Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Entering the world of Special Educational Needs...

pen and paper

My son is a bright, bubbly and imaginative child with a smile that cannot fail to light up even the dullest of days. The kind and caring way he plays with his younger sister makes me so proud. She looks up to him and learns so much from her 'Big Ben'. Knowing she is younger than him and he has to set an example he will often give up his favourite toys to her, if she's upset he will do a silly dance and pull faces to see her smile again. The capacity for empathy in one so young amazes me sometimes...... And his imagination, wow! An imaginary friend? No, not for him, he has a whole host of imaginary superheros, sometimes they come out and play with us and other times they stay at home and tidy his room or read his books! Every night after the bedtime story, he tell a story 'out of his head'. The protagonists are usually whoever he has been playing with in school that day and they have all sorts of adventures from visiting outer space, riding in a fire engine or flying in an aeroplane!

He is a truly wonderful little boy, however he does have developmental issues. He had a speech delay, and at the age of two only had a few words. Now at five, his language has developed fantastically and he often surprises me with the sophisticated sentences he comes out with, but he still has speech and communication problems, finding it difficult to get his words out when excited or under pressure. He also has difficulty concentrating and can be easily distracted. Non of this worries me too much and I know given time he will overcome these difficulties. Unfortunately these are not his only issues. He is hyper-mobile and  has very poor fine and gross motor skills to the point that he has great difficulty holding a pencil., In fact Elizabeth who is not yet two has better pen control than he does. He struggles with some physical activity and cannot yet pedal  on a bike.

Last month he started Year 1, and it was a big step for him, away from he 'playroom' like reception class and into a real learning environment. I was excited for him , but also nervous... how would he cope? How would he get on with a new teacher?

During last year we were often told of his difficulties and how he was developing 'behind' his peers and it was implied that he wasn't really 'trying'. This was sometimes blamed on his age (yes he's an August baby...), but instead of being offered advice and support to help him, I felt that they had almost given up on him and would just let him play with bricks in the corner, while they taught the 'smarter' children..

Yesterday was his first parents evening in Year One and although his new teacher did talk about the areas that he was struggling in, instead of sounding disappointed in him she highlighted the things that he excelled in, his kindness, his imagination and creativeness and how hard he tried at everything he did. We were also told about the extra support he was getting, met the SENCO (special educational needs co-ordinator) and given tips on how we could encourage his development at home, so instead of that familiar feeling of dread, I left feeling so proud of my gorgeous son and knowing that although he was a child with Special Educational Needs he was going to get the support he needed to overcome his difficulties.

So why am I writing this? It may sound like it, but I am not trying to to highlight my sons weaknesses, simply trying to convince myself that he does need help and support and that by accepting this I am not branding him as 'different' or dare I even say it... 'stupid'.

Having constantly fought the label of special needs (being Dyspraxic myself) throughout my own education, it's not easy for me to accept that Ben needs help, however I want my beautiful, bright son to be able to reach his full potential and I need to come to terms with the fact that to do that he will need a little more support than his friends.

This is my first encounter with SEN as a parent and I don't know what is in store over the coming months and years but I do know that I will making sure that my son has the full support he needs to fulfill his potential. Do you have experience with SEN? Please do share and let me know what to expect....


  1. I'm glad your first parent meeting with the new teacher and SENCO were so positive. Don't let anyone fob you off by putting any blame on him (not trying etc. If he really wasn't trying, maybe they hadn't motivated him or found that special key to unlock his interests) Anyone who gives up on a child or feels he has limited potential shouldn't be in education (I'm a HT and would challenge any 'fixed mindsets' rather than growth mindsets'!) Take one step at a time and help him where the need is at that time, so for example if his pencil grip is weak, ask for an occupational therapy assessment. They will come up with great ideas - exercises, equipment such a a sloping board or pencil grips if required.
    Look to his positives and never doubt his capabilities. So what if it takes him longer to achieve something. Does it matter? Never, ever let him hear you talk about what he can't do. Praise his positives - let him 'overhear' you talking about these to others. If you ever hear a professional say we are helping his 'achieve his potential', challenge them! How do you know what his, my or your own potential is and why would we settle for just achieving it? Why not exceed what others think we are capable of?
    Learn all you can from joining groups, going on the internet and reading books and find a path through this for you and your son. Tap into all that is available in school and the community but don't forget that you are your son's first and main teacher. You know him better than anyone and will spend more time with him that anyone. The school will provide support but, with limited resources, it will never be enough but that is the same for every child - no matter how much we put in, there is always more that could be done if time and resources allowed.
    He sounds a delightful boy and I'm sure he will bring you great pleasure as he makes his way through life. Good luck on your journey.

  2. Honey this is a fantastic thing, so many schools do not take the time to even realise that some children have special educational needs. It is positive that they want to get this sussed now, and work with you to help. I know it feels like a kick to you as a mother, but remember it's not what they are trying to do, they just want to help him. I know so many parents who fight to get their kids the help they need (me included!) so it's great that they are on the ball. Massive hugs to you xxx

  3. Hi Jen, as difficult it is, it is fantastic that they have picked up on it & already have put steps into place for SENCO. You normally have to fight all the way for this, once he is learning his way then he will soon be coming on in the areas he finds difficult. If you ever need to chat feel free to message me.xx

  4. Hi, my daughter was recently diagnosed with Aspergers and I've spent the last year dealing with SENCO's and teachers at her school, really with little satisfaction. She's in Yr 4 now, and I've enlisted the help of Parent Partnership (a government initiative that help parents get the best for their SEN children at school) and they've sent me lots of info, and will buddy me if I want it, at a meeting with the school. If you do run into difficulties over the years I would recommend getting in touch with them :)

  5. I think that it is great the school has picked up on this, but there are lots of things you can do as a parent that can help too. Mini had coordination issues (He is six) and we did things like using connected chopsticks to pick up things and make shapes in shaving foam. Take a look at blogs such as Nurturestore, The Imagination Tree and you will see that so much can be improved through learning through play.

  6. Thanks ladies, really appreciate your words of support and advice. I know it's a positive thing that he is being offered support and i hope it continues, I know he will find his own way of learning and I intend to do everything i can to encourage that at home xx

  7. He sounds like a lovely lad and it sounds like the school staff can see that so that's brilliant!

    Don't see SEN as a stimgam or a label a child will have forever. It is exactly what it say the child has special needs which their peers don't. Sometimes all they need is a year or two of extra practice with fine motor skills and

  8. sorry having problems commenting.

    I'm sure with your support and the schools he will develop to his full potential.

    The other thing is its great the school has recognised what he needs so early and are giving hispm the support he needs when he needs it. Sometimes it takes so long to get it put into place. A boost now will mean he can keep up with his class.

  9. It sounds like the school is fantastic and he is doing brilliantly. I read this as a positive piece about how well he is doing and that he has a fantastic imagination. It's great you are all getting the right support and I'm sure that will help develop his skills. You don't have to be great at everything to get on in life :)


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