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Accessing the Right Support

Having had such a difficult experience accessing the correct support, I'm always happy to share my experiences with others.  This is not intended as a 'how to' guide or a recipe for success - everyone you speak to will have a completely different experience.

I'm always happy to answer any questions or if there's anything I haven't covered, so please get in touch below:

EHC Plans

An Education and Health Care Plan is for children and young people aged up to 25 who need more support than is available through special educational needs support.

How do I apply for a plan?

  • You can ask your local authority to carry out an assessment (self-refer) if you think your child needs an EHC plan.

  • A young person can request an assessment if they're aged 16 to 25.

  • Anyone else can request an assessment who thinks it is necessary such as doctors, health visitors, teachers, parents and family friends.

What information might I need to provide?

  • Any reports from your child's school, nursery or childminder.

  • Doctor's assessment of your child.

  • A letter from you about your child's needs.

Your local authority will tell you within 16 weeks whether an EHC plan is going to be made for your child.

You can find out how to get local support through:

Council for Disabled Children

Information, Advice and Support Service Network

Your local authority website (search for 'Local Offer')

My Advice

If at first you don't succeed - persevere!  It's not a straightforward process and since the Pandemic the applications for EHC plans has increased enormously. EHC Plans are a legal document and it's essential that the wording of the plan is crystal clear to clarify what provision and support is needed.  It should also detail how often, who by, how and when will this be monitored.  It may well be worth getting your plan checked by an Education Law Solicitor.

Getting a Diagnosis

If you think you or your child have signs of Autism, ADHD or are generally struggling in education or with health issues, you can contact:

  • your GP

  • a Health Visitor (for children under 5)

  • any other health professional that you or your child see

  • a special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) staff at your child's school.

You may be offered or can request a referral to CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service). CAMHS support covers anxiety, depression, problems surrounding food and eating, self-harm, violence, anger, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, among other difficulties.  They can also diagnose Autism and ADHD.

You may also want to consider an Educational Psychologist.  They assess a child's needs - both educational and emotional using a variety of techniques and they can also diagnose learning disabilities and difficulties.  A referral must be made via your child's school or a health professional if they are pre-school age.

You can also self-refer for a private assessment for all of the above which you will need to fund yourself.  Do your homework to make sure that whoever you instruct follows NICE guidelines

Right to Choose

If you are based in England, under the NHS you now have  legal right to choose your mental healthcare provider and your choice of mental healthcare team.  This important right means that, for instance, should you decide that the waiting time for your ADHD or Autism assessment is too long, then you can choose alternative providers.  The providers must supply a service to the NHS somewhere in England.

Multiple Diagnosises

You may find that one diagnosis may lead to another so don't be alarmed.  For example, it can be quite common for an Autism diagnosis' to need an Educational Psychologist assessment or a Sensory Processing Disorder assessment.

My Advice

Ask the person referring you for the waiting times for an appointment as this can vary from area to area.  If your need for a diagnosis is time sensitive (I needed mine for exam arrangements) and you can afford it, a private diagnosis will be the quickest route to take.  

It may feel quite overwhelming to have several assessments and diagnoses - try and view it as a route to better understanding the support that is needed for you or your child.

Your Rights in Education

It is against the law for a school or other educational provider to treat disabled students unfavourably.  This includes:

  • direct discrimination

  • indirect discrimination

  • harassment

  • victimisation

What are Reasonable Adjustments?

(The term 'reasonable adjustment' can be ambiguous and open to interpretation). An education provider has a duty to make 'reasonable adjustments' to make sure disabled students are not discriminated against.  These changes could include providing extra support and aids (like specialist teachers or equipment). They are not subject to the reasonable adjustment duty to make alterations to physical features, like adding ramps.  They must make the buildings accessible for their disabled students as part of their overall planning duties.

Special Educational Needs and  Disabilities (SEND)

All publicly funded pre-schools, nurseries, state schools and local authorities must try to identify and help assess children with special educational needs and disabilities. If a child has an EHC plan, these must be reviewed annually.  Universities and Colleges should have a person in charge of disability issues that you can discuss the support they offer.

What is classed as a disability?

You're disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a 'substantial' and 'long term' negative effect on your ability to carry out normal daily activities.

Substantial: this is more than minor or trivial, eg it takes much longer than it usually would to complete a daily task such as getting dressed.

Long Term: this means 12 months or more, eg a breathing condition that develops as a result of a lung infection.

Exam Arrangements

The Equality Act 2010 requires exam boards to make reasonable adjustments for disabled students if a student's disability makes it substantially harder for them to show what they know, understand, and can do in that assessment.  Some of the most common arrangements are:

  • extra time to complete an assessment

  • modified exam papers (large print or braille)

  • access to assistive software (voice recognition)

  • use of a scribe or laptop

  • exams from home

My advice

When you live with a disability its hard to decide what can be a normal daily activity.  In this instance it might be useful to compare your abilities to those of your peers that don't have a disability.

Additional Support

SENDIAS stands for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice.  It's a free, impartial and confidential service offering information to young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and to their parents and carers.  There is a SENDIAS service in every local authority in England.

The Council for Disabled Children is the umbrella body for the disabled children's sector and can signpost you to get local support for your child.

You can ask your local social services for an assessment to help with you or your child's day-to day living needs.

Financial Support

Depending on your circumstances there is a variety of financial support available from Family Fund Grants for children and young people to Disabled Student's Allowance for students at College or University.  

There are a number benefits that are available to children and adults with disabilities, some of which require an assessment.  Some of which are means tested whilst others are not.

My Advice

You need to bear in mind that thousands of people of year are trying to access some of these services so you need to be patient.  Having said that, if you feel that you have not been treated fairly or for example your local authority isn't sticking to the correct timelines for an EHC Plan, it's worth getting in touch with your MP.  If they feel your concerns are valid, they can help you to secure the support that you need.

EHC Plan
Diagnosis
Rights in Education
Additional Support
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