Support for disabled children shouldn’t depend on where you live

Harry, eight, has multi-sensory impairment (MSI) which means he has trouble with his hearing and sight, and relies on support from a specialist MSI teacher at school.

Harry’s mum, Sarah, tells us about the challenges the family have experienced trying to get the right support since they moved to a different part of the country.

A woman and her son lie on the floor, reading a book. The mother, Sarah, is smiling. The boy, Harry, who has blue glasses and an orange t-shirt on, is concentrating on the book.

When we lived in Buckinghamshire, Harry had brilliant support from an MSI teacher who helped him develop key communication skills, such as signing and writing numbers and words. This had an incredible impact on Harry.

Harry’s MSI teacher gave him confidence

MSI teachers are trained to look at both hearing and sight impairments of a child, and support them to learn and engage with the world in the best way. Harry’s MSI teacher looked at what he needed and broke down his learning and communication barriers. They gave him the confidence to explore and challenged him to learn. You can’t put a price on that.

Everyone was working towards the same goal, enabling Harry to learn and helping him to stay focused in class. Teaching him how to communicate also helped him to control his frustration and behaviour.

Having one specialist teacher that Harry could build a relationship with is so important. Harry struggles with different adults so it really helped to have one expert to coordinate his care.

Everything changed when we moved areas

Unfortunately, when we moved to Lincolnshire, Harry had to switch schools and everything changed. Before we moved, I tried to discuss Harry’s support with the council, to make sure everything was in place, but it felt like we had to start from scratch.

We really had to fight to get support for Harry. There were constant questions about the level of support he needed and it took a huge amount just to get his needs recognised by the council.

It was almost as if Harry was seen as a piece of paper or number, rather than a child with needs. The experience really impacted my mental health and made me feel very lonely and isolated.

Harry gets a fraction of what he used to get

Even now, the support Harry gets is a fraction of what he used to get in Buckinghamshire. He doesn’t get any one-to-one support and the MSI teacher is only available to support him six times a year. So essentially, we’ve gone from full-time support, to support six times a year.

I’ll continue to fight for the support Harry needs. If I don’t, I worry that he’ll miss out on learning important life skills essential for his future.

I don’t understand how the support can be brilliant in one county but not another. These are children’s lives they are messing with. The support for disabled children should be consistent across the country regardless of what area you live in.

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