This is war


Life with a special need child is full of surprises but it’s also (and most of the days) a battle.
A battle against society, against the system, against the condition. My son is 11 years old and was diagnosed with autism when he was 2. Fortunately we were able to access therapy at home and got him into a mainstream primary school in Camden. After 2 years in that school I had to take him out, as the staff there was unable to meet his needs despite promises when we first met them. Back then, I had faith in the system and thought that it was a mishap like I could read everywhere on the Net. I had to home-school him for 8 month while waiting for a place in another mainstream school, also in Camden.
Now my son is in Y6 in that amazing school (Emmanuel C of E Primary School) where he finally learned how to read, write, count, share and experience life as close to normality as possible.

But last September, we had to think about the future. Yes, we had to think about secondary school placement as Camden requires SEN applications to be submitted before everybody else. So we chose two schools (out of borough for lack of choice). One big school with an autistic unit in Barnet, and a new free special school, that advertised an opening date in September 2017. And we waited. Anxiously. Some people around me where super confident “because when you have a statement/EHCPlan, you get in everywhere”. Yeah, right…

So we waited…and at the beginning of December, Camden announced us that both of our applications have been rejected. The first school rejected us because… well because Camden sent the application in the mainstream administration, which is separate from the autistic unit administration… and the other school rejected us because it was still waiting for the DfE approval to open and couldn’t take any registration at that time.

The LA (Local Authority) then reapplied to the same school. And we waited…

Then in January, we received the disappointing news that our application was still rejected because the unit was full. No additional explanation was provided.

I started to panic and dug deep in my network. I contacted the former mayor of Barnet, a high official in Camden but they were not very helpful… I was furious

The law specifies that the LA must find a place for every child. That’s what they did. The filled the blank in the appropriate section of the EHC Plan and wrote the first school who had availability for my son. This is one of the 2 SEN provisions in Camden and it’s not, absolutely not, suitable for my son. This school caters for children with various disabilities and the autistic children there tend to have a more serious condition than my son. So this time I was not going to relent. I was going to fight and oppose that decision. I hate conflict but for my son I didn’t have the choice.

So I hired a lawyer like a lot of SEN families (the lucky ones that can afford that kind of service) and now I’m waiting (again) for the appeal date on the 10th of July. It’s horribly late.

Then, last week, came another blow: the school in Brent that I really had my hopes on, announced that they won’t be able to open the secondary school section next September. That was the last blow and this time as I was properly lost.

What am I going to do? What if I don’t have a school for September? I don’t want to home-school my son again! I feel lost, I feel alone and not in control of anything.