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"You can't get an EHCP for dyslexia" - Can you?
How many times have you heard this? Is it true?
The simple answer is it very much depends upon the learning needs of each individual.
The first challenge is to obtain a diagnosis. Many children and young people struggle through their education, remaining either undiagnosed, or where they have a diagnosis, insufficiently supported. Speak to your SENCO, GP or contact a specialist centre.
It's estimated up to 1 in every 10 people in the UK has some degree of dyslexia.
Left unsupported a child risks is vulnerable to not meeting their potential. Children are very aware of their differences which can negatively impact upon self-confidence, increase stress and anxiety leading to mental health issues.
The child faces an uphill battle to conform, constantly measured against their peers’ progress.
What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a Specific Learning Difficulty, which can extend to difficulties with literacy, the way in which information is processed, stored and retrieved, memory, speed of processing, time perception and organisation.
Often dyslexia is overlaid with co-occurring difficulties commonly including:
Intelligence or cognitive ability is not affected.
What is SEN?
Dyslexia falls under the definition of a Special Educational Need defined under s20 Childrens and Families Act 2014 (CFA) as where the child has as a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made. That difficulty in practical terms means that the child has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or, has a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions.
What can be done to help?
Whilst dyslexia can present challenges to learning, the key is to implement strategies to deliver and adapt teaching to the particular learning style of the individual.
Dyslexia often lends itself to creative and individual thinking, and there are many examples of very successful dyslexics.
The basics – what are your legal rights?
Every child has the right to a maintained, that is a LA funded mainstream education.
Every maintained school has a set budget for each child. In addition, the school has an additional budget which can be accessed to utilise support for children identified as requiring support with their learning or access to education on their roll.
A statutory request for an Education, Health & Care (EHC) assessment is generally triggered when, after exhausting that budget, the child’s needs are still not being met or when, despite the school’s efforts in putting support in place, the child is still failing to make expected progress and assessments are needed to get to the bottom of the child’s difficulties.
It is often at this stage of the process that parents are informed that dyslexic needs can be met within the school’s budget and that a Plan is most unlikely to be issued.
Examples of such support include focus learning groups or programmes, some 1:1 Teaching Assistant support and programmes of speech and language intervention. The “local offer” which each Local Authority (LA) must publish, sets out other support available in the area.
The legal test however, is whether the school is “meeting needs.” The child should not have to “fit into” whatever the school can offer; rather the school should meet the individual needs of the child.
Your child may in fact be very able, yet not achieving their potential because of the lack of appropriate support. That is a special educational need (SEN) and your child is entitled to support.
What parents need to do?
Type of School - Choices, choices? Maintained, mainstream, special, independent???
Parents face bewildering options often dictated by what is on offer in the local area.
Any school must be able to meet needs. This is a basic threshold and in no way compels a LA to provide the very best.
A good starting point is to review the school provision by looking at their website, OFSTED results and considering their SEN policy and offering.
Meet the school SENCO and ask about the class profile, others with dyslexia and the school experience.
Key questions may extend to whether staff dealing daily with your child have the correct training British Dyslexia Association or SpLD certification? At what level is their certification? Does the school engage in specific training and updating?
Dyslexics do not necessarily share the same learning style. How would the school differentiate learning e.g. hand-outs enlarged, print and font sensitivity, directions not to ask a child to read aloud in front of peers? Would the proposal involve removal from class for focus work? If you are the parent of a teenager will they engage with this method of delivery?
Does the school offer a special unit? Again explore student profiles within this unit? An ASD unit will not necessarily meet the needs of a dyslexic.
What IT is on offer? Can your child use technology in the classroom?
Will your child require special arrangements for exams and testing? Plan ahead.
Does the school have the capability to even screen for dyslexia, and therefore awareness of triggers for referral to outside support?
What results have the school available and how are records maintained and reviewed?
You may wish to consider independent schools.
We have placed many dyslexic children in excellent independent specialist schools and colleges in the last academic year including More House School, Moons Hall, Beech Lodge, and Frewen College all with the benefits of an EHCP.
Such schools offer an immediate “like type” peer group, small class sizes, experienced and trained teachers and support assistants, and on site therapeutic support, thereby delivering a holistic programme of learning differentiated to the child’s needs. Open days run throughout the year. Make sure the school assess your child in order to ensure that it is the right environment for your child and of course its ability to meet your child’s needs.
Independent school are not subject to the same admission rules thereby preserving their ability to select their own intake. You will need an offer from an independent school before you can seek to name it as parental preference for placement. The exception is where the school has been registered under S41 CFA and essentially agrees to LA placements.
Organisations such as CRESTED, BDA and the Helen Arkell Centre are all available to support and guide parents.
If your child’s needs are not being met then you have the statutory right to request an EHC needs assessment.
The LA must assess where your child may have SEN. Your request should be supported with evidence. Examples may include a diagnosis, therapy reports, SENCO feedback, school reports and results records.
Many requests are refused and parents forced to appeal.
At this stage of the EHCP process the appeal is heard on paper so there are no oral hearings, and therefore the process less daunting for parents.
Your evidence is critical as it is for the LA to decide whether it may be necessary to make special educational provision for the child.
In making their decision panel judges will apply the law and review the evidence.
The cornerstone to an EHC needs assessment is review by an Educational Psychologist (EP). The EP will address SEN, the provision required and type of school. Often dyslexia requires specific speech & language therapy input and therefore it is prudent to obtain an assessment. If needs are overlaid with, for example, dyspraxia or ASD, occupational therapy input may also be indicated.
Make sure your experts are independent of the school and LA, and experienced with SENDIST tribunals, providing reports that properly inform the content of the Plan.
The assessment process may lead to a final EHCP which will also name a school that the LA believes can meet needs. The LA must fund the educational content of the EHCP. This includes all support, specialist equipment, therapies and school fees, if an independent school is named on the Plan. LAs often apply approaches or policies which do not properly address the law and therefore children miss out on the support they are entitled to.
Even if your child does not meet the criteria for an EHCP a thorough review of needs should result in the increase of support and provision.
We are specialist Special Educational Needs solicitors who can help with the EHC needs assessment process and with an appeal to the SEND Tribunal. Get in touch if you would like to discuss how we can assist.
I am so happy at the outcome, I don't think we would have had such a comprehensive service from any other law firm, and you took the worry away...I do not regret a single second of the whole process, apart from the bit before you got involved.
James' mother, Boyes Turner client