So Joe’s out walking on his own on the Cumbrian Fells. Again. What ?! Where are his parents ? I’m with the well-intentioned stranger who pointed out that ‘he shouldn’t be out on his own. You know that!’ I’ve known social services take children into care for less than this. I’m confused about what point Peter Bowker is trying to make here. My patience is wearing thin and my frustration riding high.
At least a degree of realism is portrayed in the conversation between head teacher and parents about support for Joe. Parents want an EHC Plan for Joe ‘to get him the help and support he needs’. Yes clearly he needs one, as his Autism is posing significant challenges and barriers to his engagement in learning. Then comes the Headteacher script of ‘there are stages the school has to go through first before issuing an EHC Plan’. Yes indeed. We are talking here of the Graduated Response, and all the Assess, Plan, Do, Review cycles. However, the impression given is that the LA will then issue an EHC Plan once the school has jumped through the Graduated Response hoops. WRONG. Here’s the hoops Peter Bowker ‘forgot’ to include: parents apply for a statutory assessment for an ECHP and are refused. Parents appeal to the SEND Tribunal and panel finds in their favour. The LA is ordered to conduct a Statutory Assessment. It does so, and concludes the child’s needs are not so severe and complex as to require the production and maintenance of an ECHP. No EHCP issued. Parents appeal again to the SEND tribunal against the LA’s decision not to issue an EHCP following the assessment, and with any luck – and three independent reports and expert witnesses, the panel finds in their favour.
If this sounds like War and Peace, it is. If this sounds like a worst case scenario it isn’t. It is becoming the norm for local authorities to refuse parental requests for a Statutory Assessment for an EHCP. (Known as a ‘blanket policy’). And all this can take up to two years. Meanwhile what is happening to Joe and the hundreds of other five year olds with ASD in their first term of schooling?
The scene depicting Joe engaging in some lovely communication with his mum whilst recovering from a bug, provided some heart-warming relief. But it was not to last. However the notion that children with autism are more receptive to dyadic interaction when suffering from a fever is interesting. I found the reference that was mentioned – from 2007. So it hasn’t been picked up for more research since then. Until now. And a US university has been awarded nearly $1million to study the effects of fever on autistic-like behaviours – IN MICE! What ??
Well it seems I was wrong to suggest that dad Paul might be engaging in some romping with his Project Manager. I am happy to accept that I might have misled my readers on this point. Still dad did see a little conjugality in the form of ‘reconciliation sex’ with his wife. Sorry but I find the ad hocery of suddenly deciding that you are going to try for another baby when you are in the throes of passion, all rather too, well ad hoc really. And it seems there was a complete divergence of this agreement post-hoc. Bizarre (non) communication between Paul and Alison. Should we ever expect more clarity from them ?
And on the topic of bizarre communication, how many of you, dear readers, use the word ‘altruism’ in your conversations at home ?! ‘Hey? What?’ I thought. Someone’s been studying for an OU degree in social science perhaps.
It left me wondering how my favourite screen writer, BAFTA award winning Sally Wainwright (Last Tango in Halifax) would have tackled The A Word. I’ve got a feeling her characterisation and dialogue would have been a lot more authentic.
I’m just off up north myself to Wakefield to assess a little one. I’m sure I will come back imbued with a renewed sense of realism about parents and how they communicate, than Peter Bowker has shared with us so far.
* Conjugation = using the different forms of a verb e.g. I am, you are, she is, we are, they are etc. I’ve used it in the title in recognition of Joe’s temporary fluency in communication with his mum.