Accessing Appropriate Support For Children With Special Needs Education Essay

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The following assignment will attempt to identify and evaluate fundamental problems and issues experienced by parents in accessing educational support for their children with Special Educational Needs (SEN). According to the SEN Green Paper, special educational needs is a legal term used to describe the needs of children who are experiencing difficulties or disabilities which makes learning more challenging in comparison to other children of their age group (Cowne, 1996). In October 1997, the Labour Government in Britain issued a Green Paper on special needs education stating "we want to see more pupils with SEN included within the mainstream primary and secondary schools"…This calls on government to adopt the principle of inclusive education, enrolling all children in regular schools and implies a progressive extension of the capacity of mainstream schools to provide for children with a wide range of needs (DfEE, 1997). The Paper on special educational needs put forward an attempt to help parents cope with the exceptional pressures they experience and provide the opportunity for them to contribute to their child's education, working in partnership with others (Cowne, 1996).

Mary Warnock emphasized on the importance of identifying the various patterns of disabilities often leads to different kinds of special educational needs. She points out that autistic spectrum differs from other childhood conditions and involve an unusual way of experiencing the social world and the pattern of development (Cigman, 2007). The Special Educational Needs code of Practice devotes a chapter to parents stating "working in partnership with parents which portray how LEAs and schools should support parents during statutory assessment." Parents must be allowed to take part in the decision making process when requesting a statutory assessment (DfES, 2001).The Education Act (1996) suggests that LEAs have the responsibilities in meeting the special educational needs of children. This process begins when a referral is issued to the LEA requesting a statutory assessment in order to determine how to meet the needs of children with special needs. This process takes approximately 26 weeks to be carried out and completed. However, if the Local Authorities disagrees with the referral or request, parents have the legal right to appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal (SENT), (Farrell, 1997).

There are various problems and issues that parents experience when seeking educational assistance for their children with special needs. Firstly, the time frame for an appeal to be accepted and acknowledged by the tribunals takes approximately six weeks. As a result of the long waiting period, parents often become stressed and frustrated. Sometimes the process period is too long thus giving rise to other severe problems, such as diagnosis and treatment for example if a child is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at a certain age (0-16) but at 17 years the diagnosis will be classified as something else. Conduct disorder is an example. Applying independently for a statutory assessment can be very stressful for parents; a long 'waiting game' and parents may begin to lack confidence in the system (Cowne, 1996).  In most cases parents find it difficult to get the process started, having to 'fight' to get their child assessed (Taylor, 2003). 

The Education Act (1996) states that it is the LEA's responsibility to organise the requirements to meet a child's needs as have been identified by the statutory assessment and underlined in the statement.  In discussions held by the Audit Commission with parents, the majority agreed that whenever the school failed to refer their child for an assessment, they found it frustrating and stressful. A parent in particular commented "I found it difficult to start the process". I had to beg ...' (Taylor, 2003). Some parents felt there is a huge delay in starting the process whereas others experience time difficulties whilst the process begins.  The House of Commons (2006) reports that there is a great concern in the length of time it takes to assess and process a statement; this in its own right can have severe effects on a child's education.

Lack of parental partnership also seemed to have posed problems for parents while seeking educational support for their SEN children. Throughout assessment of special needs provision, parents have a right to participate fully, however they can only do so if appropriate information about the system and process they are engaging in are given to them .It also helps if the professionals truly listen to the parents. Whitaker's research (2007) ascertain issues for parents of children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in mainstream schools and found that parental partnerships were the source of many dissatisfaction. He states that "Parents placed a high value on the willingness of school staff to listen and take seriously any concerns that they may have about their child's experiences and progress. Conversely …failure to take parental concerns seriously was a powerful cause of dissatisfaction particularly where parents felt they were seen as needlessly fussy." (Wall, 2003) Parents do become vulnerable and stressed if they are experiencing difficulties in obtaining enough information and support from schools and Local Authorities.

(Robson, 1989) declared that "a successful partnership is based on equality, whereby each partner recognises and benefits from the talents, skills expertise and knowledge of the other. At times one partner may adopt a relatively passive role, in other situations a more active role." The Lamb Inquiry (DCSF, 2009) also highlighted that parents predominantly wanted a system that worked for them and their children: Parents have told us that good, honest and open communication is the most essential element for building confidence and good relationships. Face to face communication with parents and treating them as equal partners with expertise is vital to establishing and sustaining confidence (Wall, 2003). This clearly shows how poor communication between schools and Local authorities can be strenuous for parents.

In an article a parent shared her challenging experiences in receiving appropriate educational support for her 11yr old son. Christine Grainger, a mother from Surrey, says navigating the system on behalf of children with special needs is difficult and time-consuming. Christine's 11-year-old son Dean, has dyslexia, dyspraxia and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and she had a battle to get the specialist teaching he needed. Christine says she is disillusioned with the system. At the end of his reception year, she was told Dean had problems and was being put on the SEN register. When he was eventually given a statement saying he needed 20 hours of support, Christine was told the school did not have the specialist staff required to support him and was asked to find a different school "First of all Dean didn't want to leave his school because he'd made some special friends and it was also difficult trying to find a school that would meet all of Dean's needs "We found we couldn't just take him to any school, I had to try and find a school that would accept him with all the problems that he's got" (Tomlinson, 1981). Inclusion has been identified as one of the key issues that parents find unsatisfactory. It is important because it affects children with and without disabilities. According to Taylor (2003) the issue debated in 1970's, was whether disabled children learn best in integrated or segregated classes.

Conversely some parents felt that they were given too much information and not enough time to understand. Most parent 'didn't understand what the information meant in English ...' feeling 'bombarded' (Taylor, 2003). It is said that it is the Local Authority (LA) responsibilities to ensure that a proposed statement is sent out to parents no later than 12 weeks after the statutory assessment begin. The statement consists of six sections in which parents find it hard to understand what it all entails (Cigman, 2007). Problems persist even once the statement has been issued. Most parents found out that their children had received a statement but failed to understand what each section was about. One parent stated that" she will be keeping an eye on the school to ensure that the child's statement is followed through" (Taylor, 2003).

The most difficult problem that parents come across is; getting their child assessed, especially if the child was referred by the school. When a parent realizes that their child seems to be experiencing difficulties whilst learning, parents should first contact the school.  If the school agrees that there might be problems, with the parents consent they will register the child on the school action /school action plus agenda. These are intervention programs that assist children with educational needs to reach the set targets in class.  If parents find these program unsuitable for their children's needs referral for a statutory assessment is otherwise available.  Only a parent, the school, health authority or social services department is allowed to request statutory assessment.  It is always advisable that parents should notify the school first. However, some parents have trouble talking to their child's school because 'the school won't accept that child has special educational needs' (Moore, 2004). There is a process that parents has to follow when seeking assessment for their child. Wolfendale introduced a case study scenario, where the parents approached the educational psychologist when they came to the school for a routine visit, they found that the school had never informed the psychologist about their child(Bell, 2003)

In circumstances where parents and school do not agree, a parent may approach the Local Authorities (LA) independently. However, the LA may be reluctant to start the process for financial reasons. The Audit Commission wrote a report 'Statutory assessment and statements of SEN: in need of review?' the Audit Commission looks at public money and the best way to use it.  It writes that the demands for statements are rising and 'statements are intended for children with higher levels of need...based on a statutory assessment' (IPSEA, 2001). Getting a statutory assessment is cost effective and may not assist the child's need, this is why it is hard to get LA to agree to the referral, ' if you don't assess the need how can you determine what is required to meet it' (IPSEA, 2001).  The only route to getting a statement is through an assessment; the statement guarantees that the child's special educational needs will be met. 

There is also the issue of the child's contribution; they too have a contribution to make in their assessment and the type of intervention programme that will benefit them. The children act (1989) and the Child Care Act (2006) supports the importance of listening to the child which is also echoed in the code of practice (DfES), 2001.) This is an important consideration as it is often presumed that very young children and especially those with special needs are incapable of contributing to discussion regarding their education and learning, when in reality they have valid opinions and contribution to make which can inform parents, practitioners and practice. If children are capable of contributing to the process of assessment then their views should be valued and respected.

Inequality is another aspect that generates difficulties for parents. It might be the case that special educational needs parents do not receive the same treatment in comparison with the parents of normal mainstream students. One of the arguments put forward by those in favour of educational inclusion for all SEN children is that such children benefit from the social life in a mainstream school and from the role models provided by typically developing children (Cigman, 2007).There are more concerns about SEN children than those who are considered normal, because of their specialty, greater emphasis is placed on their educational development, as such parents with SEN children are faced with more challenges than parents who have normal children.

Inclusion is also a challenge faced by parents with special children. This is due to the fact that, special children do not function as the normal children in the same classroom setting. There is the problem of setting suitable learning challenges, responding to pupils' diverse learning needs and overcoming potential barriers to learning and assessment for individuals and groups of pupils (Farrell, 1997)..

In conclusion, it is evident that the problems and issues that parents encounter in ascertaining educational support for their children with SEN are many and continues to unfold as new diagnosis are made. It is very clear that the statutory assessment which is of paramount importance is the very difficult and challenging for parents. Many times parents are not given a chance to have an input or make a positive contribution towards their child.