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Do you need a formal 'diagnosis' (autism, dyspraxia, dyslexia etc) to be eligible for School Action Plus?

(34 Posts)
amberflower Fri 22-May-09 18:24:14

I am really sorry but this is a long post!

My 4 year old DS is currently in reception (he turns 5 in July) and has recently undergone a multi-agency assessment instigated by his school based on the following concerns:

- poor fine motor skills specifically pencil control
- does not seem to concentrate or follow verbal instruction effectively in 'whole class' scenario
- is quiet and withdrawn in classroom and seems overwhelmed by the 'free flow' atmosphere of reception.

He underwent a 2 part clinical assessment with an OT and SALT, the OT also visited him in school, and a paed observed the very first part of the clinical assessment (she spent the majority of the time talking to us whilst he was being assessed). We suspected he might need additional OT for the fine motor stuff and possibly a little SALT for receptive language (his expressive language and vocabulary is and always has been very good). We suspected mild dyspraxia if anything. They then diagnosed autism. We were shocked and don't agree (though were too gobsmacked to say so during verbal feedback).

I spoke to his teacher later that week and she was very much 'well in order to get the support we want for him for year 1 we had to go through this process, we need it for School Action Plus and I know it's not a nice label to have at the top of his IEP but it can only benefit him in future because no school can ever ignore any future special educational needs he may have'. We're not bothered about whether or not it's a 'nice' label - our point is we believe it is an incorrect label and feel the professionals have been far too quick to slam said label on him just to get a bit of funding.

We are not, by the way, denying that he does need the additional 1-1 help - specifically in literacy and writing - we just don't feel the label is either warranted or fair. I also suspect that when we receive the report they will have pathologised a fair bit of what would generally be perceived as reasonably typical 4 year old behaviour in order to tick enough boxes to get the label, although obviously I may be wrong.

So at present we are awaiting the formal written report from the paed but are planning to challenge and ask for a second opinion which I understand we are within our rights to do. In fact the autism outreach worker I spoke to was very much of the opinion that the process has been flawed and not nearly rigorous enough and we should definitely challenge it, because so much of the behaviour he displays could simply be down to being a fairly unconfident, quiet boy(who is currently an only child at home) who's one of the youngest in the year and finding it all a bit much at the moment.

Some of our concerns about the process - he hasn't been seen by an educational psychologist to our knowledge, we haven't been asked to complete the GARS assessment and neither have the school, a lot of the 'no idea about social communication' stuff feedback seems based on the OT trying to sit him down and engaging him 'in social chat' the very first time she met him when unsurprisingly she got very little from him. The paed is not to my knowledge a specialist, she is a general community paed and I know this because she saw DS for an additional hearing check as a baby!

So our plan is to go back on receipt of the written report and request that we complete the GARS and that, preferably, he is re-assessed by an ed psych specialising in autism. But does that sound unreasonable? My big concern is that his school will simply withdraw the proposed support for him if we start challenging the 'autistic' label. Can you get School Action Plus for a child who has not been 'labelled'?

Thanks for reading! I would be really grateful for any advice/comments.

corblimeymadam Fri 22-May-09 18:27:48

Message withdrawn

TotalChaos Fri 22-May-09 18:37:23

I always understood that you only needed involvement of an outside health professional, not a DX to go on School Action Plus.

mrz Fri 22-May-09 18:44:00

School Action Plus is where School Action has not helped the child to make adequate progress, and the school asks for outside advice from the LEA’s support services, or from health or social work professionals. This could be advice from a speech and language therapist on a language programme or an Occupational Therapist’s suggestions or a medical diagnosis and report giving recommendations as to how to work differently with the child in class. It might be information about the child’s home circumstances that explains the changes in the child’s behaviour and attitudes to learning which can then help the school to work with others to resolve the situation.

Peachy Fri 22-May-09 18:44:03

DS2 is about to go on SA+ with no outside involement that I am aware of, suspected ADHD / Dyspraxia

I ahve two otherrs on statements with a full DX (though not at time of statement)
Does this mean the bods in white coats (well sensible shoes more apt for our Paed LOL) will be after us again then?

Peachy Fri 22-May-09 18:44:55

(we've had a SNAp analysis though maybe that's enough for them, LEA run test thingy)

sarah876 Mon 25-May-09 09:40:37

My son is on school action plus...if they feel they need it the school just gives them the help. No outside bodies were involved.

Hassled Mon 25-May-09 09:55:16

Not in my experience - School Action + just means that as well as school intervention(IEPs etc)some outside agency is involved -SALT, Ed Psych, etc. The fact your DS has seen the OT people should mean he is already on SA+. The school only get additional funding for Statemented children, not SA+ children. There is a blanket SEN funding allocation to schools but to my knowledge that's not based on numbers in the way that Statemented children impact on budget allocations.

I don't really understand why it's an issue - if he gets extra support, don't knock it. It's not a label that will plague him for life.

mrz Mon 25-May-09 17:23:45

School Action Plus involves outside professionals and agencies such as speech therapists and occupational therapists as well the Learning Support Service and Educational Psychology Service and doesn't require a "label" just a difficulty.

frustratedmom Mon 25-May-09 17:37:16

Get a second opinion!

Oh i wish we had your specialists envy. We really think that ds is autistic but they won't tick the boxes because he is 4. I think it might depend on where in the country you live. I would advise you to do as we have been advised and get a second opinion. You are entitled to ask for this. And I would if you are really unhappy with the diagnosis.

amberflower Tue 26-May-09 19:06:04

Thank you all for your messages, they are really helpful and useful.

Frustrated mom, I am aware of the irony of resisting the DX when so many parents all over the country are desperate for a diagnosis! At the root of it all seems to be a refusal to listen to what the parent is saying...which is just is soooo distressing in both my situation and yours! My argument is that the professionals assessed our child for nearly five hours (overall). We've known him for nearly five years. You'd like to think they might at least respect our opinions and listen to what we had to say - but obviously not. I guess the same goes for you too. I really hope your situation is sorted soon.

Hassled, it is not the support I am knocking. At all. I accept he needs the additional help, I just don't believe he's autistic and it feels as if we are being told we cannot have one without acceptance of 'the label'. And I cannot see the 'label' as anything other than "a label that will plague him for life". Because in our opinion as his parents, it's an incorrect label and won't necessarily achieve any more for him in future other than rendering him vulnerable to people making incorrect assumptions and judgements about him. I just can't do that to him, particularly as I've since been advised that the diagnostic process wasn't robust.

I want to reassure myself that we did at least obtain a second opinion and of course, if that second opinion backs up the first, then I will accept that we are wrong and that there is something the professionals are seeing at school that is simply not happening outside the school gates. But at least I'll be confident the process was rigorous, which at the moment I'm not.

It is interesting also to read that school action plus doesn't buy them any additional funding for support. I've specifically been told that it does....

aprilflowers Tue 26-May-09 20:43:46

Funding does come for school action plus but and its a big but it is devolved to the school to spend as they wish.
It could be spent on anything - the amount is not ring fenced for your child or even the special needs department.
Although good practice suggests it should be and the schools provision mapping should indicate where it is spent
Only with a statement there is a legal right for funding or support to be put in place and guess what lea are limiting and withdrawing statements whereever they can.

neolara Tue 26-May-09 21:03:12

The funding systems might be different in different local authorities. So in one LEA being at school action plus might mean additional funding, but in another LEA it might not. However, as others have said, the "definition" of school action plus is simply that the school have taken advice from professionals outside of the immediate school (e.g. health professionals, SALTS, LEA advisory teacher services, educational psychologists etc).

A child with a statement of special educational needs will usually have funding specifially earmarked to be spent on them. All children with a statement will be at School Action Plus, but not all children on SA + will have a statement.

Again, as others have said, children do not need a formal diagnosis to be put on SA+. It is about the level of need, not the label. (There will be some children with a formal diagnosis who may not be SA+ because their level of need is managed appropriately by the school without additional advice from outside agencies.)

I think you are entirely right to challenge a diagnosis that you think is inappropriate. As parents, you are the expert on your child and if you think the doctors have got the wrong end of the stick, they almost certainly have done. Any professionals involved with advising the school about how to help your son will be basing at least some of their advice on any the medical label he has been given. A label of autism, if it is inappropriate, could lead to inappropriate strategies being implemented and inappropriate expectations about his behaviour.

neolara Tue 26-May-09 21:05:56

Also, an educational psychologist will not "diagnose" autism. This needs to be done by a medic. However, the EP should be able to help the school staff identify suitable strategies to make life a little easier for your ds in school.

movingintothefuture Tue 26-May-09 22:14:19

amberflower -you summed up completely how we feel about the process. How the F**K do they come to the conclusions they do on such a short observation time. Particularly frustrating when the result is boarderline. If it was clear cut cool no prob, but how can they say for def when the scores are close (either side) to the cut off points? did you find out what the score was on the ASD spectrum? Was it clear or boarderline?

Oh meant to say situation improved and less frustrated so change name to something more appropriate. I have faith in the school and will re-consider the second opinion when he has passed that golden age of 5 when they will think about diagnosis. School suspect I am right and VERY supportive. Roll on sept!

Good luck and I hope you get the situation resolved soon.

sarah876 Wed 27-May-09 19:19:35

So how comes my son is on school action plus if no outside bodies were involved?

amberflower Wed 27-May-09 22:27:18

movingintothefuture - one of my (several) issues is that we have NO CLUE what his score is on the ASD spectrum - because as far as I know, no formal ASD test was carried out! The paed went through what she referred to as 'a few wierd questions' with us and we completed a sensory profile but nothing ASD specific.

So one of the things I plan to go back and ask for is that the GARS (Gillams Autism Rating Scale) assessment is carried out. I've been advised that we should have completed a copy of this and so should his class teacher in order to obtain a more clear-cut diagnosis and presumably a formal 'score' on the ASD spectrum.

neolara thank you for your posts, your last paragraph in the first of your two posts sums up exactly how we feel about it.

Thanks again for all the replies and support.

movingintothefuture Wed 27-May-09 23:24:11

shock! will not type what thinking -it would get me thrown off here as far too contriversial but disgust is a good starting point

lingle Thu 04-Jun-09 21:20:30

Just spotted this thread. Amberflower we "met" on my thread about keeping your "different" child outside the system.

Would be glad to chat further if you're still around.

amberflower Thu 04-Jun-09 22:00:31

Hiya lingle

Thanks for your you will have seen from my comments on mum2fred's thread we are still awaiting our formal report, but am pleased to say am feeling calmer and less stressy about the whole thing, have spent time thinking about how best to go about this with school and paed in due course and feel I have got a sensible coherent 'argument' to put across to them now. Which I would have struggled to do a couple of weeks ago.

The good news is that DS has already been referred for 5 occupational therapy sessions following the assessment (even though we are still awaiting the actual report) which is great. He starts next week for 5 weeks and does, categorically, need this. I attended the parent workshop for it earlier this week and was shown a copy of the OT's report on him and basically agreed with all of it - key issues being poor writing, drawing and cutting skills, and poor concentration in class. His visual perception skills are excellent however.

So whilst I do think that some of this is probably him being a 'typical little boy' i.e. not being particularly interested in writing/drawing etc so not giving himself the opportunity to develop skills, I'm pleased he's going to get the OT. And regardless of what happens with the second opinion, he'll have had the OT sessions by the time we are able to start challenging things wink

We are basically going to ask for him to be assessed by an ed psych, for the GARS test to be completed and analysed, and then will take all info to a second paed (we will probably pay to do all this privately, to be honest, to speed things up - and I am very aware that we are lucky that this is an option for us) to ask for a second opinion. Obviously there is a chance this second opinion will back up the first, we are prepared for that, but at least will feel more confident in the process!

I have also collated enough info both from here and other sources to be confident that he should NOT need that formal DX to get the School Action Plus help he needs...

For me it all comes back down to that whole 'parent knows the child best' thing, as you posted on mum2fred's thread. We'll see what happens over the next few weeks - of course until we get paed report it's kind of all ifs buts and maybes anyway! - but I do feel better about everything. For the moment hmm

lingle Fri 05-Jun-09 09:44:20

That's good stuff about the OT report. Sounds like fine motor skills are your lad's biological challenge. Receptive language is my DS2's biological challenge.

May I ask - will you seek out a specialist developmental paed. for the 2nd opinion? I was also offered diagnosis by a general community paediatrician and this was one of the reasons I said "no thanks for now".

I believe that my son is on "early action plus" as well, in that school has access to a speech therapist who comes in to provide training and to observe him.

Nursery teacher and I are both intensely aware that we have 15 months to get DS2 ready for reception in September 2010. We both hope that he will continue to progress such that seeking a diagnosis becomes unnecessary. I will however have a dilemma in January 2010 if the teachers feel at that point that Ds2 will need one to one support that can only be obtained by having a "statement of special needs" when he starts reception, because it is harder to obtain such a "statement" without an ASD diagnosis.

My aim therefore is to help him progress as much as he can by January 2010 and, of course, Sept 2010. I'm reducing my working hours and plan to spend the next year having fun with my son - but with guidance as to what will help him to reach his potential - a gruelling regime of playdates will feature!

It is nice to talk to other people who accept the needs but not the label. So many people who don't accept the label won't talk about the overlap between their child and children with autism.

You mention stigma as your main concern. Greenspan also writes of observing parents given an autism diagnosis unconsciously altering their expectations and behaviour towards their child, resulting ironically in a reduction of the amount of spontaneous joyful playfulness that the child needs most to progress. I was grasping towards this when I explained to the paed. that we are a happy, intimate family and that to undermine that would be to undermine precisely what is fundamental to DS2's progress.

Your summary of the "classic" parental response to a correct diagnosis was very helpful, I felt.

Keep in touch.

amberflower Fri 05-Jun-09 12:46:38


I will definitely keep in touch...this is such a helpful forum and as you say it is nice to talk to people who feel strongly that their child might have specific needs but not 'fit' a certain label.

It sounds as if you are doing absolutely the right thing for your DS. I wish you luck for the playdates! (I will be doing similar, I think). Fine motor skills are definitely our key issue although I would not be surprised if the SALT identifies some receptive language issues for DS as well, although these are mild enough that I honestly can't tell whether he has an issue, or whether he just doesn't listen properly...we will see.

Did I read rightly in your other thread, have you delayed your DS's entry into reception by a year? Sometimes and with the benefit of hindsight I wonder whether I should have done the same. DS is not 5 till mid July and a lot of the issues we have had are, I think, greatly due to the fact that he is one of the youngest (and least outgoing) of a very lovely but vocal and confident set of classmates. It may well be for you that come January 2010 the teachers feel your DS will benefit from some one-to-one support i.e. regular work with an external speech therapist but will not need a full time support assistant...I guess time will tell but I hope all goes well in the meantime. As you say the key thing is to have fun with them and it's amazing what a difference the smallest changes will make.

And yes, in answer to your question, we will be seeking a second opinion from a specialist. I have already identified 2 specialist consultant paediatricians based at local hospitals, either one of whom I will approach for a private consultation in due course - both specialise in social behaviour and so on. I think you are quite right to resist the offer of a diagnosis from a general paed, and I guess that is where our situation differs slightly from a parent who knows in their heart of hearts that there is an 'issue', particularly if they are really struggling with their child's behaviour. I think if I was in that situation I would be devastated but far more accepting of and grateful for that generalist diagnosis. But I'm not in that situation and by the sound of things neither are you. We too are a very happy family, we have no behaviour issues with DS beyond what I would say are the typical ones for his age (i.e. the occasional strop, whinginess when tired or hungry and the odd bit of backchat) and so I definitely want him assessed now by a specialist.

Your point about the unconscious altering of expectation/behaviour sums up how I feel exactly. For this reason, we plan for the moment to keep our situation with DS private and have confided only in 2 or 3 close friends. We haven't even told his grandparents because we both feel strongly that this would not be in DS's best interests, we don't want people in his life 'changing' how they are with him (even if unconsciously) or kind of psycho-analysing every thing the poor child does or doesn't do...

Good luck with the next few months and will definitely keep in touch.

I do need to learn the art of writing more succinct posts though!blush

cat64 Fri 05-Jun-09 13:21:51

Message withdrawn

lingle Fri 05-Jun-09 18:59:20

I find this very helpful:

lingle Fri 05-Jun-09 19:13:44

whoops I pressed the button too soon.

Yes - I deferred DS2's education for a year.

cat64, your post reminds me of my husband's favourite saying about this whole process: "When they say it, it's evidence: when we say it, it's anecdote". You might find the link above interesting to understand better the "in denial" parents you refer to.

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