We have funding for schooling for 2son and he’s off next week.
Over six months ago he left the Priory without any provision in place. He attended CATE (local small school) a couple of times and gave up. And so, it seems did everyone else. We got a draft statement of needs in November that achieved nothing as we didn’t have a school to go with it. There was a total lack of contact and support.
The panel that makes these decisions decided that as he had shown no commitment to receiving help (looking at CATE rather than what he achieved in the Priory) they wouldn’t fund residential schooling for him unless he showed commitment. Residential school post 16 might be an option (and it comes out of a different budget but hey, who’s counting).
I got help and advice from a friend who runs a charity helping parents of children with special needs to work their way through the system. She wisely explained that an autistic school would work with the child in a much more supportive way than a school specialising in behavioural, emotional and social difficulties which would try and modify the child rather than support him. Therefore the best solution is to go with the autism diagnosis to get him the school that would best help him.
I sent in a letter of protest to the panel, as did CAMHS. The panel had agreed to fund a month of something unspecified to help 2son. The fact that any funding has to be split between social care and education budgets does not help the process. The social worker, who is absolutely bloody marvellous let me say, and I worked on a plan to get 2son into some sort of residential placement for a week. I was thinking of an activity holiday week as we were coming up to Easter which would demonstrate his ability to commit. This idea somehow got transformed into finding a school and agreeing the funding for a trial in the hope that a successful trial would help convince the panel to fund him.
With the draft statement back in November came a 160 page document listing every school in the country that covers some sort of special needs. So I started going through it, crossing out the girls schools, the boys schools, those that didn’t have boarding, those that didn’t go up to 19 years. This eliminated about 90% of them. The task was then to go through the remaining ones, pick out the ones specialising in autism, that offered 52 weeks of care and offered a high level of education for the higher functioning autistic children who are capable of doing well with the right level of support. It seems most schools that support autism focus on getting any type of piece of paper and getting the students to manage themselves on a daily basis to become as independent as possible.
So how many schools did we find that meet 2son’s criteria? I spent two days going through the list and then said friend came round and we spent another day sorting it out. She had advised that if we waited for the council to find a school it could take forever.
We found one school that met these criteria. Just one.
So I submitted the school to SEN and waited for them to have a look. It was approved, papers were sent to the school and they invited us to a visit for a day. We went three weeks ago, without the social worker as he was accidentally placed as the duty social worker that week. He was not pleased and suggested that a letter of complaint would be useful. I didn’t actually get round to it.
2son and I went up on a Friday. He’d had a bath and hair wash the day before, the first for months. He asked questions and it was a lovely place. On the way back I phoned the social worker and said yes. He more or less hung up on me to get the wheels moving. We waited until yesterday for the panel to look at all this and to agree to fund a trial period of a month which if successful would lead to ongoing support until he’s at least 19 and up to 25 if necessary.
He goes on Monday. This week we pack for a month, which will necessitate a vital shopping expedition as he hasn’t been wearing clothes or shoes for a long while, let alone everything else he needs. I have to get him out out of bed first. There is paperwork. I feel triumphantly pleased and stress free for the future and a total bundle of nerves. He’s been living at home for almost four years and he’s going. I am not going to feel anywhere near normal until next week sometime at the earliest. Now everything is just swirling around my head.
I’d like to say it again. My social worker, who has only been on the case since 2son left the Priory has been brilliant in fighting for 2son’s needs. Despite having a heavy case load and running around like an overworked headless chicken he has been supportive, honest and a strong advocate.
As to the post title, well normal state secondary schools get funding of £8,000 per student per year. This school, with its 52 week care, therapy, tiny classes and all the rest of the package that will hopefully help 2son transition into a happier person, cost £180,000 per year.
So thank you to all you hard-working people who pay your taxes, and moan about the services you get for them, as I frequently do. To say I appreciate it doesn’t even begin to cover what I feel. He needs this school. I need this school. His brothers need this school. Giving him the chance to grow up and become a full functional adult who can take part in society. That’s where your money is going and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.