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"Our son has a severe speech and language disorder..."
"Our son has a severe speech and language disorder and he has also been diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum.
These disabilities compound each other and as a result, although he is 13 years old, he is only able to function at the pre-school level. He has had a Statement of Special Educational Needs since he was 4 years old.
Over a three year period we fought our Local Authority to get him the educational provision he needs: namely a waking day curriculum. Eventually, with the excellent services of Douglas Silas we succeeded and our son is now receiving a waking day curriculum at a wonderful non-maintained special needs school.
He is making excellent progress.
In the course of three years our son’s case took many strange turns (including the bizarre situation where a local councillor argued that it would be a waste of public money to send our son to a school that was less expensive than the one he was attending).
However, the core of the problem was the LEA’s unwillingness to accept the complexity and severity of our son’s needs. This was despite the explicit advice of the educational professionals who knew him best, supported by independent reports by speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and educational psychologists.
With Douglas Silas’ help we appealed to the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Tribunal against the school the LA had named and almost the entire contents of sections 2 & 3 of our son’s Statement. Throughout this process the LA raised every obstacle possible to thwart us and even appointed a leading Special Needs barrister from London to prepare and argue their case.
The bundle of papers that eventually went before SENDIST ran to over 1,300 pages. The hearing lasted all day and at the end we honestly felt that we had been given a fair hearing and that our team (expertly led by Douglas Silas) had done everything it possibly could to argue our case. In the event, SENDIST found overwhelmingly in our son’s favour.
Our experiences have highlighted the sorry state of the special educational needs system in England. There is an inherent conflict of interest when the body that is responsible for identifying a special need is also responsible for paying for its provision. The cost of special needs education is high and the temptation to deny the existence of a disability in order to save money is strong.
The irony in our son’s case is that because the LA placed him in a school that could not meet his needs he deteriorated and they now have to pay more to undo this damage than if they had placed him in the right school in the first place. When the legal costs they incurred to fight our appeal are added, then the whole story is an appalling waste of public money.
We are indebted to all the professionals who wrote reports on our son and to our special witnesses at SENDIST. We are particularly indebted to Douglas Silas for all their hard work and excellent advice.
We would not have prevailed without their tremendous assistance."
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