasted along, as a small fish, in a very large pond. There has been strong and inflammatory debate, as to whether the Statement system was in fact abolished as a cost-saving manoeuvre, to minimise the number of children formally 'flagged' as having additional learning needs, as a result of an identified learning disability.
The next step
There are divided opinions also, as to whether a child with SEND thrives better in a smaller, or larger Primary School, and there are indeed arguments for and against. Most importantly, as a parent of a child with additional learning needs (irrespective of the extent), it is crucial that engagement with the designated SEN staff is sought, to establish:
- That the school have full information in regards to the diagnosis and 'issues' for your child as a unique individual
- Does the school fully understand matters which mean something to your child outside of the school environment e.g. sensory issues, habits, objects of reference?
- Under the Children's and Families Act 2014, has your child been formally registered with the Local Education Authority as having a special educational need? (this is a formal process)
- What specifically will the school's SEN action plan be for your child, at each academic milestone? How does this differ from 'ordinary' children?
- How will the school communicate with me? How can I can communicate with them? Is there a designated person for SEN matters?
The information above needs to be established immediately post diagnosis (before if possible), with an agreed management plan in place, so that parents, and of course your child understand how the school intends to support the identified additional needs. If I can offer any advice at all, this help will certainly not be forthcoming, and most importantly, you must ensure your voice is heard loud and clear! #autisticspectrumdisorder