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How do you / did you prepare for your SENDIST hearing?

(24 Posts)
Homsa Wed 16-Jan-08 11:18:10

I've noticed that there are several people on here preparing for a SENDIST hearing, and I was wondering if you'd like to swap notes?

Our hearing is on the 15th of Feb, we want funding for ABA plus part-time mainstream school, and we don't have legal representation (although we will be getting some legal advice from a pro bono solicitor).

I know that I can't "think on my feet" when under pressure, so I feel have to write EVERYTHING down. I've gone through previous SENDIST rulings for ABA cases, made notes of arguments against the provision that we want, and written down my replies. Will also sum up my case statement.

What is everyone else doing to prepare?

aquariusmum Wed 16-Jan-08 12:00:44

I did not go to SENDIST, but I did get ABA plus part time m/s for my DS and am currently doing that. I think you need to prepare by thinking of what the LEA's counter argument is going to be and jotting down notes of bullet points you are going to say in reply. For instance, are they going to say - the local SEN school will offer a suitable education for your child and you haven't even given other methods than ABA a proper chance? Or, they might argue (I don't know your DS at all, so am just thinking aloud) - will his behavioural problems disrupt a m/s class too much and disallow him from accessing the mainstream curriculum? Or they might simply talk about ABA not being a good use of council funds when there is a perfectly suitable alternative. Remember, they don't legally have to offer your DS a top quality education, just a "suitable / appropriate" one, so you need to be ready to argue that you have tried the alternatives and they don't work, or that your DS is very good at imitating other kids' behaviour, and therefore you want him to model m/s kids , or whatever other arguments. I used to be in PR and when we were preparing executives for journalist meetings, we thought up the worst-case questions and gave them 3 bullet points to answer each point, putting them under general headings. Have you summed up why TEACCH doesn't work for your DS? That was a big one they tried to hold against me, luckily I was able to outline exactly what progress he had made under TEACCH (er...none!) and what progress he had made after only a few weeks of ABA. Do you also have independent Ed Psych reports backing you up? Sorry if I am ranting on and if you've already thought of/done all this, but I've had quite a few pals recently go through SENDIST so I sort of know how it works - albeit second hand, Good Luck!

gaia Wed 16-Jan-08 13:46:19

our hearing is in april. I am mainly stressing and ranting!We don't have a solicitor either but do have a caseworker from ipsea who has been fab and is ok with stressy phone calls. Received the LEA's case papers yesterday which was very stressful. My plan is to write out our rebuttal step by step and I'm now armed with info some of which I will try to get admitted as late evidence. I want my child to attend an independent school, don't want any funding from the lea except the hours specified on the statement he already has.

Homsa Wed 16-Jan-08 14:35:58

aquariusmum, thanks for your post, you've given me something to think about.
Arguing against other approaches is tricky - DS only spent 2 months at a SN nursery that uses an "eclectic" approach, and made very little progress there. I have no idea what the Autism Team that would be advising the school staff have to offer, but I'll hopefully find out soon (DS only started school on Monday). Our ed psych (yes we have one, David Urani, he wrote us a brilliant report) was categorical when saying that special school was not appropriate for DS as he is too high-functioning (and also for the reasons you mentioned - peer modeling etc.). I wonder if that will be enough to persuade the panel to not consider special schools for DS?

If you can think of any arguments that caught your pals off-guard at their hearings, please pass them on!

gaia, if we lose this case then I would put in another appeal and try to get independent school (funded) plus 1:1 support. What are your arguments why your DS's needs can only be met at an independent school?

aquariusmum Wed 16-Jan-08 16:22:11

If he is too HF for special school and David Urani says that (my pal also used him) then I think your case is in good shape. One of my pals was tripped up because the school her DS had previously been at put in a report saying his behaviour was too erratic for m/s. If the eclectic approach (which probably means mainly TEACCH, as there are few schools using ABA) failed him, that is still proof even if only for 2 months. Do the previous school back up your wish for m/s? I was encouraged to visit the special schools, which showed willing, but then gave me a chance to write a detailed list of pros and cons (mainly cons) why he shouldn't go there. For instance, if I saw they were using TEACCH techniques, or if the kids there were significantly less verbal, I noted that down and it helped rule out those schools. One of the things which helped me a great deal was that the headmistress of one special school I visited said herself "he's clearly not right for this school as he is verbal - some of the kids who go here aren't even verbal when they leave at 18". I wonder if you could get something similar said or written? The thing that I think helped me, was that I very much tied ABA into mainstream - eg my statement now says that "a mix of ABA and mainstream is the most suitable education, with a graduated pattern of increasing attendance at school in line with progress". This wording made the LEA comfortable as they could see my ultimate aim was to get DS into the mainstream system, which of course is their ultimate aim too as it's cheaper! I'm hoping that as long as you keep in that bit about "in line with progress" I will be able to keep more ABA than school at least for the next year or so, as he needs the one-to-one intensive therapy at the moment. If I think of anything else relevant I'll post again. The LEA Ed Psych report is important too - do you know what s/he is saying??

Homsa Wed 16-Jan-08 20:45:27

Thanks again aquariusmum! You are right, I shouldn't discount DS's stint at SN nursery, and instead use it for all it's worth.

Some new developments here - I've just found out that DS's two LSAs are former dinner ladies without any relevant qualifications or experience! shock I had offered the head of the school that our tutors (one of them with over 4 years' experience as LSA/ABA shadow) could support DS at school, and she turned me down. Well that's not going to look very good, is it??

I've also, finally, had a call from the NAS solicitor. He seemed to think that we can win this appeal on grounds of cost, but I'm a bit hmm about that, after reading what other people have written about Wiltshire 2002. Will need to check that with him. Regardless, I'm relieved to finally be able to talk to someone with legal knowledge!!! I've been stewing in my own juices for far too long...

Has anyone else experienced this - I've become so focussed on presenting our case (and detached from the fact that this is about my lovely son) that I sometimes ask myself - do I actually believe what I've just written here about him?

Geri2 Wed 16-Jan-08 22:55:33

Hi Homsa,
you're post caught my eye when I saw you mention david Urani.... His name certainly goes before him, he's brilliant. I was going to use him last year, having been recommended him by a friend who had used him. the appt was all booked for the wednesday, and LEA changed their decision on the Monday before.. so 2 days before he was to carry out his assesment. I had dropped his name, and of course had to book an appointment for the school we didnt want, for him to go and view it, he had been there the year before for my friends case. I since found out that one of the parents at my lil lady's school, also used him to get the placement they wanted. Would def use him if I ever had the need to.

wishing you all success in your battles.

Geri2 Wed 16-Jan-08 22:58:01

Oh forgot to say also, that it really makes me mad that there are soo many lsa's who are basically promoted dinner ladies, with no formal qualifications what so ever. My daughter had a few when she was at mainstream. One in particular was very good, but shehad had no training either. It's really not good enough.

aquariusmum Thu 17-Jan-08 12:08:37

Homsa, I got the school to interview my ABA tutors and then hire them as LSA, on the grounds that the whole education program needed to work on ABA principles or else school and home would not be working in same way and the different methodologies would confuse the child. As long as the school felt like they had a say, ie by interviewing my tutors, they seemed ok. It is no good having LSAs who use different techniques at school from home, as there will be no consistency of education. Or, I suppose, you could offer that the school's chosen LSAs come and shadow your home tutors and learn ABA, you could do it that way? Good luck!

Homsa Thu 17-Jan-08 20:14:08

geri2, good to know that D Urani did such a good job, I found him a really nice guy, he did a thorough assessment and wrote a very supportive report. Several people have since told me that he is known to be completely honest and objective, even if that means he doesn't always tow the parents' line. So I guess you have to be fairly sure you have a good case, but if you do, he's your man!

I agree, it's a scandal that LSAs don't get any proper training and earn such a pittance. But in our case, I think this might actually work in our favour.

aquariusmum, I think they have to advertise the job and conduct proper interviews to comply with equal opportunities legislation? I have insisted in my appeal that DS's LSA/shadows need to have ABA training, but tbh it doesn't make any sense financially to train someone up from scratch if there are ready-trained people knocking on your door, raring to go!

PipinJo Fri 18-Jan-08 01:51:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ancientmiddleagedmum Fri 18-Jan-08 09:01:45

PipinJo, what a pain they cancelled! I know what it's like, you're all geared up for someone and then they cancel and you don't know what date you're going to be given next. Big hug to you!

Homsa Fri 18-Jan-08 20:36:21

Oh no PipinJo, that really is the pits! Fingers crossed they give you new date soon.

We've got a solicitor from the NAS education line and might get a representative from them as well (they're looking into it). For the time being, I'll have to assume that it will be just us, so I'll keep on preparing. I'm afraid my list of "possible things the LEA/panel might ask us and what I'm going to reply" is already 9 pages long, so just a bit too long for a post on MN! Would be happy to swap by email, though, if you want.

My problem won't be to stop myself from shouting, it will be steadying my voice enough to produce more than an squeak...

I've come to the same conclusion, that it's often luck of the draw, but I do believe you have an influence on the outcome if you present your case in a way that is legally relevant.

The problem, I think, is to take your "mum" hat off and put a "lawyer" hat on, and oversimplify and reconstruct the complex issues your child faces in a way that you can score legal points with them. I have to keep on reminding myself that, for the panel, this is not about what's best for DS, whom they've never met, but about reaching a legal decision based on the evidence they have been given. It's a totally bizarre system.

PipinJo Fri 18-Jan-08 22:15:32

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Homsa Mon 21-Jan-08 09:23:15

PipinJo, will email you my notes this morning, hope they're helpful.

You said you were looking at the various laws that might apply in your case - I just found a very good summary of SEN law by David Wolfe on this website. It also has lots of references to relevant high court cases, many of which you can look up on the internet.

ancientmiddleagedmum Mon 21-Jan-08 12:23:22

This is a great summary, Homsa, am printing it off now - thanks!

electra Mon 21-Jan-08 17:42:54

Message withdrawn

Homsa Mon 21-Jan-08 20:13:30

Hi electra, this is very useful, thanks!

Hm, my NAS guy didn't mention the LGA and he wasn't aware of the Wiltshire judgement. Not a good sign. But at least I'm a bit more on the ball now than I was a few months ago.

Your advice about videotaping any home visits from the LEA is very good. I have written to the school and informed them that I want to be asked for consent if anyone other than school staff wants to observe DS, but I don't think that puts them under any obligation to inform me?

I know what you mean about being objective. You have to pretend that all you know about your child is in the bundle, and put yourself into the panel's shoes. I find that really hard.

Can I ask you - did you only have to argue against the suggested ms provision at your hearing, or did they then move on from that saying, "well let's look into special schools and ms + integrated resource, if ms on its own is not good enough"? Did you have any arguments against those school types lined up, and if yes, what were they?

AllyT Sat 26-Jan-08 13:27:26

Hi Homsa. I see you are talking about David Urani- Ed Psych. We used him for our older son's Tribunal. However, I have been trying to contact him and there is no reply to his mobile, home number or his email. How did you manage to get hold of him?

Homsa Sat 26-Jan-08 20:01:03

Hi AllyT, I believe he's in Australia at the moment, should be back on the 5th of February I think!

AllyT Sat 26-Jan-08 22:49:51

Hi Homsa (again) Thank God!! I want him to do a report for my youngest son who also has autism. Has he changed his mobile number - because it says it's not recognised. He was brilliant, not only because of his report but he was an excellent witness at our older son's tribunal.

Homsa Sun 27-Jan-08 19:49:52

The mobile number I have for him is 07958 733161.
Reassuring to hear he was a great witness!

I found out on Friday that we'll get pro bono representation from Clifford Chance via the agreement with the NAS. Yay! I was told that two representatives from Clifford Chance would be attending hmm must be some kind of training scheme?

DH said when the LEA sees all the "suits" we're bringing in they'll back down before the hearing starts grin

AllyT Sun 27-Jan-08 20:49:46

Thanks.Thats the number I have for him, but perhaps if he has gone to Australia he has put a number not recognised msg on his phone so he won't be inundated with msgs. I will try him again on 5th Feb

tearhairout Thu 23-Jul-09 14:21:52

hello just found this page on the internet and just wanted some advice!!
just fighting the lea in wiltshire, want our 9 year old son to go to a specialist aba school in somerset , at the moment he attends a specialist autistic unit but the lea say that they caannot cope with him, he was in a generic unit before and got moved to the autistic centre as they could not provide the correct provsion and now they want him to go to another generic centre!!HELP

we are just in the agruement stage at the mo but we did run an aba program when our son was 7. does anyone know of a good free solictor. i am in touch with the nas education team. any info would be gratefully received

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