It’s taken me a few days but I’ve finally completed the form requesting an assessment for a statement of educational needs for my daughter. For those of you unfamiliar with this or are reading my blog from outside England, a statement of educational needs sets out the special educational needs a child has and the additional help they require. A statement is usually given when a child needs a lot of help or is not making progress under school action or school action plus (a step by step approach to increasing support to a child with SEN). A request for an assessment can be made by either the school or the parent.
In our case we’ve put in a parental request. We found a parental request form on our local authority’s website which we downloaded and printed out. Useful tip: print out a few copies so that you can practice getting your application right before sending it off.
Unfortunately we’re in a difficult situation with our daughter’s school and it now appears that we do not have their support. This is very disappointing as a few weeks ago the SENCO (special educational needs coordinator) had said that if we wish to go down this route they would support our application. Now it seems that, for whatever reason, they have changed their minds because when we mentioned this to them recently they reacted negatively. Nevertheless we are persisting with the application as we feel our daughter is not getting sufficient support which is the main reason for her deteriorating health and increasing school absences. I shall keep you posted with how things develop.
For those of you who are in a similar position and considering applying for an assessment, then I have put together these tips to help you through this part of the process. Having gone through this process for a second time now, I have learnt some of the ways you can make your application a strong one.
1. My form consisted of a series of questions and boxes in which to write my answers. Take time to think about the questions and to draft your answers before you produce a final copy. If you run out of space to write on the form, you can use additional pages. Alternatively you can write a separate report which you can attach to the form. Whatever you do, don’t rush it – do a draft and take a break. Go back to it and see how it reads; add more if you’ve missed anything out.
2. Remember, you know your child best. Write about everything that is contributing to your child’s difficulties. Don’t just rely on saying that your child has an autism spectrum disorder, ADHD or dyspraxia for example. Go into detail. Think about areas such as speech, language and communication, behaviour, sensory difficulties, physical development, emotional and social skills, reasoning and problem solving, organisational and concentration/listening skills.
3. Consider how your child’s difficulties are affecting their learning – for example processing difficulties may result in your child not following verbal instructions well, not keeping up with the class and falling behind with work. Social difficulties may mean your child has no friends or is being bullied. Sensory issues may mean your child is distracted by their surroundings and becomes anxious and unable to concentrate. Issues with transition between lessons and unstructured times of the school day may also be areas of difficulty that you can write about. There are bound to be many more things to include than just these few examples.
4. Don’t forget to mention how your son or daughter’s difficulties impact on life outside school – does your child exhibit angry and destructive behaviour after school, is your child suffering any mental health difficulties, is your child lonely and withdrawn, what are your child’s self care skills like, how independent are they. These are the sort of things you need to include as well.
5. Support your application with EVIDENCE and attach copies of diagnoses, tests, assessments and individual education plans (IEPs). These can come from people such as paediatricians, educational psychologists, teachers, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services).
6. With regard to the school, try and get support from the head teacher or SENCO (special educational needs co-ordinator) if you can. They can tell you whether your child is on the graduated approach ie school action, school action plus and what interventions are being used and what progress your child is making. As already mentioned, get copies of the individual education plans (IEPs) as these will detail what your child’s targets are and whether they are being met. Use these to see whether your child is progressing as expected. Use any evidence from school to show that your child needs more help. However, if your child is marginally underachieving then the school and local authority may not think that your son or daughter requires a statement. You need to prove that your son or daughter is underperforming due to their difficulties rather than just not being very clever, as may be the assumption. This is why getting evidence to support what you’re saying in the form is essential.
7. Refer to your reports in your writing ie “my daughter was diagnosed with aspergers syndrome in 2011 (see appendix 1)”. Label the copy of the report appendix 1.
8. If you need further help your local parent partnership should be able to advise you. Click on the link here to find your local partnership here but please note that this is for England and Wales only.
9. Finally when you have finished, remember to take a copy of the form and the attachments for your own reference. You may accummulate a lot of paperwork over the following months and it is important to become organised as early as possible. This will help you to become focused on where you are in the process which is a lengthy and bureacratic one.
For further information:
Essential read – download the SEN guide for parents and carers
Directgov – parents – special educational needs
Independent Parental Special Educational Advice (IPSEA) – http://www.ipsea.org.uk/
The Department for Education, special educational needs – http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/pupilsupport/sen