In January 2013 we went to tribunal to fight for Dylan to be home educated using his ABA programme. We funded his programme ourselves and were appealing for the education authority to fund this while Dylan was not at school (there are no local ABA schools). We lost. That time; all the preparation, the assessments, the paperwork, endless photocopying, strict deadlines, various depressing academic scores and grades, heartbreaking details of failure and disabilty. It was relentless and took over our lives for the best part of a year.
It was a couple of nights before the big day when I realised what all this work was for. All this work and effort was for the tribunal not for Dylan. All this work had no benefit to him at all but was to try and make a point to the tribunal bods. None of who we had ever met, we would never see again and who had little interest in Dylan as a person.
In realising this I wrote the following in preparation for our ‘summing up’ at the end of tribunal once we had put our case of Dylans needs across to the panel. The sad truth is we didn’t even get to submit it or read it out. It was snowing on tribunal day and the panel wanted to get finished and go home to ensure they didn’t get caught up in the bad weather.
Tribunal day for Dylan; a years worth of work and stress was over in 90 minutes.
Dylan is our son, we are his parents.
In the last 18 months we have also become his teachers.
This is not a role that we planned but we have done it and coupled with a suitably differentiated curriculum and a teaching methodology appropriate to his needs he is both improving and learning.
It is this progress that keeps us going. Dylan is able to learn when taught in a manner that recognises and supports his difficulties whilst promoting his emerging strengths. We are ensuring that Dylan receives a positive education.
This is not our job, it is the job of the Local Authority to at least support us with this but instead we are here, at tribunal, pleading for financial assistance for our sons education to continue with their support.
As parents the whole reassessment and tribunal process has been a steep learning curve albeit a valuable one. We have so much more knowledge about Dylan and his needs than before this process began.
The witnesses recognition of both Dylan’s communicative intent and possible academic ability and it being buried beneath his extensive sensory and communication difficulty has left us heartbroken – Our beautiful boy has always been in there and is trying to learn – it wasn’t until we began this process that we realised how much help he needed.
We have highlighted throughout the day how Dylan is improving and learning successfully. He is happier, less anxious and more receptive to learning compared to the previous four years. However, Dylan still has complex difficulties and remains severely behind the academic and social level of his peers.
The proposed provision from the Local Authority has previously been tried and tested for long enough leaving Dylan with his needs unmet and him failing to make adequate progress with his learning. Dylan’s last 18 months using his ABA programme has enabled him to access education and he is learning academically, socially and gaining self awareness.
For these reasons it must continue.
Thank you for having us here today, to let us come and have a chance at protecting Dylan’s emerging learning ability.
Ultimately, he is our child and we as his parents have to do what he needs.
This message still rings as true today as it did then.