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"Our son is a bright, intelligent, articulate and loving boy..."
"Our son is a bright, intelligent, articulate and loving boy.
When he was in Year 1 we saw his behaviour go downhill at school. He became disaffected, angry and upset. The teachers did not know how to manage him. We could not understand what was happening to our lovely son who, at home, was fun, fine and happy.
We realised that the learning experience for him at school was a trigger for his behaviour. We first noticed it when he was being taught numbers and words. He was painfully aware his ability was nowhere near to that of his peers. We knew he had the capacity to learn and was bright and articulate but he was not progressing at the same rate as his friends. It was becoming evident to us that learning was a difficulty rather than him being “naughty”.
While he was still in Year 2, we took him to a Clinical Psychologist (CP) to try to find out what was going on. The CP suggested he undergo various tests. These showed he had a ‘spikey profile’; some tests showed he was able beyond his years while others, that explored his reading writing and short term memory, showed he was way behind for his age. The tests were not able to show a clear diagnosis but indicated he had sensory processing issues and possibly ADHD. However, when we reviewed the same tests a year later, four diagnoses showed up: dyslexia, dyscalculia, sensory processing issues and to a lesser degree, ADHD.
The problem we had to address was that it was not just a single diagnosis but a cluster of four different things. He was starting Year 4 in September and it became very clear to us that in order to help him, we needed the right Statement offering the right support. The LA told us they had to have all the expert reports before amending a final Statement as without them, at this stage, they could only offer Occupational Therapy (OT) support and general teacher training on how to manage children with SEN. We knew this was not enough help for him. He definitely needed more, specialist, support.
Independently, we visited experts in the fields of Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Sensory Processing and ADHD. When we discussed possible options for him, all experts suggested [a special school] would be the right environment for our son. It was quickly becoming apparent that even with the support of a Statement, we were not going to receive the help our son needed in his current school. If he were to stay at his current, mainstream, state school, he would receive little or no individual help and certainly none of the expert specialist teaching help he really needed. We could take him out of class for several half days a week to give him private tuition with various specialists but this was not ideal logistically or financially and would further crush our son’s worsening sense of self esteem and isolation in comparison to his friends.
We knew we had to take control of what was not happening for him. Our plan was to get the LA to part fund the fees [of the special school]. Whatever they were prepared to spend on the existing mainstream school, once the statement had been approved, we wanted that to be redirected to what we now felt was the right school for our son.
We realised at this stage that we needed proper professional help to take us to the next stage in securing the appropriate education for our son. We had heard horribly depressing and emotionally stressful stories of parents arguing with their Local Education Authorities over months and even years.
Douglas Silas was recommended as the ‘real expert’ by our CP and another professional friend. We met them to discuss our concerns. They listened and advised us on the Statement, what steps to take in dealing with them, how the process works and the time schedule. Throughout our dealings with them, Douglas Silas Solicitors were clear about what they could or could not do; they set out clear guidelines; challenges we would face, scenarios and managed expectations. We felt safe, well prepared with what was about to face us and we had absolute confidence in them. They have integrity and are highly professional. It was a very emotional time for us and they struck a fine balance in advising us and taking control of dealing with what had to be addressed.
They took hold of the existing Statement and practically reissued it. They went through it in detail, annotated it, included direct quotes from each expert report and at the end we had a beautifully prepared, powerful, revised Statement. Douglas Silas also advised us how to deal with and handle the school. We needed the school on our side and although the LA was likely to supply another Learning Mentor, we knew that was not the answer for [our son's] education.
As well as the help from Douglas Silas Solicitors I believe the key to the LA moving quickly to help [our son], was that we were prepared to negotiate. We knew the LA had limited funds so it made their lives a lot easier that we were only asking for part funding. We didn’t mention to [our son's] school that we had instructed a solicitor but having Douglas Silas Solicitors work and advise behind the scenes meant we had the confidence and support to get a fair result. After considering our proposal for him, the LA did agree to part fund the fees for [the special school]. Douglas Silas did say we could push them for more but we felt we got what we set out to achieve and our son was able to start at [the special school] in April 2013, just over 3 months after we first consulted Douglas Silas, which, for all of us, was just fantastic.
[Our son] loves his new school and he has settled in amazingly well and made lots of friends. The classes are small, he knows everyone’s names, he is taught in a multi-sensory, engaging, with trained SEN teachers. He’s being taught strategies to help him learn and retain that knowledge and is now incredibly positive about reading, writing and learning maths - the trigger signs for his original frustrations. In fact, he now says maths is his favourite subject! He has a spring in his step when he comes home, gets on with his homework and no longer sees himself as a ‘failure’ or a ‘loser’ – he sees himself as an achiever. He is a different child and it’s such a joy to see that now.
This process has taught us how important it is to listen to your gut feelings, to question and to take prompt action when required. You know your child and we knew things were not right at school for our son. We wasted far too much time, years in fact, listening to the school’s (wrong) assessment of our son and his suggested management. We should have talked to other parents with similar experiences much earlier in the process and taken expert advice to obtain diagnoses much sooner.
We also learned you have to find the best professional person to help. We were very fortunate that we found Douglas Silas who is a true expert in this field. His support, integrity and understanding - and that of his team - throughout this whole process has been a life-saver for us and ultimately for our son.
We cannot thank them enough."