Thursday, 4 January 2007

It is funny how humbling it is to meet with a group of parents who are struggling to cope with their child with special needs. Struggling all day every day... and then we tell them that we can't find anywhere for their child in any of our schools here in Leeds. Today, I spent an hour listening to Tommy's parents describing how he hadn't been in school and that he had been constantly excluded. They recognised how difficult it was for people to cope with Tommy's behaviour and yet they cope with it all the time. They recognised the problems and understood what was best for Tommy but asked why it had taken so long for us to find somewhere that could meet his needs. They were clearly at their wits end and their care and concern for Tommy shone out through the tears and the anger and the frustration. It's easy amongst the 110,000 children and young people we care for in our schools to miss the Tommy's, to ignore the early signs and for the problems to build and grow until we have to act but by then it is often too late. I would like to know how we develop our beautifully simple systems so that we intervene early enough and strongly enough to help Tommy and his parents? What sort of provision do we need to develop to meet all the other little Tommy's needs? How do we re-invent and re-imagine the schools of today to ensure that they better meet Tommy's needs? Should our schools be smaller, more family based, more child friendly, more like home? How do we train and support our school based colleagues to better deal with Tommy.

This is hugely important issue and I would really like to know if anyone, anywhere has cracked this one!
P.S. I've changed Tommy's real name to maintain confidentiality but there are loads of Tommy's out there... you probably know one.

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