“Where there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again”
– Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
This has been a quote that has resonated with me over the last week. As I wrote in my last blog, we have been struggling with a relapse that has left us all feeling despair and wondering what our next steps were destined to be. Dealing with IT changes and financial year-ends at work, as well as M’s challenging behaviour at home, has left me feeling battered, bruised and emotionally fragile.
In the midst of the week, I desperately needed a little hope to remind me that there is more to life than the rubbish I’ve been dealing with recently and it came on Thursday, from what was, to me, a surprising source.
M is fast-approaching the end of his final year in Infants and will be moving up to our local Junior school in September. G has been there since Christmas and has really flourished and we felt that it was the right place for M to continue his education. We haven’t had the support we had hoped for or that we are entitled to from M’s current school and I have been concerned as to whether things would improve when he made the move.
On Thursday, I arranged a meeting with the Head teacher, SENCo (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) and class teacher to discuss all of M’s needs from the EGID to the newly diagnosed dyslexia and dyspraxia. I spent considerable time reading around what we were entitled to in terms of support for all of these issues, spoke to our local authority about whether we could hope for any help from them and what exact questions I needed to be asking to make sure my boy gets the help he so desperately needs in the classroom setting.
I went to the meeting with the lowest of expectations as I know how hard the world of SEN can be from following the experiences of others and talking to those in the know, but I was quickly proved wrong. The staff members were interested in M, asked questions along the way and made suggestions of how best to help him within the classroom. They made copious notes about what small things we have already found help him and where we need to make improvements to support him more.
The SENCo had already put a phone-call in to his current school to ask for information from them about what procedures, if any, they’ve put in place for him and had read through the report from the Dyslexia Centre which contained the Educational Psychologist’s recommendations for help. She checked whether we had made the referral to Occupational Therapy, which our GP did during the week, as she was happy to do that for us, but felt it would be quicker coming from the GP than from school.
Even before the OT referral eventually happens, the school are happy to support his dyslexia and dyspraxia by:
- the use of a writing slope (provided by us!) in the classroom
- the use of triangular pencils and pencil grips (again from us) in the classroom
- photocopying or printing worksheets onto yellow paper as this helps M to see writing clearer
- the use of lined, yellow paper when he’s writing or doing spelling tests, where practical
- the use of a stress ball to warm his right hand before he starts writing
- encouraging him to use a yellow overlay when he’s reading as this helps him track the words
Then we got to the biggie, the matter of M’s EGID, multiple food allergies and his current frustrations and emotional issues surrounding it. I printed out a letter for the school, which I sourced from FABED and which I could personalise to highlight M’s exact condition, allergies, medicines and reactions. Both his class teacher and the SENCo gave the document a quick scan and then listened intently as I explained the finer details of what this condition entails.
One of my biggest concerns was how they would handle it if M experienced a soiling accident at school. We have been fortunate that over the last 3 years of his education, this has happened only a handful of times, but given his current relapse and all the anxieties of moving up to a new school, I wanted to pre-warn them that this could be an issue. They instantly agreed that there would be a need for additional support for M in case this happened and wanted to discuss it further with the Head, particularly as they don’t currently have a shower or suitable facilities to make changing him easy. At no point did I feel that this was an inconvenience and whilst I don’t expect miracles, or funding, to happen overnight, I am confident that they will find a way to make sure his needs are met.
I had discussed the meeting with M the night before as I felt it important that he understood that the school wanted to help him and also to gain an insight into whether there was anything he was particularly worried about regarding the move. M has had some issues in building friendships and he was worried that the other children in his class would ask him a lot of questions and then be mean to him because of the food allergies. He is overly sensitive and as emotionally fragile as me at the moment and this was obviously playing on his mind a lot.
I raised M’s concerns and was thrilled to hear his class teacher instantly suggest that they discuss his food allergies as part of the circle time during the first week of term. They will be talking about all the children and asking them to share something about themselves, so will be a perfect opportunity for M’s allergies to become known in a non-confrontational way. M can choose to have as much involvement in that discussion as he wants and will help him understand what the other children are told about him.
The staff were concerned and interested enough to reassure me that they would do everything they could to support M in school. They will be working on a health care plan as well as some short-term targets that will cover all of his health issues and educational needs. They will ensure that all adults who come into the school, and not just those dealing directly with M, are made aware of his multiple allergies and that his photo, name and list of those allergies will be displayed in the staff-room. Most importantly, they will maintain a strong communication link between us and them, to make sure that any problems that arise either from their point of view, or from home, are dealt with quickly and not left to develop into something worse.
My difficult week has ended with some hope that, whilst I can’t control M’s health, we will be able to influence his education and that hope really has given me some courage and has renewed my belief that we are strong enough to walk this path.