HELEN BURTON: Difficulties faced by special needs children

Helen Burton SUS-160113-100959001
Helen Burton SUS-160113-100959001

Well, it’s taken longer than usual, but the sense of calm I gained from my week’s holiday has now well and truly disappeared. A garden full of weeds, a bedroom swap which has left the house in chaos, illness and a burst pipe in my kitchen have taken their toll, and now I’m back to firefighting my way through life as usual. I’m thinking about starting each day by performing the haka to intimidate my enemies – namely my insurance company. We now have a dehumidifier running 24 hours a day to try to dry out our kitchen which is noisy, driving me crazy and also pushing warm air into the house during a heat wave. Perfect for recovering from a chest infection. I’m told that once our kitchen is removed and they install more dehumidifiers it is likely to take weeks to dry things out, so I don’t’ think my zen will be returning anytime soon. Still, it could be worse. During a week when I find out that homelessness is up by a third in the last year I still have a lot to be grateful for. Sadly, because I was ill I also missed a quiz night to raise funds for local charity Embrace. Embrace supports children with special needs and disabilities and their families, a subject dear to my heart. They have just won the Spark Award for Equality and Inclusion for their Saturday club which is their flagship project, but they also offer a parent support group, an advocacy service run by trained lawyers and have a family liaison service. They are also developing a school’s mentorship project with local schools who have reported that they feel underfunded, under supported and untrained to deal with SEN children that the local authority are insisting they educate in their schools. I know from my own experience that whilst a mainstream education is the best fit for some children with special educational needs, many others cannot cope in this environment, let alone receive a good education. Becky Whippy is the chair trustee of Embrace East Sussex and described to me the difficulties faced by children with special needs and their families in main stream schools. She told me “many of the teachers and practitioners I meet are enthusiastic and passionate about the special needs children they work with, but are being left with no choice but to provide a service that they feel is not fit for purpose”. In this country we expect all children to have access to education, but for many SEN children this is not the case. Lack of suitable places, reduced timetables, exclusions and innapropriate support can all mean that parents of children with special educational needs may have a fight on their hands to get their child an education. I’m so glad that Embrace can help to advocate on behalf of families in East Sussex. If you want to support them or find out more about what they do visit their website www.embracees.org.uk