Friday, 11 May 2012

The Start of the Statement

This week we had our initial appointment with the educational psychologist to start the statementing process for Bee. It was something we'd been looking forward to and dreading in equal measures.

Our appointment was scheduled for the afternoon, after the educational psych. had spent some time with Bee in the morning. Thankfully Foz was off work so we were able to attend together. It can feel a little overwhelming sometimes attending these kind of things on my own while Foz is at work so I'm always grateful when we can do it together.

For those unfamiliar a statement of special educational needs to a document setting out what your child's needs are and what assistance the council/school is legally bound to provide to ensure that your child reaches their full learning potential. We are very lucky that Bee will be statemented automatically, many parents have to fight to get that for their child.

The ed. psych was lovely, very friendly and eager to reassure us that she's on our side and wants to help us get everything that Bee needs. She began by asking us all kinds of questions like how we felt Bee was doing, what areas we felt she needed assistance in, where she was excelling, what things she liked to do, what she didn't like to do etc. Our answer was, of course, that she is flying. Since starting nursery she seems to have improved in every area. She's more confident, communicates more, mobility is better, the list goes on. I found myself having to forcibly stop myself from going on and on about how fantastic she's doing and how proud we are.

Then it came time for the ed. psych's turn. She asked if we minded her giving us some observations she'd made about Bee during her time with her that morning. She was quick to reassure us that her observations were made during a 'snapshot' of Bee's time, there'd be things that Bee would or wouldn't do during the session that she may or may not do at home so we were to take everything with a pinch of salt. 

She began by telling us what a sweet, pleasant, bright and curious little girl Bee is and that we should be very proud of her (which we are!) Looking back it feels a little like that was the sweetener before the bad news.

Next came the observations:
  • Bee interacted brilliantly with adults, was able to engage them and knew how to make her feelings/desires clear through language, sign or gesture. But Bee did not engage other children in play. She would play next to other children, but not directly with them. Occasionally she would become interested in something another child was doing and would approach to have a look, but would not make an attempt to join in.
  • Bee would sit during group time and listen/respond if an adult was talking to her directly. Once the adult had moved on to talk to another child, or to the group as a whole Bee's attention wandered and she didn't appear to process the information that was being given.
  • Once given a task to perform, in this instance filling a bucket with water from the water pump and using that to fill the water play table, Bee could begin to carry it out but struggled to complete. She seemed to forget what she was supposed to be doing and needed a lot of repeated prompts to carry out the whole activity.
  • Although very confident walking on smooth flat surfaces Bee was observed to need assistance with mobility during use of the water pump, which stands at the top of a slight incline. She managed well by herself towards the pump but on the walk down the incline she asked to hold the hand of a staff member for support.
From there the ed. psych was able to make some initial recommendations for the statement:
  • Bee has severe needs with communication. She has a handful of Makaton signs and some language but the words are unformed and difficult to understand.
  • Bee has severe needs with mobility. Although she is able to walk unaided on flat, smooth surfaces Bee struggles with any uneven surface or inclines. She doesn't watch where she steps and will step off edges without realising. She needs an adult with her for supervision at all times.
  • Bee has severe needs with learning. When engaging with one adult in a direct conversation Bee will listen and process information she is given. When that conversation encompasses more children Bee struggles to engage in the same way and can't seem to process information she receives. This will have a massive impact on her in classroom learning.
This report for us was pretty devastating. We'd been so proud of Bee and so pleased with the progress that she'd made we'd gone into that meeting a little naively, thinking that the educational psychologist would be equally impressed and tell us that Bee is perfect and would do fantastic in a mainstream school. To hear the words "severe needs" repeatedly was a bit of a shock to the system. Bee is our first child and I think we forget sometimes that although she is doing really well for what we'd always been told to expect, she's not doing so well in comparison to other children her age.

In September Bee is due to go up to 15 hours a week at nursery from 6 hours. We'd been considering our options for that: whether to keep her entirely at the special needs nursery, split the time between a special needs and a mainstream or move her over to a mainstream nursery entirely. We'd been leaning towards splitting the 15 hours between her current special needs nursery and a mainstream, the idea being that she'd get the 1-on-1 she needs at the SN nursery and the 'school' experience at the mainstream. We had been hoping that Bee would have achieved enough to attend mainstream school in September 2013, even if she needed extra assistance to do so.
Since this meeting though we'd reassessed our thoughts on the matter. It would seem that a SN nursery is best for Bee at the moment and we will probably make the decision to keep her there for the full 15 hours in September. We want Bee to achieve her full potential and if that means a special needs nursery and eventually a special needs school then that's fine with us. The last thing we want is for her to struggle and be branded a 'failure' in any mainstream setting.
For more information on Statements:

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