Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Email #23

Dear Mrs New-caseworker

I wonder if you could please copy this to Mrs Caseworker-manager as I do not have her email address, and thank her for the very positive telephone conversation last week.

Its quite long – I need to say my piece about the anticipated Statement, my school choice (as Mrs Caseworker-manager and I discussed) and, also mentioned by phone, my position as regards Tribunal.

Statement

The advices which resulted in County's decision to statement were made against a backdrop of very high support at junior school level, and I hope you will recall from the provisional planning meeting, how:

The help the junior School currently gives to my son goes way beyond SEN+
The SENCo stated (and teacher and Ed Psych confirmed) that the level given was still insufficient to his needs in a junior school

They also unanimously agreed that his special needs, (including inability to recall faces, difficulty in unstructured or crowded environments, inability to read social cues, fidgety and distractible nature) meant that even more provision would be needed to allow him to access the curriculum in a Senior School setting.

They confirmed that he needed an adult companion at all times in order to access the curriculum during structured periods and to negotiate the unstructured periods - break times etc.

In other words, that they were already treating him as if he was on a band A statement, that this was insufficient to his needs in a rarefied, small school environment and even more so to a senior school setting. (Have I told you that, even with this level of support, he has currently lost his place on the end of school trip to the Isle of Wight, based on rules about numbers of detentions? Sometimes it feels like he lives in detention)

At that meeting I mentioned my fear that he would enter senior school and be excluded almost immediately for misreading/over reacting to some situation or other, and the comment I got back, in your presence, was that without the required level of care, this was as good as guaranteed to happen. They all seemed to be in agreement on that point, so I am forced to push for the care that those experts with most direct experience of his needs have said is not simply desirable, but necessary.

To explain my personal awareness of how easily this can all go horribly wrong; his older half brother moved to Seaford in 1996, was spoken to in a disparaging (he read threatening) manner by a small group of boys on his first day at SHCC, and very nearly got excluded in the first week for smuggling a rock to school in his pocket 'for protection', which, when the other boys approached, he began waving around. In that case, however, there was no statement at the time; diagnosis of ADHD/Aspergers being very much in its infancy.

As to Son, a group of children once rowed with him in year 1. He refers to it as 'The eight on to one incident.' He remains, in year 6, convinced that some of them bear him a grudge from that and he continues to avoid them and treat them with distrust. Part of the disability is an incredibly long memory and a determination that other people’s opinions are as immutable as scientific facts. He is not antisocial; he wants to fit in and wants to be mainstream, so his lack of understanding and the messes it gets him into cause him genuine distress. He has the capacity to access the full curriculum, with support. He wants to be a mainstream child, I want a mainstream curriculum, which I appreciate is a subtly different goal from his.

With the great number of staff and pupils at a senior school, plus the expectation that pupils will, in the main, be more adult and with better social skills (but not adult enough to remember who they fell out with last week), the provision of varied/various staff in the playground and corridors can in no way be expected to cover all eventualities where an Aspergers child is involved. He, and the school, need someone on the fringes, observing, who is Son-centric.

I again attach the provision list made by Sussex University for its Aspergers students. As peers at that stage are more adult and understanding, classes smaller due to the higher level of education, etc, I believe this is a fair standard to set as a bare minimum, for assisting an Aspergers sufferer to survive and learn in the louder, rowdier, hormonally charged rough and tumble of a packed senior school.

Excuse me, without the provisional statement in my hand, I remain terrified.

School Choice

Referring to any standard descriptors for the syndrome, there is no doubt that access to a curriculum and social learning, through reduction of stress factors and emotional hotspots, is greatly increased by:

  • monodirectional traffic between classes
  • lack of nooks and crannies and squeeze points in the geography of the school and its halls
  • lack of distractions as would be provided by open land (or with SHCC even a main road) between separate school buildings on or off site.
  • minimal numbers of people to encounter in unstructured periods, such as break time.
  • reducing other stressors such as loud noises.

For this reason I am asking for the P School. Its departments each occupy a dedicated wing - once off the central stairwell, all traffic goes in the same direction to or from class, via unusually wide corridors, on each floor. The break times are staggered. There is no end of session bell. In case of emergency no classroom is remarkably distant from the stairwell and the offices of the head or senco. The building was designed as a whole, without add-ons through the years, and the predictability of structure and atmosphere seems purpose built for a mind which cannot function at its best without logic, routine and sameness.

There is also the point that there is only one turnstiled and guarded exit from the building. Even if he flipped out, he couldn't do a runner.

I also believe that without such structure, one-on-one support will need to be more restrictive and immediate, further disassociating him from his peers and reducing future opportunity to offer him more freedom or independence, if/as his skills develop.

Is there any way, please, to have this school named on the statement, as the only building designed to best cope with my son's special needs? I don't ask lightly - I am facing another six to eight years unable to work or forced to work from home, to be available to attend school when there are issues, and I would plump for the nearest school in an instant, if I felt it met his needs.

Tribunal

I am caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, forced to keep my options open for my son's sake. I have run out of time, as he is so close to entering senior school and we are already eating into essential transition time. There is nothing militant in my actions and I really appreciate the forthcoming way that you and Mrs Caseworker-manager have dealt with me.

I am advised that I can change the grounds of my appeal, but not until I have a final statement in my hand. I am asking you please to issue the provisional statement as soon as possible, so that we can begin the formal negotiation period and get to the final statement. I hope that we can see this process completed prior to Feb 27, the cut off date for our evidences to be presented against the current appeal.

I understand that it is the responsibility of the County Council, not myself, to advise tribunal if they intend to issue a statement, my tribunal application therefore moves forward until I have a final statement in my hands and can act on that accordingly.

Really sorry, hope you understand.

Cheryl

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