Education services can be helpful even to the very youngest infant; there are specialists in early childhood who have great knowledge of child development, play, language, reasoning and self-management skills.
If you have concerns about your child's behaviour then bear in mind that early intervention also addresses aspects of social development.
Therapy?Earlier is better than later. Research over many years has shown that when services are started earlier in life then the child progresses better, that's why it's important to catch problems while they are mild. Your child has a condition that places them at a high risk for delays.
More is better than less. Children seen once a month will probably progress more slowly than those seen once or twice a week. If the carer cannot continue the therapy carried out by, say, the speech therapist, more frequent sessions would be helpful. Parent involvement makes a difference. Children will make better progress if they have parents who are involved with and supportive of their activities and are keen to encourage new skills.
Getting startedYour first port of call is your community paediatrician or your health visitor. These are the people who hold the keys to the services. It's important to have a team leader if your child has a variety of needs. If you already have a physiotherapist and a speech therapist along with a cardiac consultant, an immunologist, a dietician etc., then having someone to co-ordinate your child's services is very helpful.
Talk about what services you think your child should have and ask for those services to be put in place. There are ways of making this process more successful and below are some tips:
Be prepared to discuss what your priorities are for your child's progress; what things you would like them to learn or what skills you would like to see develop.
Be cautious about only naming one area of concern; you might only get services that cover that one area, so if you have general concerns about your child's development than mention everything not just the special concern.
Set goals for your child; if you are not sure or want more information then ask each of the 'team' members:
- To report on what skills your child has
- What age level your child is functioning at
- What are appropriate goals in this area?
- How much therapy they think is best to address these needs.
If your child accomplishes a goal then set new, more challenging, ones.
Your child may require a special day nursery and these are available through the LEA. There will be a list and you can arrange to visit them to assess for yourself how suitable they are for your child's needs.
There are also home based learning schemes such as Portage which may be of benefit to your child along with playgroups and opportunity groups that can help your child develop through play such as "Messy Play Groups".
Statement of Special Education NeedsFor children over 2 years old there is a process in place where a Statutory Assessment can be made of your child's abilities in order to have a Statement of Special Education Needs in place before your child enters school.
There are booklets produced by the Department for Education about Special Education Needs and these include "A Guide for Parents" and "Code of Practice on the Identification and Assessment of Special Education Needs". These are available by downloading from www.education.gov.uk although it may be easier to find them by running a search engine hunt by the title of the document. Telephone the Department for Education on 0845 6022260 if you need more information or help.
Prior to any meeting make sure you have copies of any assessments so that you have time to read them.
You do not have to agree to the Statement at the meeting; you will have a proposed statement sent to your home.
- The amount and type of therapy you child receives should not be determined by the level of resources available but by your child's needs.
- If your child has a Statement which states that therapy is required then that therapy should be provided and if there are not the staff in the LEA to provide this then the staff should be brought in from outside.
- Check your copy of a Statement every so often to make sure that your child is receiving the services that were promised.
- If you are not sure about the services your child is receiving then contact the person who carried out the evaluation. Your child can be re-assessed every 6 months.
- Talk to other parents, they will often have experience from which you can benefit.