(** I should add, this post refers to a child with more “hidden” difficulties – she has no obvious medical needs or learning difficulties, nor a flashing light above her head to say she needs help. I know the struggle is very real for parents with children with more obvious needs, but I sometimes wonder what percentage of children that need EHCP’s don’t get them because they don’t “look like the part”.)
A few weeks back I finally managed to send off a parental request for an EHCP assessment for Little Person. (EHCP stands for Educational Health Care Plan – it’s a legal document outlining the support that is required to be given to a child with Special Educational Needs -SEN – to facilitate their education, in a nutshell). The list of people who think she should have this precious document is surprisingly long. The number of people willing to apply for it is unsurprisingly short: me. (School could apply, but they claim they wouldn’t get it. Mind you, they also say that although she needs it, she won’t get it if I apply either.)
This morning as I sat scanning another batch of documents into my computer before sending them off again, I was struck by the costs to me personally, and to our family, of trying to get the necessary documentation that would mean my child can receive the education she is entitled to (you know the one, the education that gives her the best chance of achieving her potential, and doesn’t leave her traumatised).
So far, and this is by no means an exhaustive list, I have:
- The cost of the educational psychologist assessment (school said that she didn’t need an assessment really. She did, even without the EHCP stuff).
- Decent Internet access (all the information and support is online)
- Computer for typing all the letters and keeping a record of all correspondence
- The patience of Job. Or maybe more, because I’m sure he lost his rag at some point, and you cannot be seen to lose your temper with the people.
- Scanner / Copier access (because you need to keep copies of all the reports and documentation)
- Space for all the documents and reports
- Time to fill in all the documents
- Time to meet with all the professionals and take child to appointments as required.
- Deadline tracking systems – to make sure you never miss a deadline you’re supposed to meet, and to follow up when they miss theirs. (Whoever they are)
- Head space to research and understand the EHCP application process.
- Thick skin so that you can withstand being bullied (it can come from any number of sources, and they manage to look you right in the eye while telling you it’s just a parenting problem).
- An overdeveloped sense of irony
- Wine/chocolate/insert “unhealthy” coping mechanism of choice here
- Interpersonal skills – especially to deal with people who have no idea how hard it really is.
Of course, by the time I realised we were in EHCP territory, my caring role had become a fulltime job – I spend the part of my days when she is at school preparing for when she will get home. So I have less time than ever, and more things to do in that time. Like I said, irony.
Please feel free to add anything that I have forgotten off my list.