You know that feeling when you’re at the top of a really high rollercoaster, just tipping over the edge and facing the steep tracks stretching down ahead of you? That’s kind of how I’m feeling after this week.
Back in the summer, when we met with the Principal Officer from the local authority (LA) about Tink’s EHC plan, she refused to consider extra funding to enable Tink to have a full-time one-to-one support person in school. It was decided that it would be reviewed in December, and that meeting happened this week.
Tink has made some great progress over the last few months, particularly with her speech and language, and this has been noticed by her teachers, the speech therapist and the lovely man from the Communication and Autism Team (CAT). However, they, and we, have also noticed that she’s not making progress in other areas. In fact, some aspects of her development are stalling, or even regressing. This is despite all the support put in place for her as a result of her EHC plan and despite having a dedicated teaching assistant all morning in Nursery.
Nursery have been absolutely fantastic with Tink. They have tried so many things, put in place so many adjustments and have been more than happy to accommodate her and us. But we’ve noticed an increase in Tink’s anxiety since around October, and she is less willing than ever to comply with requests and adult direction. Whilst fairly happy to play alongside her classmates, she still does not really engage with them and seems less comfortable being part of a large group. She has become more rigid in her thinking and routines and more vocal in expressing this (which is actually a good thing, but the screaming and shouting is not!).
After the conversation we had with her teacher at parents’ evening, we had been looking at alternative choices for provision and, after much discussion between ourselves and with school, we have decided that we would like her to move to specialist provision. We visited a school not too far from home that I think seems perfect for her, with fantastic facilities and a great reputation. And no spaces… but we’ll get to that!
So, the meeting happened this week. We had briefed school that this was the route we were looking at taking, which meant they wouldn’t have to present an argument for more funding and, instead, would need to demonstrate why they can no longer meet Tink’s needs. We told the lady from the LA that we are looking for a move as we feel the special school will be more suited to meeting her increasing needs and that if she remains in mainstream education, we feel the gap between her and her peers will only widen. We don’t want her to be ‘managing’ or ‘coping’ – we want her to thrive.
We were expecting a bit of a discussion. It didn’t happen. She just nodded and asked for our reasons. She did mention that it’s likely there isn’t a place available at the moment, which we were expecting anyway. The head, on giving us the guided tour, made it clear she didn’t want to admit any new children at this point in the academic year. But it isn’t her decision. It’s a complicated process, but we have to make a case for Tink to go there, it will go to a panel to decide if she can and to the school to say if they can meet her needs. And even if they say they can, they’ll still probably say there isn’t a place, so I guess it will get bounced around for a while!
In the meantime, Tink’s hours at Nursery will increase gradually after the Christmas break, so that she is attending all day within a few weeks. There is still the issue of funding for support; if school can’t demonstrate her needs are great enough for more money, she won’t have any dedicated support in the afternoons, which will be interesting. But they are trying. Even though we’ve said we want to move her, they’re not giving up, which would be so easy to do. I truly believe they have Tink firmly at the centre of everything they do, even though it’s tough.
So, the ball is rolling. The wheels are in motion. And I feel like we’re tipping over the top of the rollercoaster. Hang on for the ride!