I found my voice to be able to fight for my son
One mum talks about how the Birth to 16 team helped her son get into a school where he is now thriving.
Overview of how things were for J and her son
J’s son is 12 years old and has not yet been diagnosed with autism. Last year he started secondary school, where he was racially bullied. This was an upsetting time for J and her son, particularly as he had a difficult time at primary school too. She went to the school and asked for him to be moved to another secondary school. A temporary educational placement was found at the school that J wanted him to go to.
J was over the moon but was not aware that this was a managed move. A managed move is a negotiable transfer. This means that it is on a trial basis and if the move fails, the child gets sent back. J’s son struggled to settle, and the placement failed. J knew that going back to the original school would not work for him and she refused to allow this to happen. He ended up staying at home for two months. He also had no Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) in place and his future felt very uncertain.
Meeting Autism Independence for the first time
During this time J was going to a Special Education Needs (SEN) group in Bristol and someone there advised her to go to an Autism Independence coffee morning. It was here she met someone from Autism Independence’s Transition to Adulthood team. J explained what had been going on with her son’s education and that an investigation had been opened to challenge the decision to send him back to the first school. She had a meeting coming up about this and one of the team went along with her for support. J was desperate for him to stay at the new school as he was happy there and not being bullied. After this meeting she was given three weeks to respond.
The team picked up straight away that her son should have had a support plan in place from his primary school. An educational psychologist had assessed him in year five and initially thought he had dyslexia. It was in year six that the school realised the diagnosis was incorrect and that he probably had autism. They then queried where the report was and went to the primary school to request the paperwork. Neither school had the report, so the team asked that one was provided and for it to be updated. This was then used to support the case for him to stay at the new secondary school.
A follow up meeting for the investigation took place a month later. The Investigating officer overturned the decision. It is rare for this to happen so J and the team were delighted. Her son was able to go back to the school for another 12 week trial.
The Transition to Adult team initially helped put the case forward before handing this over to the Birth to 16 team. They attended every meeting at the school and were copied into all emails. With the last managed move no support was provided, so having Autism Independence by her side throughout the process was a huge help. J’s son started school again six weeks before the summer holidays and found out in October of this year that the managed move had been successful.
J had also started the process of getting her son an EHCP assessment. Bristol City Council refused the first application. After this Autism Independence appealed against the decision and got mediation. The team and SENDIAS worked together to advise J what documents to include in the new application and the council has since overturned the decision. He is now able to get the assessment he desperately needs.
The challenge for J’s son
J’s son is verbal so it can be difficult to pick up on his diagnosis. At first he may appear not to have any additional support needs, but it is hard for him to understand and follow instructions. It makes school a challenging experience for him. Without the support structure in place for him to thrive, he struggles.
How have things improved for J and her son?
The last few years had been an upsetting time for both J and her son. He had been through a lot. He has a history of self-harm due to the bullying and there was a risk of this happening again. J also had other challengers in her life, including her own disability. She felt overwhelmed by it all. Since being at the new school though her son has settled in. He has made a friendship group and the teachers are so much more understanding. It has been transformational.
” When I came here things started to change, and now, whenever I need support, they are always here for me” – J, Bristol mum
The professionalism and knowledge of the team has helped things improve immeasurably. J loves coming to the Autism Independence office. It feels like a safe space, where she feels heard and understood. She went to a lot of other organisations asking for help, but she never got anywhere.
Autism Independence continues to support her. Through this J has found her voice. She has no intention of back down and will keep on fighting for her son.