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Best way to get an EHC assessment for child with autism doing OK academically?

velvetbulldozervelvetbulldozer Member Posts: 2 Listener
edited September 2016 in Education and learning
Hello. I'd be grateful for any advice or tips. My son is 7 and just starting Y3 in mainstream. He was noticed for slightly 'odd' behaviour but he doesn't disrupt the class and academically is working above average in some subjects and average in writing (an area of difficulty). He tested well above chronological age for reading comprehension in Y1. He was put on the SEN register for extreme eating problems 2 years ago, but we've been told he is "too bright to qualify for an EHCP".

So why do I think he needs an EHCP? I think his pattern of strengths and difficulties are beyond the expertise available in a mainstream school.

His Y2 teacher was excellent at her job and she worked extra hard to help him, but she struggled despite being excellent at her job. In the end I think she had tried every trick she had, but he just wouldn't react the way she expected. He completely refused to cooperate when asked to do handwriting, PE and group work/role play which are all areas of difficulty for him. The school acknowledged a year ago that he was emotionally immature and would benefit from social skills group - but that the group run at the school was probably at too low a level for him. I was told by the SENCO that he is fine at school but when I look at his behaviour it says stress and anxiety: he starves himself while there and destroyed his chair/pencils/clothing in class.Last year we decided to have him assessed (in spite of the school thinking he was completely OK) and he was recently diagnosed with autism.

His problems seem to be invisible to the school so I can't show any evidence of spending or Assess/Plan/Do/Review to meet the LA criteria for assessment. However I do have medical reports from an OT, a Paediatrician and a Psychologist which I think show that there "may" be SEN which would justify an EHC Assessment. Having read the SEN COP I can see that the LA shouldn't use blanket policies so my reports (in theory) should convince them to assess, but I'm aware this doesn't go so easily in practice. 

In my uneducated opinion I think that he has SEN in all 4 areas of need, despite showing signs of giftedness, all related to the autism which affect his daily life: Social/Communication; Dysgraphia/SpLD with Written Expression; Eating Disorder and Slight Fine/Gross Motor Problems. 

From what I have written, what is the most compelling way to present his case for EHC assessment to the LA?

Thanks!!

Replies

  • VicVic Member Posts: 9 Listener
    edited September 2016
    @velvetbulldozer Sometimes it is difficult to get schools to see some of the not so obvious affects of Autism.
    You can ask for an EHC assessment yourself but it is always useful to have the support of someone else.
    Have you spoken to:
    the Independent Supporters in your area - you can do a google search to find them
    Ipsea are always very helpful at https://www.ipsea.org.uk/
    Have you got a local National Autistic Society Group locally as they are very helpful or the NAS Helpline as they understand how autism affects a child.
    best wishes
  • EducationalPsychologistEducationalPsychologist Member Posts: 119 Courageous
    I would also recommend IPSEA. Is it an educational psychologist that assessed your son and wrote a report? You can ask them their advice as they know the specifics of your son's case. If it wasn't an educational psychologist then that is something I strongly recommend. 
  • velvetbulldozervelvetbulldozer Member Posts: 2 Listener
    Hi. Thanks for your replies. I've been scouring the internet trying to find some asperger EHCP advice and all I can find are others looking for help - without many decent answers! So having got a few ideas I thought I would come back with an update as it might help me form our argument and also help some other family in future. :)

    Firstly, a friendly SALT reviewed my son's report as a favour. She highlighted that it is difficult to understand as probably only another SALT would understand its jargon. Our school or LA are unlikely to be able to act on it. I've gone back to the author and asked for her to add a 1 page supplement identifying my son's "Needs" and specific quantity and quality of "Provision" for the school to put in place. So I'd suggest that the first task for most people is to make sure that they have a useful report that their school can use - that could save a lot of trouble for most families!

    I also got in touch with IPSEA and they have advised that the legal test for an EHC assessment is fairly low - ie that an assessment should be done if the child "may have SEN" that impacts on their day to day activities. Local authorities try to add in lots of other policies (eg spending and number of terms of lack of academic progress etc), but they don't count legally.

    IPSEA have advised us to apply for an EHC on our own (as the school won't help) and expect that we might be refused in the first instance. We should then appeal the decision and if necessary insist/apply for tribunal - these have been recently been changed to paper based tribunal assessments so should avoid all the intimidation of an actual hearing. As our son has an ASD diagnosis he automatically "has SEN" in law. This in itself should be sufficient evidence to justify an EHC Assessment - but I suspect it will be more difficult in practice. Most assessment appeals are found in favour of parents, so in time our son will probably/hopefully/eventually be assessed.

    Lots of families experience problems with illegal refusal to assess and LAs not sticking to the legal time frames. IPSEA suggest making complaints about this, both to the LAs and to the Local Government Ombudsman as if noone complains, the service is unlikely to get better. An Ed Psych report is an essential part of the EHC process, so the LGO has awarded costs where families have had to commission their own reports in order to persuade the LA to assess. They can't deal with anything that the school do/don't do, but will deal with "maladministration" at the LA as long as the problem is reported within 12 months of it happening.

    Once the EHC assessment has been carried out, IPSEA said that there is a chance that the LA will then refuse to issue a Plan. In other words they could say that although our son has SEN, it is not severe or complex enough for it to be covered in a legal document. This is the case for the vast majority of SEN kids in the UK - only 2-3% will get a plan. The LA will probably say (rather like the school) that he is not failing academically, and that the school accommodations that he needs don't cost enough to justify a plan. IPSEA have said that if the LA refuse to issue a plan, we should appeal (possibly for the second time). Again IPSEA say that many of these appeals go in favour of families, but realistically at this point we might have to settle for SEN Support and keep an eye on our son's mental health - applying again for an EHCP in the future if further problems arise.

    On the other hand, our case for an EHCP probably includes 3 out of the "four areas of need" set out in the SEN Code of Practice (COP):

    Our main argument is that children with ASD might be able to function at/above average academically but their SEN is in the social/emotional/motor sphere and in our case the support that our son needs seems to be so subtle/complex that unless it is set out in an EHCP, it is unlikey to be deilvered by school (based on past experience) specifically:
    1) The support needed for our son's eating issues is beyond what would be required in a typical school situation and therefore should be protected independent of which school he attends or which staff look after him. The law requires schools "to use their best endeavours" but we have evidence from the past 3 years where (despite being on SEN support for eating issues) the school's mismanagement of their food policy resulted in exacerbation of son's eating problems and consequential decline in this health. 
    2) Our son may be performing at/above expected academic levels but he shows indications of dysgraphia related to his ASD (combination of fine motor and central coherence problems) for which he requires support. Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs) happen at all levels of "cognitive ability" and the law expects schools to support pupils with SEN to "achieve the best possible educational and other outcomes".  We have a screening report showing that his handwriting difficulties will require more substantial support than just "quality first teaching" eg one-ton-one support, use of computer in class, exam accommodations etc. Although touch typing was offered in June, the school has not actioned this yet.
    3) Looking ahead, we would like to ensure that support is in place to avoid mental health problems and facilitate a successful transition to secondary school. 

    Fortunately in our case I had kept notes of most of the meetins I had with the school over the years (as my memory isn't always good!) and IPSEA advised that this can be used as "evidence" in our case. Recently I have used emails with the school to record things more formally.

    If anyone reads this because they are in a similar position - you need to check if your child is on SEN Support - and if not find out why not. If you have a child with ASD they should definitely be on the SEN Register. Make sure you ask for copies of all of the school records and reports (if you haven't got copies already). Ask for a copy of the SEN Support records. Take your own notes of all meetings with the school and keep them in a file. Make requests of the school in writing and note their replies - file copies. To get an EHCP you will need evidence and there is a good chance that you will have to collate that evidence if your school does not fully understand the nature of your child's problems.

    Sorry for the mammoth post, but I was desperate to find this sort of detail when I was hunting around for tips. No family with autism will have the same issues, but hopefully the above will give others a head start when trying to frame their own EHCP argument. Fingers crossed we are successful and I'll try to come back with updates as we go through the different phases. Good luck!
  • Chris_AlumniChris_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 695 Pioneering
    Thanks very much for sharing your experiences @velvetbulldozer, I'm sure that this post will prove useful in future to other community members. 

  • EducationalPsychologistEducationalPsychologist Member Posts: 119 Courageous
    Thanks Velvetbulldozer. Really helpful post. Would you mind also sharing it on the Facebook group 'Its not just you'? I'm sure lots of other parents on the group would find it helpful.
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