I hadn’t realised how draining the EHCP process had been until we saw the Educational Psychologist a few weeks after the application was approved at panel. Although compiling and writing out evidence had been time consuming, I was so determined to get the points down clearly and thoroughly on paper that surprisingly, I didn’t find myself emotionally tied to the pages.
The initial application for assessment was 16 pages long, not counting the substantial professional reports, assessments, school documentation, photographs and so on. The school SENCO and I worked hard for several weeks to make sure the application was thorough, well put together, and easy to read. So I was surprised when, a week after the application was deemed successful at panel, I received a request for further evidence. What more could I possibly say that hadn’t already been said somewhere in those 16 pages? What more did they want from me – actual blood? Then for fuck sake just take some already! We arrived back from our family holiday at the end of July, and the request was sat on my kitchen table when I arrived home. The following day, surrounded by half-unpacked suitcases, I sat and wrote (by hand, because apparently the START team like to waste a) paper, and b) my time) out the evidence all over again. Only this time I put clear bullet points, hoping that this method would mean that someone on the receiving end would actually stop to read them. I sealed the envelope, and off it went. Yet another package full of facts about my son and his additional needs. And then I had dinner.
10 days later, the Educational Psychologist (EP) came to our home to collect the evidence he needed to write his report. He arrived exactly on time, and warmed to Sawyer incredibly quickly (which is easy – cuz Sawyer’s awesome). To my surprise he spent the first hour just chatting to me, asking questions and getting an idea of what sort of child Sawyer is, and what his issues have been. He made notes throughout the conversation, really listened to what I had to say, and made some sensible suggestions for things we could try that may help Sawyer’s needs at home.
During that conversation I reiterated many of the issues that had already been written down over the first two reports. They were same words that I myself had formulated in the first place, yet somehow now they seemed different. I let the words enter my brain via my ears for the first time. Suddenly the facts were Sawyer’s struggles. The evidence became his discomfort. And the proof became his pain. Suddenly, in a moment that I can no longer pinpoint, I felt exhausted. The gravity of what I had been repeating for so many weeks, months, YEARS suddenly fell down hard on my shoulders and for a moment I forgot what the goal was. I wanted only two things then: to cry, and to sleep.
The EP went on to play some games with Sawyer, and had him take part in some tasks so that he could get a feel for his abilities. He spent hours in the house with us, and it became clear to me why the local councils keep these teams of professionals so tightly guarded. They are experts, and as such their time is expensive, and the reports they compile take time. The rest of the meeting went by in a blur, and I felt neither confident nor unconfident as he stood to gather his things. But then he said something to me that will stay with me forever. He told me that he thought my knowledge and understanding of Sawyer’s needs, and of how autism affects him, was impressive.
It isn’t a word that I’ve ever really thought could be applied to me, since I’m fairly average at almost everything. Yet there I was, stood in front of a specialist, being told that my knowledge and understanding was just that. And on a subject that I care more about than any other – my child.
I had been so worried in the days that lead up to his visit. Worried that he wouldn’t be able to see Sawyer’s needs the way that I can, and worried that I had made a mistake by convincing him to visit Sawyer at home rather than delay until September so that he could be assessed in school. All of those issues swelled in brain as I showed him to the door. The last thing I heard him say was that he would report that Sawyer needs 1:1 support in school, and that he would advise that an EHC Plan should go ahead. My ears were ringing and my hands shaking as I smiled and closed the door behind him.
Did he just say that he agreed with me?