Posts Tagged With: advocacy

Third person, twice removed

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Where has the first person gone??  Why does it feel as though the person at the centre of SEN and disability has disappeared???

I occasionally feel annoyed if someone refers to my disabled son as ‘he’. Usually though if anyone does say ‘he’ in a conversation or letter/email, it’s because they are already using his name frequently so I know they don’t think of him as a thing and it would be excessive to use his name at every opportunity. There are other times, in conversation or in letters/emails, when Alfie’s name isn’t used. It wouldn’t usually upset me if I knew the person well enough to know it wasn’t intended in an offensive way. I would be upset, if I thought the person didn’t respect my son as a person and I didn’t know that person’s views or values of disabled people and that’s an easy situation to find yourself in. I suppose how it affects me depends a lot on how I’m feeing at the time too, and at the moment I’d be really upset if someone were to call my son ‘him’ or ‘he’.

The one that makes me angry though is when disabled people and children with SEND are referred to as ‘they’, and this subject has been done to death so I’m not going to explain why. If you don’t understand why, and you’re a chair of a governing board, just resign.

At the moment in SEND world I feel like some of ‘them’ are seen as a new phenomenomena*;like they’ve just popped up from somewhere, and no-one knows what to do with them but at other times, they are treated as though they’ve been around for centuries and the way they are treated hasn’t changed at all.

(See how awful it feels reading the last paragraph using they, them etc?)

I read an article tweeted by Jarlath O’Brien about 2 whistleblowers in Australia who’d exposed terrible treatment of disabled youngsters in schools, and the thing that stood out was way one of them had been told after they’d complained “My manager said all disability organisations, there is abuse. And if I can’t handle the abuse, maybe I need to consider my position in the disability industry.”

I could ask, “since when has there been a “disability industry”?” but the last 11 years of having to buy products and equipment for my son at ridiculous prices tells me: at least 11 years!! But not only products and equipment. It seems you can (and often have to) buy pretty much anything relating to SEN & D. My current educational outgoings for my youngest son, who doesn’t have SEND are for uniform, shoes and scented erasers yet Alfie needs a wheelchair, a ramp to get in and out of the house, home adaptations, a rise and fall bath and washbasin, changing bed, hoists, slings, special toilet that cleans the person, pull ups, special bed, orthoses (to keep his feet in correct position), wheelchair adapted vehicle, IT, support workers, [a school with staff who know how to teach and support kids with SEND], a solicitor who can represent my son when these things aren’t provided, and probably others I’ve missed out. All of these things cost money, and this is part of the industry. An industry which pays people a salary, and I’m not for one minute saying this is wrong or unscrupulous. Not at all. I’ve experienced unscrupulous companies and unscrupulous people within companies who could just as easily have been working on a job unrelated to disability, but I’ve experienced MDs of companies who seem to think disabled people should accept a poor standard of service without complaint. In fact I’ve experienced 2 examples of this very recently.

The experiences make me angry, because disabled people rely on these things and when the service is poor, have very few other options or companies they can go to. In other words, they often have no choice, and the company still profits without having to up their game for future sales. It’s like the cost of something is only ever important to the person or company/organisation selling or providing the service. What about the cost to the person on the receiving end? When did that start being irrelevant?  I’m increasingly feeling that LAs are considering themselves to be the victims of the SEND ‘reforms’ too, as if the children are somehow invisible.

Special Needs Jungle blogged recently about the botch up that is the SEND Reforms. And it really says everything it needs to. In particular, I agree with this “We need to put politics and self-interest aside once and for all for the sake of our children.”

Christine Lenehan of Council for Disabled Children also recently shared her views on the reforms, 2 years on. She talks about her early career, and how she’s watched and been part of the journeys of disabled children from long stay hospitals into the community, “However, I believe that journey is not yet complete”

I can’t help feeling, from an organisation funded so heavily by government, that this statement from Christine is absolute b#**#%*$. Whose journey is she talking about? It sounds like she is talking about her own journey. This should not be about her or the organisation, and this is not a journey. This is an absolute nightmare in which families are stuck. They are not meandering along in any meaningful direction. They have been stuck on the latest ‘journey’ for 2 years. What examples are there of any other children other than those with SEND, who don’t start a journey in the autumn term and finish it at the end of a summer term. Then they start a different journey in the next autumn term, and so on. Children with SEND have no beginning and no end because they are on someone else’s journey. Usually a LA officer’s, inexperienced TA’s, or teacher’s, the course of which can change several times, causing a diversion and serious delays for the child whilst the adult gets off the ride.

Ms Lenehan goes on to say. “Looking ahead…….just because the journey of the SEND reforms has been difficult and challenging, don’t forget why we’re are doing it……..we will always be pushing, testing and challenging government….” The article isn’t clear how CDC are doing that. When I push, test and challenge LAs, Ofsted and DfE, I don’t get a knighthood. I get pushed back, tested and challenged.

Finally, (sorry this has been so long) and I think on a more positive note, someone in a Facebook group I’m a member of posted a link which really struck a chord, and put into words very nicely what I believe we should be doing when it comes to research and advocacy and generally educating people about SEND.

“If there’s someone that can speak to a lived experience that you cannot, do not take up that space.” Amani Al-Khatahtbeh

The subject is about diversity in Hollywood, but it can be applied to all situations where we don’t listen to the ones who have the lived experience. We should be giving the first person the floor and be reminded that they are the ones who can provide the most useful feedback: authentic, and undiluted by the journey!

*is it phenomenom or phenomena? Is there a consultant for this (can I afford their fees???)

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