Jane Russell: Why it’s vital that deaf adults advocate for deaf children in the new Special Educational Needs (SEN) process (BSL)

Posted on November 15, 2016

I would like to share my experience so far of the new Education Health and Care plan process, and why I feel deaf adults need to be involved. This may be interesting to those who have deaf children.

Watch Jane signing her article below:

My son was identified as deaf at eight weeks old, when he was a baby, which seems a long time ago as he will soon be 16.

He is at a mainstream school with his brother and sister and he has an educational statement which identifies his needs and support, for example, a sign communication worker, teacher of the deaf visits, a radio aid, a note taker in some lessons etc etc.

Last week there was a meeting at school to discuss our son’s recent progress and also what will happen post 16. Many people came; his Teacher of the Deaf, his sign communication worker, our son,his parents, interpreter – the room was bursting at the seams!

The school special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) was there plus staff from the sixth local sixth form college which was lovely of them because they knew he doesn’t want to go to the mainstream sixth form College because he prefers a deaf residential sixth form.

In 2014 a new law, The Children and Families Act,was introduced, part of which means the old educational statements will stop. This doesn’t mean there will be no support, but those who have statements should be offered Educational Health and Care plans (EHCPs).

EHCP’s should be better than statements because they are linked to outcomes. What are outcomes? An example of an outcome may be a child in key stage 2 using age appropriate language. Outcomes can also be measured.

The old statements included needs and the support to be provided and the focus was mainly education and maybe a little about health. The new EHCP’s include outcomes about education, health and social care so there is the opportunity to include social and emotional outcomes and these are really important for deaf children.

So how do you get an EHCP? If a child has a statement then they should be offered a transfer to an EHCP. A plan coordinator from the Local Authority should in consultation with parents, the young person and people who work with the young person decide who to ask to give information about the young person’s needs for an assessment.

If the young person is deaf, firstly they have to ask them for their views about their needs; they are the most important person.

Secondly they have to ask parents and a qualified Teacher of the Deaf. The plan coordinator can choose who else to ask. So once there is a list of names, they are all emailed or receive a form through the post about the needs of the young person.

As his mother, I will receive a form and will have to think about our son’s needs, complete the form and send it back to the Local Authority. The plan coordinator will receive everyone’s input, read them, summarise the needs of the young person and include in a draft plan.

There is more, after this stage to get the plan agreed but that would take more time to explain so maybe I can include this in another post.

Who is chosen to provide information really matters. Today I was looking on the NDCS website (National Deaf Children’s Society) which included information from the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (OFSTED) which says there is evidence that children’s achievements are linked with the quality of the assessments. So who gives information for the assessments can impact on children’s achievements.

Back to last week, in the meeting, the plan coordinator from the Local Authority didn’t come but the people who were there were discussing and making a list of who should give information and then this would be emailed to the plan coordinator.

I wasn’t feeling comfortable, then it clicked.

None of the people on the list were Deaf. His teacher are not deaf. His parents, are not deaf. The plan should be focused on our son’s future and successful transition to adulthood. How can the full information be provided if there was no Deaf input?

I realised a Deaf adult from our son’s future is needed to give this information to the Local Authority. Our son is Deaf but he is not yet an adult. Where we live we don’t have social workers for deaf people or deaf youth workers.

After the meeting I thought for a while about who to ask. I’m lucky to work in a team with Deaf researchers but I felt really embarrassed to approach them to be our son’s advocate. I emailed one of my friends in the team just to see if it would be even OK to raise the issue and I was very relieved when she immediately replied ‘Don’t worry, of course one of us will!’

So this weekend I emailed our Local Authority asking that a Deaf advocate gives information about our son’s needs to go into his EHCP. Please wish me luck. I will tell you what happens.

The websites below have useful information on the EHCP process: 
Parents can also contact the NDCS helpline on 0808 800 8880 or email helpline@ndcs.org.uk

Jane is a mum to triplets, Deaf and hearing, is a parent trustee of Sign Hi Say Hi! Fylde, Wyre and Blackpool Deaf Children’s Society and is also studying for a PhD about good outcomes for families with deaf children/young people in the Social Research with Deaf People Research Group (SORD) at the University of Manchester. She is also the UK representative for the Global Coalition of Parents with Deaf/Hard of Hearing Children (GPODHH).

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