Starting secondary school

Bam started secondary school this September.

Starting secondary school is a big step for any child. The change is huge – a child goes from having one/maybe two teachers all week to six a day. Suddenly, they are expected to follow a timetable and complete about four or fives times the amount of homework than they received at primary school. Not only that, it’s a new school, new people and it’s generally a lot bigger than primary school.

All these changes are really tricky for a child with autism and if I’m totally honest I worried about how Bam would cope with such a big change. But, he’s coped well – it’s not been really easy, but it hasn’t been really hard either. He went to a different school to his friends because we felt the school he is at offered the support he needed for his particular special needs.

That’s been tough for him but we took lots of time to talk to him about our decision and the reasons behind that decision.  He has approached the new environment in a really positive way and I’m so very proud of him.

Reflecting on the transition, I think the huge amount of preparation we did was key to helping him settle quickly. We spent a lot of time talking to both Bam’s junior school and his secondary school about Bam’s particular needs.

Bam went on quite a few visits to the secondary school so he could familiarise himself with the buildings and with some of the teachers.

We also tried to help Bam by talking to him about the change throughout the summer holidays and explaining some of the differences between junior and secondary school.

As for his friends, we have ensured that Bam sees his old school friends throughout the holidays and into the new term. We felt it was important for him to stay in touch with them so he could share the experience of going to secondary school with them.

The biggest thing we did to help Bam transition to secondary school is successfully applying for an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP). This has made such a difference as it means that Bam’s receiving the specific support that he needs.  It was a lot of work but 100% worth the investment.

It’s a really tough change and my stomach still churns as he heads into school independently but he’s doing us proud, love you Bam xxx

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We will be issued an EHCP!

A huge relief, super happy but tinged with a bit of sadness. I think that sums up my feelings when I found out that Bam was going to be issued an EHCP. My boy will have the support to spread his wings and fly! (hence the photo)

I had a few moments before Mops finished school, I was in my car with no little ears flapping so I called the local authority on the off chance that they might have an update on Bam’s application.

I actually didn’t expect them to give me an update. I just expected them to say that it’s still being processed. So when she said ‘Oooh, we have an update for you’ I began to mentally prepare myself for the news that we wouldn’t receive an EHCP.

So when she told me that the local authority have decided to issue an EHCP, I was actually speechless – A rare occurrence, I know!

A massive weight had just been lifted off of my shoulders – I could actually feel months of anxiety and stress start to ease. No longer did I have to worry about him entering the world of secondary education because he’ll get some help, somebody will be there to make sure he’s ok. He will have some help with the massive transition he was about to face, he will have some support managing the change from 1 teacher per day to 6 teachers a day.

This sounds selfish but it’s also a relief to know that I won’t have to constantly be in the school making sure the teachers are aware of the things he needs additional support with. The EHCP will mean that they’ll be aware of his needs and what they’ll need to put in place to help him.

At the beginning of this blog I said that I felt relief, happiness and also a little bit of sadness. I think the sadness comes from the fact that he needs an EHCP at all. I’m a little bit sad that he can’t just go to the school that everybody else goes to. It’s just another example of how special needs children and parents can feel isolated.

I’m going to put those feelings to one side and focus on the positives. This is amazing news for Bam and we’re very lucky to have been issued the EHCP. I was always be thankful for that!

Next step – reviewing the draft EHCP…what that involves I don’t really know. Another in depth research session is on the horizon. I’ll keep you posted….

 

Awaiting EHCP decision

I’m waiting for the Education, Health and Care plan (EHCP) decision to enter my inbox – it’s due on Monday but the local authority have warned me that there may be a delay of a few days.

It’s really putting me on edge…we’ve been told that Bam’s application is borderline so I’m aware we might not be successful. If we’re not successful, what does that mean?

Yes, we can appeal but then that takes another 2 months to do and we still may not be any further forward at the end of it! To be honest, I’m exhausted from the whole process too, will have to dig deep to find the energy to fight again if we have to go to appeal.

While this is all going on we have to make the decision about his secondary school place. We have been offered a place at the school where he would receive specialist support should we be successful with the EHCP but none of his friends will be going to this school.

So if we don’t get the EHCP, should we consider the school where his friends will be? Are his friendships more important for his wellbeing than the hope of some additional support.

Big decisions ahead…please can somebody pass the parenting manual?!

Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) – the next stage

I chose this photo to accompany this post as I think it accurately sums up how I feel about the Education, Health and Care Plan process – lots of steps to climb, with my gorgeous boy and his needs at the centre of the process.

Here’s more about entering stage 2 of the process….

Following the positive news that we had progressed through stage one of the Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) process, we were quickly contacted by an Educational Psychologist.

She called to arrange a meeting to discuss Bam’s needs. She was extremely keen that Bam was part of meeting and therefore suggested that he led the meeting. Bam was able to choose who he wanted to be present at the meeting and much to his delight was offered the opportunity to request a snack of his choice! He chose fruit chewy sweets – of course!

I explained to Bam why the meeting was taking place and he was keen to be part of the process. He asked for his two class teachers, his learning support assistant and his friend to attend the meeting.

On the day of the meeting, I felt very nervous. I think it was because I felt that I only had one hour to make my case for additional support for Bam…This was it, my opportunity to get the support he needs!

We all sat round a table at school (with the fruit chewy sweets in the centre!) and Bam was asked to introduce everybody at the meeting.

We then moved on to talk about what Bam would like to be when he’s older. He was a bit stumped by this. I think at this point he was feeling a bit overwhelmed. I guess sitting in a room with lots of adults discussing his feelings is tough…

We then moved on to talk about Bam’s needs at school. This included how he was supported in primary school and how he feels he’ll need to be supported in secondary school.  All of our thoughts were written up on to a flip chart.

The process was really tricky. On one hand it’s great for Bam to be involved and have his say but on the other hand his perceptions of what he needs and my perceptions  of his needs can be different. It was difficult to highlight these differences because Bam was sitting there the whole time and it wasn’t fair to disagree with his perceptions of himself.

The meeting lasted for about an hour. At the end of the process the Education Psychologist gave me the opportunity to ask further questions about the process (Bam wasn’t present at this point). It was at this point the Education Psychologist suggested that Bam’s application was borderline and it would be advisable to prepare for the scenario that we may not receive the ECHP.

My heart sank……they say nobody knows a child like their parents! I know he needs this support to thrive, I know him.. So the wait continues…4 more weeks for the stage 2 decision!

Bam on tour…school trip excitement

Last week Bam went on a school trip. The school asked him to write a summary of his day for the school newsletter – his account of his day is below. This piece really made me smile, his excitement and love of the outdoors really shines through. So here it is….handing over to Bam…

Thank you to Bam for writing the following review of this recent school trip:

The bus was humming as I sat on the top deck, it had a superb view – we were almost there. I was so excited, I practically jumped out my seat when we arrived. Straight away, we got out and put our boots on, ready for anything.

Vigorously, we went on marching through the lane and into the valleys. The birds were singing, I felt my worries fade away in the soft and sweet melody of the birds. We finally got to the pond – it was amazing! There were Canadian geese and three proud standing British Oak trees.

Soon we headed back. When we were back at the coach parking we went straight up the zig-zag path it was breath taking, literally! I was at the top, I felt so accomplished, but also tired.

After that, I marched my way up to the common, it was lovely I felt I was at home, really close to nature. Then we went back down, which was sad, but I was excited for what might happen next. Quickly, I devoured my lunch and proceeded on to the next thing.

The lady started telling us about Scott and his men. Apparently, they walked from the end of the South Pole. I know it sounds amazing, but actually really depressing, because they all died in the end. Then she told us about a much nicer story about another man who lived while trying to get to the South Pole. Subsequently, she started talking to us about penguins and their lifestyle, which was interesting, and that they have specially designed body parts to help them live.

Unfortunately, then it was all over, I had an amazing time and I absolutely loved it. I really hope I can go again in the holidays. On the coach I felt extremely tired, I almost fell asleep on my friend. I am very fortunate to be this lucky to go on this terrific trip with all of the lovely adults who came. Over all it was a wonderful place to visit, but I was also glad to get home! We need to say a massive thank you to all of our amazing parent helpers that gave up their time to come and join us.

Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), the first hurdle!

I’ve been patiently waiting but it’s always in the back of my mind. Will the local authority grant my request for an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) for my son?

Many people told me it would be a waste of time applying for an EHCP because he’s bright and meeting all age-related expectations academically. This is very true but he struggles every day to access the curriculum. He struggles to access the curriculum because it’s difficult for him to manage his emotions, he struggles to organise himself and his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can hinder his ability to focus.

He manages at primary school, but I worry how he would find the transition would into a secondary school provision. Secondary school is a whole new ball game – several teachers per day, moving to a different classroom every hour and attending a much bigger school.  

We’re extremely lucky that one of our local schools does have a high functioning autism provision. The child attends mainstream school but gets the specialist support they need from the specialist function.  I met with the head teacher of the specialist provision. As she explained how it worked, I realised how perfect it would be for him.

So, I felt I had to try and get him the support…if I tried and didn’t get it then I have done all I possibly could! If I didn’t try I would never know…and if things didn’t work out for him in secondary school, I would wonder if I had let him down because I hadn’t applied!

So, I applied…6 long weeks ago. People have told me to put it to the back of my mind, try not to think about it but it’s always there.

The whole process takes 20 weeks. After 6 weeks you are informed if the local authority is going to assess the child further. If they decide to progress they then carry out a more detailed assessment on your child and will let you know if they are going to grant the EHCP after a total of 20 weeks.

So the 6 week mark is here – the first hurdle. I called the local authority last week to see how his application was progressing. The lady went to check on the application and when she came back to the phone and said ‘I’m pleased to tell you, we are going to be taking the application further…..’ I instantly felt a huge amount of relief, they wanted to assess him further, I am one step closer to getting the help that he needs.

I know the journey is far from over…it’s long, it’s stressful and it’s a lot of work. Please send your positive thoughts for stage 2….I’ll keep you posted!

Supporting the sibling of a special needs child

When you have a child with special needs, they can quite quickly and easily become the focus of your attention.

They need extra support to keep up with daily life, they need extra understanding because sometimes they’re not able to keep up with daily life and they need extra energy because sometimes life can be tough and challenging.

As a parent you dig deep and find that extra support, understanding and energy. You invest everything you can because you want them to be the best that they can be.

While all this is going on, there is your other child, the one without the special needs, without the need for extra support, understanding and energy…but actually that’s not true, they really do need that additional support too!

I’ve realised recently that maybe Mops needs that bit of extra support – after all he’s contending with a lot more than his peers. Maybe he needs a bit more time. Maybe he needs a bit of additional understanding. I’ve always done my best to give him the time that he needs but as he’s got older his needs have changed and I need to change my approach.  

I don’t have the answers, I don’t think I ever will but we’ll work through it, meanwhile, Mops, know that I think you are beyond amazing! You make me smile every day and are the best little brother EVER.

Love you to the moon and back and back again x