So what to expect when you have a child with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and/or mental health conditions….
As a parent of neuro typical children too, there were all the usual professionals: the midwife who checked on my health and that of the baby’s throughout my pregnancy, well I say throughout, but actually antenatal checks weren’t very often given that this was my third child. Then there was the health visitor, who again checked in occasionally on my daughter’s development, the GP for the regular ear infections, the Childminder, nursery staff, primary staff, school nurse, dentist etc. However, when you have a child with special needs, disabilities and/or mental health conditions, it is all those typical professionals and then some!
I suppose it was at primary school, in Year 1, that the additional professionals started to pop up as the challenges emerged. Firstly, it was the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) (albeit the Head was acting SENCO at this time), then came the Education, Support, Behaviour and Attendance Service (ESBAS) – I think we had about seven ESBAS workers, over a two year period, all trying to turn my daughter’s behaviour round in school.
As the behaviours became increasingly challenging and ESBAS appeared to have tried everything but were still at a loss (by which point my daughter was in permanent isolation on a 2:1 ratio), then came the Educational Psychologist, Speech and Language Therapist and the school assessments commenced.
During this period, and being in the job I was in at the time (as an Intensive Family Keyworker who worked supporting families with complex issues) I was aware that individuals (including parents) could self-refer to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS). This brought a new host of professionals into our lives and included a Psychiatrist, Care Co-ordinator, Specialist Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist and Specialist Teacher.
As time went on, adding to the ever increasing list, Children’s Services finally became involved and so there were Social Workers (x3), Managers (x2), Care Workers (x3) and Assessment & Planning Officers (x4).
Having been eventually placed in a Specialist Independent school, there were further professionals who came into our lives, which included Speech and Language (x2) as well as Occupational Therapists (x3).
So here we are today and there is now an additional team at a London hospital, which consists of a Professor, 2x Speciality Doctors and a Speciality Psychologist. In addition, and as a result of the Maudsley team being involved, there are also now 2x Psychotherapists.
All the above make up to an incredible 46 professionals (this doesn’t include the breakdown of school staff in mainstream or Specialist school) so far!
So you can see how life quickly became one that was full of meetings and appointments! Having this amount of professionals in your family’s life is mind blowing!