My first book review since English literature lessons at school is hereby presented before you. Fortunately, from my perspective at least, any red pen marks will remain purely implied rather than indelibly scrolled across my scribblings. Feedback may praise or cast folly over my work but at least this time my words may ultimately help families in their quests rather than just place me on a comparative ladder against my peers. Freedom from the reigns of education, and guidance of a rather wonderful teacher who went by the name of Mrs Mallett, I am spared from the anguish of repetitively sifting back and forth through the pages to source the perfect quote that highlights my observations. Hence a review these days is a little faster to write, and not merely because I now have the luxury of penning thoughts via the keyboard instead of biro.
Autism, without warning or invitation, came knocking at our house. In the aftermath came the realisation she had dropped anchor in two of our boys. Trials and challenges aside the path less taken now led us to the Local Education Authority (LEA) and Education, Health, and Care (EHC) Plans. Requests for statutory assessments were made and to our eternal surprise two rejection letters swiftly dropped through the letter box and snuggled comfortably together on our welcome mat. (The irony was not lost on either of us.) Enter our Educational Psychologist who mentioned a legal firm buried away in the market town of Bury St. Edmunds. Special Needs and Legal Entitlement was co-written by the firm’s founding member and what an interesting read. It proved to be.
Challenging the establishment had crossed my mind. In preparation we had ensured the piggy was overfed and bulging nicely, ready to spill its contents as required. What had not occurred to me was the early intervention of legal forces. Post shock of rejection letters we realised the fight had been brought forward and hence we needed information, and quickly. The digital era has afforded access to information like never before, and the laws that control the EHC process can be found online, but who has time to read them? Let alone ingest and understand the complex language and tangled web. Clear, concise, and written in a language understood by all the book ushered in a new understanding of our battlefield in barely two sittings.
Opening with a comparison of old (Special Educational Needs) versus the new (EHC) and finishing with common problems the work details all the elements of the process every parent embarking on this route should know. For Harry Potter fans there are even a series of Columb Friel sketches that neatly punch the points home. Peppered with case law the text alludes confidence of its subject and leaves you in no doubt the authors are a leading authority on the subject and maintain their vanguard position. Personal matters may have encouraged the legal beavers down this endeavour but after reading their advice I already felt warmed and supported in our own quest.
Covering the obligations of the LEA, dissecting the Code of Practice, and providing simple bite-size chunks involved in the legalities of appeals and tribunals, the words simply flow off the page. Without the seriousness of the situation firmly planted in my cerebral cortex the reading was so easy I may just as easily have been digesting Jeffery Deaver’s latest crime novel.
The complex process of EHCs and all that they entail cannot be overstated enough. Special Needs and Legal Entitlement does a marvellous job of simply breaking down each area (not only the legal aspects) and presenting a complete guide. For any family struggling to obtain sufficient help from the LEA I can highly recommend this book as the starting point.