SEN Lawyer Links

If you are looking for additional help, there are free services such as IPSEA and SOS!SEN as well as the NAS Advocacy Service is your child has ASD. You may decide, however, that you would prefer to use the services of an SEN Expert Lawyer. Below are the names of some such experts. If you are an education lawyer not on this list or you know of a lawyer that you can personally recommend, please contact me

  • SEN Barristers –  Gulshanah Choudhri has a child of her own with Down’s Syndrome, so as well as legal expertise, she has a personal understanding of the SEN issues. She stresses that, due to recent changes, she can offer a full service from initial consultation through to Tribunal, if necessary.

“With Gulshanah fighting in your corner and bringing her incisive mind and laser like cross examination skills to bear upon proceedings, you can feel confident that she will expose inconsistencies in the expert witnesses of the LA. I for one have had the privilege of seeing her in action and cannot commend her services highly enough.” Barrie Griffiths, Portsmouth

  • Douglas Silas Solicitors -I have met Douglas and he is dedicated to the SEN cause. He also has an extremely informative website. (North London based)
  • SEN Legal  Principal Solicitor is Melinda Nettleton and she is supported by Karen McAtamney and Adam Ottaway Friel. (Suffolk based)

“SEN Legal represented us and managed to secure us a placement at More House School. We definitely couldn’t have done it without them. Sally Brockaway

  • Maxwell Gillott – Quoted in Chambers and Partners 2011: Education: Individuals, Elaine Maxwell has been advising on provision for severely disabled pupils. Sources say she has a “phenomenal understanding of the issues that parents dealing with SEN face.” (Various locations)
  • Anthony Collins LLP I have met Inez Brown of this company and she is very well informed, highly experienced and committed. They are based in Birmingham
  • Children’s Legal Practice “We have acted in connection with numerous appeals to the Special Educational Needs & Disability Tribunal. These appeals have included cases involving statutory assessments, contents of statement, ceasing to maintain statements and Part 4 of the statement.” (Hampshire based)
  • AM Phillips “As both a professional, working within the field of education law, and as a parent of a son with special educational needs, I understand the pressures that parents experience on a daily basis.” (London, Wales)
  • Sinclairs Law “leading experts in the field of Special Education Needs (SEN) & Education Law, acting throughout England & Wales.” (Birmingham, Cardiff, London based)
  • JMW  “JMW Solicitors are experts in all aspects of special educational needs law; for over a decade JMW Solicitors’ medical negligence team has been dedicated to this tricky area of the law.” (Manchester/Salford based)
  • Moore Blatch “Let our wealth of experience in this niche area of law work for your child” Leena Hurloll, Senior Solicitor (South)
  • CDLaw (Robert Love) “Christopher Davidson’s experienced education law team is dedicated to helping ensure that your child receives the education he or she needs.” (Cheltenham based)
  • Fisher Jones Greenwood LLP “Fisher Jones Greenwood’s education law advice service is available to anyone with concerns about a child’s or their own education.” (Essex based)
  • Turners Solicitors “We specialise in representing parents of children with special educational needs whatever their diagnosis” (Wales based)
  • Langley Wellington “Langley Wellington has a very experienced team dedicated specifically to all aspects of education law.  The team’s success rate in SENDIST Appeals is around 90%.” (Gloucester based)
  • Match Solicitors “Match Solicitors are experts in assisting children with special educational needs.” (London based)
  • Stones Solicitors “Do you  have matters relating to schooling which you are concerned about or do you know others who might? If the answer is ‘Yes’, then Stones is able to offer advice on all Education Law matters.” (Devon based)
  • Allen & Co “Education law is our primary area of expertise. Advice and help is provided on school admission appeals, exclusions, school transport, special educational needs (SEN), equality and discrimination matters and more general education or school issues.” (Buckinghamshire based)
  • Education Advocacy “Education Advocacy is a specialist legal consultancy, which provides legal support and guidance to parents of children with  special educational needs.” (Somerset based)

“We used Nigel Pugh of Education Advocacy. He was very reasonable and I do not feel the outcome would have been the same without him. My son is now fully funded at a special school”  J Faux

  • Advocacy & Mediation “We are experts in supporting parents and carers of children with special educational needs and disabilities”

“I can highly recommend SEN advocate Fiona Slomovic of Advocacy & Mediation. Fiona helped secured a place for my AS son at a Cambian AS-specific school with a waking day curriculum without going to tribunal. I recommend her to everyone. She is highly experienced and wins most of her tribunals” A Elliott

SENAC for Special Needs Advice in Northern Ireland

If you’re in Northern Ireland and you’re looking for help with getting your child the special educational needs support they require, there is a service for you. The Special Educational Needs Advice Centre, or SENAC,  is a regional charity set up in 2003.

They provide FREE independent advice on behalf of children and young people with disabilities and special educational needs (SEN) attending schools in Northern Ireland up to the age of 19 years. SENAC offers  information to parents and carers on all aspects of the statutory framework of SEN provision in Northern Ireland.

SENAC also offers an individual advocacy service for children and young people and work with parents to facilitate positive communication with schools and assist them to make more meaningful representations of their child’s needs.

SENAC OFFERS:

  • An independent and confidential telephone advice-line service, providing advice and information to parents/carers at all stages of the process for the Assessment and Statementing of Special Educational Needs.
  • Written information and guidelines on the Assessment and Statementing procedures both on this website and in print on request.
  • Assistance to parents in understanding policies and procedures in relation to their child.
  • Information on contacting other relevant organizations.

SENAC operates an Advice Line on 028 9079 5779. Further information can be obtained from their website www.senac.co.uk

Why I’m backing the call for a revolution in ICT teaching

My younger son (or Son2 as he’s known around here) is a 12 year old computer wizard. He has so much computer equipment, wiring and accessories that I have nicknamed his room, ‘The Technolair’.

Ze PurpleGentelmanne (Son2)

At school he does ICT where much of the subject matter he could actually teach the class himself. At home he is part of the army of Minecraft addicts, he makes his own amusing graphics on DeviantArt and animations that he uploads to YouTube. He has taught himself how to do all of this.

Today I heard on Radio 4’s Today show about how some of the biggest firms in hi-tech, including Google and Microsoft, are calling for major changes in how the UK teaches computing to give Britain the skills it needs to compete. I whole-heartedly endorse this. While learning Office-based programs like Word, Excel and Access are very useful, my son, who has Asperger Syndrome and enough challenges in his life as it is, could use a leg up by being taught coding.

The problem, here, is that do our Secondary School level ICT teachers have the up-to-date skills in coding to teach young people? If not, schools need to buy in some expertise or training. And, if companies like Google and Microsoft are calling for a revolution in ICT, perhaps they would like to put their hands in their pockets and offer some funding to provide these experts, or the training opportunities for our existing ICT teachers to help them create the computer geniuses of tomorrow.

In my son’s case, even an after-school club would be enough to give him the basics and he could take it from there himself. For young people with certain difficulties such as him, any help in their areas of strength should be given the utmost priority. He already wants to build a computer from scratch but even though I’m a little bit geeky myself, such a project may be beyond me, especially as he has a unique learning style and his brain works in ways that are hard for most people to fathom.

There is a project called http://www.computingatschool.org.uk/ that has lots of free resources for teachers and young people including an exciting-looking competition called Codebreaker. There is also a cheap computer system called Rasberry Pi whose developers are designing an ultra-low-cost computer for use in teaching computer programming to children. Their first product is about the size of a credit card, and is designed to plug into a TV or be combined with a touch screen for a low cost tablet. The expected price is $25 (£15) for a fully-configured system. There is an informative article in The Register about it.

As soon as I can, I’m going to get one of these babies for Son2 for whom we are currently designing a new larger bedroom to his precise specifications. The new, improved Technolair will no doubt be raided by police at sometime in the future after he has taken over the internet – which is why he needs expert guidance in focusing his computer genius for good, not mischief. I am joking here, but the serious point is that we need the coding experts of today to help disseminate their knowledge in practical ways to the next generation inside schools. That takes investment and the will of companies such as Microsoft, google and the Double Negative company of Alex Hope, who spoke on the Today programme this morning, to turn words into action today.

Alex Hope is also the co-author of a report called Next Gen, described as a landmark report setting out how the UK can be transformed into the world’s leading talent hub for video games and visual effects. he clearly knows what he’s talking about so hopefully people who can make this a reality will listen.

Now, will Government and IT companies please form an orderly queue and get on with it?

Finished at School – Important Campaign by Ambitious about Autism

Today I am delighted to feature a guest blog from Anabel Unity Sale of Ambitious about Autism to highlight their Finished at School campaign:

Going to college after school is a rite of passage for many young people. Not if they have autism it isn’t. The latest figures suggest that less than 1 in 4 young people with autism continue their education beyond school. All too often, for many young people with autism school is the end of their education.

There are just 10,440 learners with autism in mainstream further education compared with over 43,000 children with autism in mainstream schools. In specialist colleges the numbers are even worse: just 3,600 places for learners. On top of this there are only a dozen or so supported employment projects for young people with autism around the country. Disabled people are 2.5 times more likely to be not in education employment or training (NEET) than their peers. Just 15% of adults with autism have a job.

These figures speak volumes. There is a generation of young people with autism being written off because they cannot access post-school education. Typically, their choices are to stay at home with their families or go to a residential care home, often with people over twice their age. What young person wants to do that when they are on the cusp of adulthood?

This is why Ambitious about Autism launched the Finished at School campaign last month. We don’t want to see young people with autism wasting their lives because they are not being offered the proper support to thrive and succeed.

In order to find out about the issues young people with autism and their families face when they leave school we commissioned some exclusive research. We spoke to young people themselves, their parents and carers, education providers and policy makers. The findings were sobering. Young people and their families describe facing a ‘black hole’ after school, and this causes them great anxiety and stress. “The options were non-existent. I didn’t have any choice,” a young person told us.

One parent reported similar difficulties: “There is very little provision out there and far too many people needing it. We have always been very focused, because you have to be. People who shout the loudest get the input. But what about those who can’t do that? What happens to them?”

Another parent revealed: “The world beyond school is a very scary place for Clare and me. My worry is that when she leaves school, Clare will regress and lose the skills and confidence that she has developed over the last 10 years. She needs to move on to a place that understands her and continues to develop her.”

Professionals working to support young people with autism also reported facing similar problems. Like parents and carers, they found the current funding system acted as a barrier to learning.

“Additional Learning Support rules are frustrating. I’m an expert in spreadsheets and maximising allocations – you become a bureaucratic fundraiser. I would much rather spend time improving the lives of learners,” an additional learning support manager said.

Education options are also limited. A transition support worker told us: “There is very little around London for our young people, and most of them are looking for something local. The things that are available tend to be far away, and parents don’t want to travel that far to their son or daughter. The recent care home scandal won’t have helped either.

There is an urgent need to create more effective education options for young people with autism once they have finished at school and to support them into work and community living. To help achieve this, Finished at School is calling for:
• A clear legal right to educational support up to the age of 25 for young disabled people
• A funding system that gives young people and families more information, choice and support
• A cross-government focus on outcomes and destinations for young disabled people
• A further education workforce with the skills to support young people with autism to achieve their ambitions

Robert Buckland MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Autism, supports the campaign. He says: “I urge everyone to sign up to the Finished at School campaign. We will all benefit from the contribution young people with autism can make if we break down the barriers they currently face, and enable them to achieve their ambitions.”

It is not all doom and gloom though. There are some excellent examples of post-school education that support young people with autism to achieve their ambitions. Steve Philip describes as “outstanding” the support he has received at Weston College, in Weston-super-Mare. He adds: “Having people around who are trained in and understand autism and how it impacts people, and who take the time to get to know me as an individual has changed my future, and has helped me get to where I am today.”

* If you would like to pledge your support for the Finished at School campaign, share your own experiences or and read more about what we are doing please visit: www.AmbitiousAboutAutism.org.uk

Anabel Unity Sale is Press and PR Officer at Ambitious about Autism, the national charity for children and young people with autism

SEN Stories of interest in the last week

Below are a few of the more interesting stories I’ve seen about SEN in the past week. If you’d like to receive this weekly update in your inbox as well as other Special Needs Jungle posts – subscribe on the left by email or on the right to the RSS feed.

What do parents of a newly-diagnosed child need?

I recently attended the launch of Family Voice Surrey, the new local forum for parents and carers of children with SEN and disabilities in Surrey. It’s part of the National Network of Parent Carer Forums and aims to give Surrey parents a voice in the policy and decision making process for disability and SEN services.

As part of the table discussions we were asked to identify the top three challenges facing families with children with disabilities and SEN in the county. When each table’s facilitator stood up in turn and read out their lists, almost every table had identified the same issue – information and support after diagnosis.

Everyone agreed that was is needed is an independent support worker who had all the answers to the questions that a diagnosis sparks in parents. This includes where to find information about assessments, financial assistance, support groups, access to services and education about how to help their child and so on.

When your child receives a diagnosis of any illness or condition, it is a very distressing experience that can also feel very isolating, especially if you do not know any other parents in your position. It can also, at the same time, be a relief that you were not imagining these symptoms and that you now have a name for the problem. This is particularly true when the child has a hidden disability such as Asperger Syndrome or ADHD. For a while, parents need to take stock, maybe reassess their hopes and expectations for their child. Perhaps they also need to grieve.

But then comes the stark reality that they have to take action to help improve their child’s life chances – and that means finding accurate information and at a local level – who is a good paediatrician, which are the appropriate schools, does my child need an assessment for a statement and how do I go about that? How do I find out about occupational therapy or speech and language therapy?

There are lots of great volunteer organisations out there, but the problem is finding the ones that are right for you and your family. So, what is needed is someone who can be sympathetic and knowledgable and who can act as a support and a signposter, maybe even an introducer to that the family needs.

So, who can provide such a service? Who will fund it? These are two good questions – maybe someone reading this post has an answer. If you have any ideas how  this can be achieved or what else a newly diagnosed family might need, please leave a comment…

My article in SEN Magazine: Can teachers recognise SEN in bright pupils?

I have an article in the current issue of SEN Magazine, entitled Can teachers recognise SEN in bright pupils.

Me & my boys circa 2003

Both my sons, Giorgio aged 12 and Luca, 13, have Asperger’s syndrome, and both are extremely intelligent. Luca, however, struggled with understanding the norms of behaviour, was prone to emotional or physical outbursts and was virtually friendless. He needed to be first in everything and this constant rushing affected the quality of his work. Giorgio, a gentle soul, could read at three, but still struggles to write legibly. Group work was impossible and his original way of thinking made it hard for him to follow instructions. One teacher remarked that, “He has informed opinions which he expresses well but they are often tenuously linked to the subject matter.”
Before they were diagnosed, their infant school tried behavioural charts for Luca, and eventually, after I insisted, a literacy software programme for Giorgio. However, when you don’t know why a child is experiencing problems in the first place, it’s difficult to put the right help in place….

To read the rest of the article, click here (SEN Magazine website)

SEN stories that caught my attention this week.

Here are some stories I found interesting that touch on Special Educational Needs in the press this week. To get these and other posts delivered to your inbox, subscribe to this blog on the left.

1-2-3 Magic – the discipline system that saved my sanity

When you have children on the Autistic Spectrum, finding an effective solution to help with discipline is not easy. Out two AS boys are high-functioning but often did not realise that they had reached the limits of what was acceptable behaviour. Our sanity as parents was sorely tried at times until I came across a book recommended to me by Nancy Williams of The Studio ADHD Centre near Dorking. Nancy does amazing work with the young people that come to her, including our eldest who, at the time, did not have a full diagnosis.

The book in question was 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 (Advice on Parenting)
by Thomas Phelan. If you’re thinking, oh it’s just counting, and that doesn’t work with my kids, then you might be surprised to find, as we did,  you’ve been doing it the wrong way.

The system is all about getting control back in a calm and effective manner and helping your children understand that you set the boundaries, not them. In order for it to work, you MUST be consistent, and carry through consequences religiously. This means consequences must be proportionate and deliverable.

We explained to the boys, as the book tells you to, that we were using a new system for discipline, what it entailed and that if we reached ‘three’ there would be consequences that they didn’t very much like. This included removal of privileges, electronic gadgets, TV time, Xbox for a set period and it would be stuck to. Whining about it would result in no discussion, just another count. Well, it was worth a try and, although I will let you read the whole system for yourself in the book, I will say it certainly worked for us.

In fact, when the boys started up and my head felt like it was going to burst, instead of losing control, I would just say calmly, “Ok, that’s a one.” No discussion, no further attention paid to the culprit while he digested the number. I felt instantly back in control. The decision to behave or not was his and he knew if he continued, two would follow one as surely as night follows day. After a few goes, it began to work so well that we rarely got to three.

It works because it is unambiguous. Children know what it means and they know you mean it and will follow through. This is good for children on the spectrum who need continuity and stability. I can’t say if it would work for children whose autism is more profound as I only have experience with my own boys. But it certainly has the potential for great succcess with Asperger’s and ADHD kids. And it works for parents too. It gives you back control without being overbearing. It helps you draw a line in the sand: this behaviour is acceptable, that behaviour is not. I would never claim to be an expert in behaviour, I’m just recommending to you what worked for us.

These days we don’t have to use the system much but it still works. The other day, my almost 14 year old was driving me insane. Suddenly, I remembered the 1-2-3 Magic system. “Okay, I said, that’s a one for you.”

He stopped what he was (annoyingly) doing and looked at me. “Are you counting me?” he asked incredulously.

“I think you’ll find that I am,” I replied, in a mild tone that did not reflect how irritated I felt inside.

“I’m thirteen!” he said. I shrugged and raised my eyebrow. He looked at me some more, then went off to do something else that was not annoying. Amazing, and proof that a system well-implemented and consistently applied can work.

The book has developed into a series. There’s a 1-2-3 Magic for Teachers: Effective Classroom Disciplines , workbooks and one we’ve just bought, Surviving Your Adolescents: How to Manage, and Let Go of, Your 13-18 Year Olds that I will report back on. It’s hard to know with our Asperger’s boys what behaviour is as a result of their AS and what is just teenage-ness. I am confident this book will give me some tips that I will be able to apply.

I’ve just found Thomas Phelan on Facebook and Twitter and he also has a newsletter.

Buddy Brilliant! – NetBuddy – A Great Special Needs Resource

www.netbuddy.org.uk is an award-winning website for parents, carers and learning disability professionals. It is a space to hunt for practical ideas, swap tips and access information on everything from brushing teeth to challenging behaviour. Like all good ideas, it’s so simple it’s hard to believe no-one thought of it before. So what gave Netbuddy’s founder, Deborah Gundle, the idea? Goalkeeper trousers!

Deborah’s son Zach has a learning disability.  “When Zach was little, so much of my time and energy was spent solving day-to-day problems,” says Deborah. “One day, I was in a sports shop buying football socks for my other son and I spotted some goalkeeper trousers. They were padded around the knees and the hips, and were perfect for Zach, who was about seven or eight by then and still crawling.”

That’s when Deborah decided to start writing down her ideas for other people to use, and encouraged her friends to do the same. But it wasn’t until several years later, when she met Linda Goldberg – former CEO of the learning disability welfare charity, Cosgrove Care – that the idea for Netbuddy was born.

By-you, for-you resource

Together, Deborah and Linda started collecting practical tips and suggestions from parents, carers, teachers, therapists, health workers – anyone with first-hand experience of learning disabilities. The idea was to create a ‘by-you, for-you’ resource, which people could add to and develop themselves. They wanted Netbuddy to be a place where people could share their ideas, knowledge and experience in a real, practical way.

Netbuddy went online in September 2010, and the response from the learning disability community was immediate. “This is such a brilliant idea! Nobody really knows how to cope with the day-to-day nitty-gritty unless they’ve experienced it personally,” wrote one parent. “I wish there had been something like this when my son was young,” said another.

Since launching the site, tips have been coming in on all aspects of caring for people with learning disabilities; everything from bed-wetting to hair cuts and new sections are being added all the time.

“We respond to what people want to see on the site,” says Linda. “If we get lots of tips in an area we haven’t thought about, we simply create a new section. That’s the beauty of Netbuddy – it’s completely interactive.”

If there is a lot of information on a specific topic, it is used to create an ‘information pack’. The latest packs are on sexuality and relationships, holidays for people with learning disabilities, arts and leisure opportunities and apps for the ipad.

Interactive forum

In addition to the tips sections and information packs, Netbuddy has a forum where people can post specific practical issues they may be having, or share their own break-through moments. There is also a thread for people to celebrate their good news within a community that understands the hard work behind those successes. Netbuddy’s forum hosts an ‘Ask an expert’ section, where people can post specific questions to specialists in their field. Currently, there is a learning disability occupational therapist, an adaptive technology specialist, a parenting siblings advisor and a speech and language therapist – all have proved very popular.

“I think the reason Netbuddy has really hit a chord is because there is nothing else quite like it,” says Deborah. “It’s there 24 hours a day so you can get practical help whenever you need it. It works because people in the learning disability community like to support each other. If there’s an opportunity to help someone else, they nearly always will.”

The challenge now for Netbuddy is to encourage more professionals to start using it – teachers, doctors, nurses, pediatricians, social workers, therapists, health workers and others. Some have been quick to see the potential, like health coordinator Kath Ingram, who regularly checks Netbuddy for tips.

“I love the tips on teeth cleaning, which can be so problematic for parents and paid carers,” she says. “I’ve printed out information from Netbuddy and ordered samples of recommended items to show people on visits.”

Professional help

For doctors, there are sections on encouraging people to take medication, hospital stays and medical appointments. The communication section has obvious uses for speech and language therapists, and there are lots of tips on dressing and clothing for support workers. But it’s not just healthcare professionals who stand to benefit. Teachers can also pick up useful tips from Netbuddy – activities to do in the classroom or ideas for keeping class outings safe and easy.

“Netbuddy is a goldmine of useful information,” says Deborah. “We hope people will use that information and share it with carers – either print it out or pass on the email address. When you help a carer you directly help the person they’re caring for, so it’s really important to support carers.”

 For more information visit www.Netbuddy.org.uk

Autism diagnoses are more common in an IT-rich region.

A new study from Cambridge University has for the first time found that autism diagnoses are more common in an IT-rich region.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) funded study, published today in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, has important implications for service provision in different regions and for the ‘hyper-systemizing’ theory of autism.

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the Autism Research Centre (ARC) at the University of Cambridge, led the study (which was conducted in the Netherlands) with Dr Rosa Hoekstra, a Dutch autism researcher based at ARC and The Open University. The researchers predicted that autism spectrum conditions (ASC) would be more common in populations enriched for ‘systemizing’, which is the drive to analyse how systems work, and to predict, control and build systems. These skills are required in disciplines such as engineering, physics, computing and mathematics.

The team had previously discovered evidence for a familial association between a talent for systemizing and autism in that fathers and grandfathers of children with ASC are over-represented in the field of engineering. The team had also previously found that mathematicians more often have a sibling with ASC, and students in the natural and technological sciences, including mathematics, show a higher number of autistic traits.

The researchers tested for differences in the prevalence of ASC in school-aged children in three geographical regions in the Netherlands: Eindhoven, Haarlem, and Utrecht-city. The region Eindhoven was selected because it is rich in IT having the Eindhoven University of Technology there, as well as the High Tech Campus Eindhoven, where IT and technology companies such as Philips, ASML, IBM and ATOS Origin are based. (The Philips factory has been in Eindhoven since 1891. Since then, the region has attracted businesses in IT and technology.)

The growth of the High Tech Campus Eindhoven has led to Eindhoven becoming a major technology and industrial hub: 30% of jobs in Eindhoven are now in technology or ICT, in Haarlem and Utrecht this is respectively 16 and 17%.

The two control regions were selected because they have similar size populations and a similar socioeconomic class. Schools in each region were asked to provide the number of children enrolled, the number having a clinical diagnosis of ASC and/or two control neurodevelopmental conditions (dyspraxia and ADHD). The participating schools in the three regions provided diagnostic information on a total of 62,505 children. The researchers found school-reported prevalence estimates of ASC in Eindhoven was 229 per 10,000, significantly higher than in Haarlem (84 per 10,000) and Utrecht (57 per 10,000), whilst the prevalence for the control conditions were similar in all regions.

Simon Baron-Cohen commented: “These results are in line with the idea that in regions where parents gravitate towards jobs that involve strong ‘systemizing’, such as the IT sector, there will be a higher rate of autism among their children, because the genes for autism may be expressed in first degree relatives as a talent in systemizing. The results also have implications for explaining how genes for autism may have persisted in the population gene pool, as some of these genes appear linked to adaptive, advantageous traits.”

Rosa Hoekstra added: “We need to conduct a follow-up study to validate the diagnoses and to test the alternative explanations for the elevated rate of autism in Eindhoven, including the possibility that children with autism may more often remain undetected in the two other regions. These results are important findings in the field of autism epidemiology, since they suggest regional variation in autism prevalence. In our follow-up study we plan to study the causes of this variation in more detail. This will help local authorities plan services appropriately for the number of children with autism.”

Read the research here http://www.autismresearchcentre.com/docs/papers/2011_Roelfsema%20et%20al_autism%20prevalence%20NL_JADD.pdf

Find out more about the Autism research Centre here:  http://www.autismresearchcentre.com/

A brilliant review of my SEN book from an award-winning blogger

This review is kindly reproduced with permission from Claire Sarcone, author of the award-winning  “A Boy With Asperger’s” Blog

I remember all too well what it’s like to come up against the system when you haven’t even got the slightest clue what the words “Statement” and “SEN” mean.

I had to wise up fast, and I did! I learnt everything that needed to be learnt, because I knew I needed to for my child to get where he is now. Once I had wised up, I stated advising parents on their tribunal rights on a voluntary basis which is extremely rewarding. Yes, it was hard to learn education law as it applies to special educational needs but it’s given me great satisfaction.

This is why I was keen to read the new parent to parent hand book, “Special Educational Needs, Getting Started with Statements” By, ‘Tania Tirraoro’ a mother to two autistic boys from Farnham Surrey.

Tania’s aim is to help other parents navigate their way through the educational needs jungle.

I’ve been a follower of Tania’s for the past 2-3 years, as like myself she writes her own blog and started around the same time as myself back in 2008. Some of you may already know of Tania’s work from her site “Special Needs Jungle” which I have always found to be a valuable resource not only for parents who have children that are on the autism spectrum, but those with children with special educational needs (SEN). Tania’s book is available as an Ebook as well as a published paperback.

THE MAIN STRUCTURE OF THE BOOK

What’s particularly difficult when trying to explain the statementing process to another in way of written content, is the need to keep it simple (well, as simple as it can be when advising on a complex process such as SEN). It’s my opinion that Tania has done this extremely well! She has broken up the procedure into sections and remained on topic within each area. I feel that many books and sites that are explaining the statementing procedure tend to wonder off course, making the reader quite confused.

The forward within the book is by Maria Hutchings, SEN Campaigner and former parliamentary candidate who handbagged Tony Blair during the 2005 election over the closure of special schools.

Maria states how she only wished she had a book like this one when fighting for her own children’s education.

This is followed by an introduction and then a description on what “Statementing” actually is. Parents who are new to the statementing process should read this chapter in order to fully understand the book further. Tania has done a great job explaining what a statement is and why your child may require one! Readers are then introduced to some resources such as the ‘SEN Code of Practice’ and the Education Act, before reading a detailed chapter headed “Getting Prepared”

The book then explains the whole procedure in detail from start to finish, supplying real example from successful applications with the injection of relevant quotes from the ‘SEN Code Of Practice’ (COP)

Tania really does cover every step in great detail and is sure to warn parents that they shouldn’t expect an easy ride. Regardless of this fact, Tania is always sure to follow up on a positive, the book is extremely motivating, empowering parents to go with their instincts and not give up. The fact that the writer has been through the process and came out the other-side having got what her boys need to succeed in education, is truly uplifting and inspiring for the reader. I feel the use of material from successful applications was also extremely beneficial as well as uplifting and helpful. There were some great common examples where a case seemed a little doomed, yet succeeded. This shows parents that although the LEA do have these big fancy solicitors, that sadly most can’t afford, they can still do it, on their own.

This is very true as nobody knows our child better than us, the parent! I like the very honest and direct approach Tania has provide, there is no sugar coating, she doesn’t state it’s a walk in the park, which helps the parent/reader become fully prepared for what may lay ahead!

It is my belief that this is what parents need, the whole package, of what can happen, the good but also the not so good.

I liked that Tania went a little deeper by covering the issue of relationships (between parents and school/SENCos [special educational needs co-ordinator]) She explains why the break-down of these relationships can make it that bit more difficult when going through the process.

One of the most impressive sections of the book for me, had to be the statementing checklist, that has made some excellent points. Like Tania states, many parents feel their child’s needs are evident! This simply isn’t the case and parent needs to know this. I feel it is very common for a parent to assume that a diagnosis will automatically entitle their child to everything else. Parents are often shocked when they discover this isn’t the way in which it works.

Tania covers everything from the writing of the application for statutory assessment; the refusal of that application; the application to appeal; the agreement to assess, the stages of the assessment and time-scales; the proposed statement; time scales; parental response and request for the school named in part 4, plus more.

WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS BOOK FROM ALL THE OTHERS

I have read many books that are written by mothers of a child on the autism spectrum, however, most are personal stories that are not told in a way that offers advice and guidelines, it’s more like a life story you can relate to.

The book, “Special Educational Needs, Getting Started with Statements” still has that personal feel, after all it’s written by a mother of two son’s with autism who has fought the same system! Nonetheless it’s also a very well written resource and guideline for parents facing the same battles.

What’s nice is the fact that Tania is providing a much needed service for fellow parents and is doing so as a parent and not a professional. This is something most parents of children with SEN prefer, advice from a parent not a professional. Sadly it gets to the stage when you feel fellow parents are the only valid source of information when you are going through such a process and battling against your very powerful Local Education Authority.

What I found very appealing throughout the book, was Tania’s words of motivation, and having gone through the process myself, can verify that at this stressful time encouraging words are most welcome, you cling to any positiveness with both hands right till the very end.

Tania has done very well to draw attention to some very interesting and important points, such as, “How a child’s social & emotional needs must be taken into consideration when requesting a statutory assessment” I myself hear all too often on my Facebook page, many mothers stating, “They told me I can’t apply for a statement, as my son is too bright” (Ok, so it doesn’t matter that his social communication is so poor it makes them depressed, or the child can’t cope at break-time etc., etc….) Tania very clearly wipes out these myths making the statementing criteria easy to understand.

WAS THERE ANYTHING MISSING

I wouldn’t say that there wasn’t anything missing, however I would state that it would have been a nice touch to have added a little jargon buster (explanation of some of the terms used) Even though Tania has been excellent at keeping Jargon to a minimum, not all can be avoided, a little list would have just been nice, though not essential.

From a parent who has embarked on such a journey, with that added pressure to secure an independent special school, who has succeed in both, I think the book is a spectacular resource that will benefit many parents and carers who are desperately trying to secure a statement of SEN for their child.

Claire Sarcone

Claire’s Blog:  “A Boy With Asperger’s” 

Claire’s Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/clairelouise82

Claire’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/A-boy-with-Aspergers/300873671904

Education and Training (Young People with Autism) Bill introduced.

A private member’s bill has been introduced in parliament to make provision for the education and training of young people with autism and Asperger’s syndrome and to ensure that work opportunities are provided for them.

The bill is being sponsored by Conservative MP for Ilford North, Lee Scott.  Introducing the bill, Mr Scott said, “One of the biggest worries for parents who have children with autism, Asperger’s or any other special needs is what will happen when they are no longer here. Will the young person, when they become an adult, be able to look after themselves? Will they have gainful employment? ”

He said that, according to the National Autistic Society, there are more than 350,000 working age adults with autism in the UK. NAS research has found that, whilst many people with autism want to work, just 15% of adults with autism are in full-time paid employment and 9% are in part-time employment.esearch shows that 79% of people with autism on incapacity benefit want to work, but need some support to get into work and retain employment. One in three people with autism is without any financial support from employment or through the benefits system, with many reliant on their families for such support. In a study carried out by Research Autism in 2008 for NAS Prospects London on the experiences of employing people with autism, seven in 10 employers questioned had had a very positive experience of employing people with autism, Asperger’s or other related conditions, and said that they would recommend it to others.

Mr Scott praised an organisation called Kisharon, which runs a printers and a bicycle repair shop staffed solely by young people with autism, Asperger’s or other special needs. “Together with a group called Interface, which is one of my local groups serving young people with autism, Asperger’s or any special needs, and the London borough of Redbridge, with private backing—I am sure the Treasury will be pleased to hear that, as there will be no financial impact on the Treasury—they are looking at how we take matters forward.I have had meetings with leading companies where we plan to run a pilot scheme that will allow them to employ young people and for the young people to have training through local authorities so that they can achieve what they deserve—the best possible future.”

Mr Scott went on to cite one young man who found it difficult to interact in the workplace. “An employer took this young man on, although there were difficulties. There were days when perhaps the young man took offence or had a problem with things that others may not have, but that firm took that into account and worked with that young man and he has now been there for some three years and is a valued employee.”

He went I also want to consider how this scheme can be rolled out, such as accommodation provision and assessment of skills such as computer or IT ability. “We know only too well that many young people with autism or Asperger’s syndrome are brilliant with computers and IT, but may not have great communication skills in the workplace. There is no reason why they cannot work from a satellite centre or from home,” he said.

The bill is set for its second reading debate on 20th January 2011.