The paper work is in, the reports complete and the assessments over. The process of statutory assessment, to consider giving my son an educational statement, is complete. A phone call last week informed me that, as soon as she was back from leave (two weeks), the caseworker would submit the case to the local authority SEN panel. They will look at the evidence gathered and consider firstly, whether a statement is appropriate, and if so, how many hours support this might lead to.
Getting this far is a victory of sorts, as it means B will start school in September with a better indication of the support coming his way (or not coming his way). For a while, it looked as though the process would drag out for much longer and could possibly have taken until November. Thankfully, things have happened much quicker (I have to wonder how much of my wife’s persistance and pushing had something to do with this). We should get a proposed statement fairly soon, and I suspect a phone call will be made to us before the letter arrives, giving us an idea of how it went. If we feel the proposed staement is in some way inappropriate, we have the right to appeal. This will delay the process but would obviously be important in securing the right level of support.
I have been warned, by SEYS, not to expect a ‘full’ statement. It is my belief that my son will need full time support if he is to cope in mainstream education. Such support is rare, I am told, so I should expect less. I’m not sure how many hours would feel acceptable. I’ve followed a couple of threads on Mumsnet which demonstrate how difficult the whole process is, and how disappointing the final stage can be. Local authorities have tight budgets and statements are an expensive business. That’s the sad truth at the heart of the matter. If my son was to get full time support, it would mean creating a job for a (I’m guessing) Level 2 Learning Support Assistant on a salary of (massively guessing £15,000 p/a). I guess this is why the process takes so long.
Having said that, by the time we get the proposal, it will have taken six months from diagnosis to statement, which I believe is relatively short. It has been an intense few months. I’m very lucky to work in education and therefore have access to some excellent advice. My wife also works in education and, again, has been able to draw on some invaluable help. How do people not in our position cope?
I wanted to use this post to outline the steps we have been through on our ‘road to statementing’ (phrase stolen from a thread on Mumsnet). Perhaps it will be useful to anyone at the start of this process. When it’s all over, I will post the parental contributions we wrote (4000 words worth) but until the process is complete it’s best not to.
Anyway, here’s an outline of the process we have been through. In total, the process so far has taken 15 weeks:
Week one- Request for statutory assessment made by Specialist early Year’s Service:
This took some prompting, as SEYS were reluctant to make the application. We knew the case would be stronger if it came from then but we were ready to make the application ourselves. In the end they came good and got the ball rolling.
Week Two- the LA panel agrees to undertake the process of collecting evidence from the various sources.
A letter informed us that it was felt it would be ‘helpful’ to collect more information. At this stage, statutory assessment was still ‘possible’ rather than a given. They outlined timescales for collecting evidence and reporting back to us, though frankly this was confusing and unclear.
Week Three- we submitted 2000 words of ‘supporting parental comments’.
Week four- nursery submitted evidence as part of the process of statutory assessment.
At some point between these weeks, Autism Outreach and SALT also submitted reports.
Week Nine- we submitted a second set of parental supporting comments (2000 words)
Week Ten- Medical assessment:
I was not expecting the medical assessment to be a particularly significant part of the assessment process. After all, autism is a neurological condition- a brain thing- right? My son is in very good physical condition. He’s clumsy, has an ongoing bowel problem, a severe nut allergy and asthma but, hey, nobody’s perfect! What I mean to say is that I thought a medical would not really touch on the aspects of my son that make him autistic. I was wrong. The assessment covered, in detail, aspects of my son that are related to his autism.
The doctor was very thorough in her questions about him and got me thinking about aspects of him that I never really attributed to autism. The first task he was given was to draw copied shapes on a piece of paper. The doctor observed from this, and other tasks, delayed upper body motor skills issues. She asked him to demonstrate kicking an imaginary ball. Normally, with the ball in front of him, B can kick a ball well. It would appear he is not so good at kicking imaginary balls.
I talked at length with the doctor about B’s characteristics, problems and difficulties. I feel she got a good picture of what he’s like and the problem’s he is likely to experience at primary school. One thing I did, which I’ve never done before, is take a complete step back from interacting with him in the room. Or, in other words, I let him run riot. Normally, my parental instinct would make me intervene when he started messing with something expensive looking. Or, when he failed to respond to the doctor speaking to him, I would speak to him in a way I know gets through to him. This time, I didn’t. I let him mess. I let him fail to respond and I let the doctor struggle to communicate with my son. After all, I won’t be there in September. I’m glad I did this because, I feel, the doctor got a better idea of the needs my son has.
The doctor made copious notes and said she felt he would need lots of support. This was what I wanted to hear (because it’s true). At the same time, she said, “he will be fine”, so who knows?
Week Eleven- Educational Psychologist observation:
This was the final assessment made as part of the process, and almost didn’t happen. Despite constant pestering from us, no assessment had taken place and there were just a couple of days left when it could happen. This is because the Ed Psych needed to observe B in his educational setting. B was due to finish nursery at the end of the school term. Had he not made it to nursery, we may have had to wait until B started school in September. There was talk of the ‘summer exception’, meaning that although there was a time scale for carrying out observations, the six weeks holiday could split this in two. Anyway, in the end he made it there.
Before the assessment, the Ed Psych read a copy of our parental supporting comments (worryingly, this was the only information he had recieved). These, he said, were very useful and gave him a good picture of B, which was supported by what he observed and the account the nursery staff gave to him. He said he would, in his report, recommend a high level of support. Let’s hope this carries sufficient weight when it goes to panel.
Week Fifteen- the panel meets?
We know they meet on Tuesdays and apparently, cases are heard as soon as they are submitted. So we might hear something very soon.
We’re bracing ourselves for disappointment, although I’m confident he will get some sort of statement. Sat here now watching him ‘play’, there’s no way my son could be put into a classroom all day without some pretty significant support. Fingers crossed.