Monday, December 06, 2004

Email #1

Dear Mr Caseworker

Son – Statutory Assessment Decision

Further to your letter Ref SEN/SAPNIL of 30 November 2004, received 04 December 2004, I am writing to advise you that I disagree strongly with the information being circulated.

My first thoughts:

I believe the evidences are missing proper example of Lewis’ behaviour prior to the current level of care and as this care has reduced since last year, example of the problems that are resurfacing without constant supervision. I accept partial responsibility for that. The evidence also seems to avoid mentioning the lengths that the school staff have gone to, to allow him to access the curriculum – providing him with his own table in class for three years running in spite of gentle and regular attempts to reintegrate him, providing him with headphones against the occasions when class is too distracting and he cannot attend to his work without blocking out other sensory input; I am sure there is more.

I believe that the guidance on provision fails to stipulate how that provision should be made and therefore fails to take account of continuity of care and the damage that can be done to the education of an autistic spectrum sufferer without continuity.

Today, for example, Lewis is refusing to go to school. This has happened a lot since he lost access to an adult during some break times. Whilst he needs to socialise with his peers he is yet incapable of doing that seamlessly and has already managed to get himself knocked out; chased into the toilets by a boy who then booted the stall door and hit Lewis’ head. With his quasi-obsessional behaviour this has caused him endless distress, after a long break from such fear he is once again convinced that someone is going to ‘get him’. Give him a weekend to mull it over and the fears grow, so that Mondays are usually the worst for this kind of behaviour.

He also in any case attracts the attention of others with difficulties, as he is only able to properly notice those peers that cause him concern. You could say he was hypersensitive to potential danger, at the expense even of noticing potential friends.

This is all happening in an excellent, small school where Lewis has spent several years becoming understood as an individual so that many of the staff know what methods of communication do or do not work in getting their point and any education across to him.

I have two issues:

1. Evidenced by a higher level of support last year than this, I can confidently state that less than constant supervision/access to communication allows old issues and problems, insecurities and behavioural issues, which hamper his education, to resurface. In Lewis’ case supervision equates to method of communication – to deny him access to someone who understands how his mind works is to deny him the right to clearly communicate.

2. It is essential for his education that at least one adult has a working relationship with the boy, someone he knows well enough to hear without his doubts and suspicions hampering the interaction and you are right that Chyngton School has worked hard to provide more than one person with the skills to interrelate with Lewis. However for the provisions you list to survive into senior school, where his ‘overload situations’ (crowded areas, strangers, new situations, excessive sensory input) will be multiplied many times over, I ask you please, to stipulate continuity of care and how that care is to be supplied. Point three of your guidance notes is crucial – it aims to allow Lewis to function well enough to receive the support offered by the other points. How, if this or any of the other provisions is offered by a person or in a situation that triggers overload, is he to be able to access this help?

My concerns do not involve Chyngton School, I cannot praise them highly enough. They would agree entirely, I am sure, that finance has forced a reduction in care for Lewis this year, and that this is not ideal and is less conducive to his education – however I accept totally that they are in a situation where they cannot afford to provide ‘the ideal’ so much as the most urgent provision, and provision is needed for other pupils.

My concerns revolve around the transition, in four terms or so, to senior school, how that can be managed, how we can provide him with a method of communication that works well enough to stop him getting into an awful lot of trouble there. I also fear that most schools will try to manage where another could not, that they will delay a new request for statementing until year eight or later and that he will fall through the year nine hole, where most difficult children are excluded, or will simply become one of the low achievers, against his potential. If that happens it will damage the self-respect and hope that Chyngton has worked so hard to build into his psyche and it will deny him his education up to the point of exclusion as his mind cannot properly function in distress but obsesses on the causes of a situation. It will then deny him proper access to exam options and his education as a whole.

I have to say that his older half brother used to get into trouble deliberately in order to gain the privilege of working in the corridor, where it was quiet enough for him to actually think. I do not wish Lewis to be put into a situation where he denies himself access to the larger curriculum in order to find the only way to concentrate on a smaller part.

Please, please stipulate continuity of care, and how that its to be provided.

Best Regards

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