The letter that we received from the council advising us that our daughter’s statement would not be changed did not
conveniently include a copy of the report that it referred to. So, we asked for it. Three weeks later we got it.
The missing report was a document entitled Annual Review Summary in which someone (notably the inclusion person) answers the questions on it. This report is completed as a result of what is discussed during the annual review meeting and the reports (parental and educational) that are produced for that meeting.
The Annual Review Summary goes something like this: personal details, the statement (ie does it need to be maintained, is support still appropriate etc), school attendance, participants, school transfer, referral to other services such as (don’t laugh) speech and language therapy, comments, description of pupils needs, objectives and SEN provision.
The first thing that struck me was how our report on our daughter had been totally disregarded. There was a weighty emphasis (bias) towards the
shit report by the home tutoring service. Just to give you a quick summary of that; home tuition at that time was limited to 2-3 hours a week and for a number of months had been provided by a tutor who showed little understanding of our daughter’s ASD. Indeed, when I tried to talk through the statement with this tutor, she merely laughed in my face and said I would never get my daughter’s needs met!
This is the tutor that fed into the home tuition report. It was a fairly negative report that stated (amongst other things) that my daughter claims tiredness when faced with anything academic, finds excuses for not engaging, likes to keep control, can be manipulative and shows little signs of anxiety. There was no mention of ASD or aspergers in this report.
In contrast my report made some of the following observations:-
[my daughter] struggled to engage with the academic aspects ….. and often tried to avoid doing the tasks. This was not deliberately manipulative or controlling on her part but a response to anxiety.
A characteristic of people on the autism spectrum is a tendency for them to become controlling when faced with an unfamiliar or new situation. New situations are hugely stressful for people with an ASD and they will use control to make them feel secure….. It is also worth noting that anxiety isn’t always obvious and can be manifested in avoidance techniques….
(I didn’t write this in the report for obvious reasons but lessons were not planned very well and my daughter would plead to know what was going to happen when. I would often arbitrate between my daughter and tutor to facilitate some sort of advance agenda but nothing materialised; the tutor simply didn’t understand the importance of this.)
Anyway continuing on with my report, I also added:-
In addition….. [name] is a predominantly visual and practical learner who struggles to understand and process verbal information. Therefore she learns best if visual supports are provided and verbal information is kept short and simple.
Tiredness is also a real issue for [name]; it should not be underestimated or interpreted as an excuse for trying to get out of something. Her tiredness is often a result of her working very hard to understand/process the world around her.
No doubt this would have been viewed with contempt because as a parent I’m not supposed to understand anything or question anything am I? I’m supposed to be a passive parent, an inferior partner of the professional-parent relationship who just nods their head in agreement to those who are supposed to know better. But I won’t do this, I can’t do this, it’s not in my nature, certainly while there is so much inequality in the education system and ignorance about the autism spectrum.
And so, not surprisingly, my report was ignored and the inclusion person referred heavily to the home tuition report whilst completing the Annual Review Summary. Even more disappointingly, he had indicated that the current nature of support (ie home teaching) was still appropriate (?). He had also ticked the box that indicated that the statement was still meeting my daughter’s needs.
And in a way he is right. The statement is still appropriate but the major problem is the statement is hardy being adhered to. Few tutors are interested in my daughter’s statement, few bother to read it or to take note of the strategies in it. Some even question it. Couple that with insufficient understanding of the autism spectrum and what do you get?
A young person who is struggling to access a meaningful education.