In our first meeting with the Speech and Language Therapist (SALT) I was asked if Aara has an EHC Plan. This was not a term I had heard before and was unsure what this was. The Therapist explained it is a care plan that documents the support Aara requires through the educational setting. Naturally the conversation then progressed onto how we get an EHC Plan for Aara and the Therapist advised us to speak to our Nursery.
The next working day I contacted the nursery to ask how we could get an EHC Plan for Aara. Little did I know at the time that this is a plan that would change our lives. I was simply unaware of the support available as a parent/carer, from the government/council if your child has additional needs. However, as Aara was not even 2 years of age, nursery explained Aara might be rejected. During the annual RTS conference which is hosted by the UK RTS support group I asked an Educational Solicitor if it is too early for parents to apply for an EHCP as my child is below two years of age. The answer was basically, it is never too early to begin application but if your child is very young there is a high possibility that they will not be prioritised or might even be rejected for an initial assessment by an Educational Psychologist. This was so confusing, everyone was telling us to apply for a Plan but you could get rejected and early intervention is so important.
We continued to push nursery to apply for an EHCP through the local council. The application requires evidence in the form of various doctors’, physios’ and speech therapists’ reports and finally on 25th July 2018 we received confirmation that the local council agreed and accepted Aara’s needs for additional support. The next stage was to have an Educational Psychologist (EP) carry out an assessment.
I ended up attending this meeting myself and advised Abbas to go to work as I thought “I can handle it.” Boy was that a mistake. To be fair the EP was amazing, he asked me detailed questions and carried out the assessment. The key points he reported on were Aara’s:
- personal communication and interaction
- cognition and learning skills
- sensory and physical abilities
- independence and community relations
- social emotional and mental health
I broke down in tears during this assessment not because of the EP’s comments but because of how uncertain I felt about the future. As a parent you always want your child to be progressing within the “normal spectrum” but this session highlighted to me how far behind Aara was and I kept thinking ‘when will she start hitting particular milestones’. Thinking about it in hindsight, we had only received Aara’s diagnosis 8 months prior to meeting the EP and maybe this was a continuation of the reality of our new life sinking in.
The next steps involved my case worker drafting the EHCP, which basically outlines in general:
A: The views, interests and aspirations of you and your child.
B: Special educational needs (SEN).
C: Health needs related to SEN specifically identifying how many therapy sessions your child requires in the school year (i.e. occupational therapy, Speech and Lang therapy, Physio Therapy)
D: Social care needs related to SEN.
E: Outcomes – how the extra help will benefit your child (i.e. identify long term goals and short terms goals)
F: Special educational provision (support).
G: Health provision.
H: Social care provision.
I: Placement – type and name of school or other institution (blank in the draft plan [link to info about draft plan])
J: Personal budget arrangements.(i.e. how many hours of additional support you child will require per school year)
K: Advice and information – a list of the information gathered during the EHC needs assessment. (Status reports provided from professionals involved in your child’s health care)
The draft EHCP was sent to Abbas and myself to review in late September. We provided feedback very quickly as you have only a 28 day review period. The key factor we disputed and have continued to dispute is that Aara currently gets in total 10 hours a week of 1 2 1 support (during school term only). On average she attends nursery for 40 hours a week. So, if we split that up its roughly 1 hour a day and this does not factor in the admin tasks the key workers need to complete; paper work to keep an evidence log of Aara accomplishing her goals.
As Aara is below 5 years of age we have two reviews a year of the EHCP and these review meetings enable all the professionals involved in Aara’s health care and educational needs to come together to discuss her progress. Reports are gathered from the professionals to enable the case worker to make the relevant changes to the EHCP and as a parent it’s the time to say what you want. I have repeatedly requested that Aara’s 1-2-1 support is increased from 10 to 15 hours a week but as of yet have not been successful. However, we have decided not to appeal this decision and from what we understand that can be a fairly lengthy process…Although that should not be a deterrent for any parents if they believe the support will help their child, we are seeing progress with Aara and like everything sometimes you just have to pick your battles.
It’s never too early to get intervention or start the process, so many professionals advised that Aara is too young to get an EHCP. But with perseverance, patience and tactical discussions we now have a plan in place. Now the battle quickly moves on to making sure the Local Authority provide the care they have stated in the plan….but like all parents we have to fight for the help we believe our children are entitled to.