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The statement, which outlines what your child’s special educational needs are and how they can be met, is reviewed every year. It can state, for example, how many hours of teaching support your child should get each week, or how often they should have a speech and language assessment.
Not every child with learning disabilities is assessed or receives a statement of special educational needs (often just called a statement) from the local authority. But if you feel your child’s needs are not being met at mainstream school, there is a step-by-step approach to getting a statement.
Based on your application and information from people involved in your child's care, the local authority will decide whether or not to assess your child or issue a statement. If it decides not to, it will explain why and suggest other ways your child’s needs can be met.
You can challenge this decision if you want to. The authority can tell you how to do this, and let you know of local arrangements to help you come to an agreement.
You can also go to the Special Education Needs and Disability Tribunal, an independent body that reviews the information and decide whether the authority’s decision should change. For an information pack on challenging a decision not to assess, see the Independent Panel for Special Education Advice website.
Applying for an assessment
You or your child’s school or nursery can apply for an assessment. The application has to be made to the special educational needs department of your local authority. You will be required to fill in forms about your child and why you think they need an assessment. If you need support with this, contact the special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) at the school or nursery, a local support group or Mencap.
The authority will read your application and let you know within a few weeks whether it will carry out an assessment.
If the assessment goes ahead, the local authority will talk to a number of people about your child and his or her needs, including:
You can suggest other people or organisations the authority can talk to. You can tell the authority what support you feel your child should have, such as speech and language therapy or special training for their teachers.
Once the authority has collected all the information it needs for the assessment, it will either:
If a statement is issued, this will be reviewed every year throughout your child's education. It describes clearly the support your child should have.
A parent’s view
Monica Rivers’s daughter Ayesha, six, received a statement in May 2008. It was the second time that Monica and her husband applied for it.
“It was time consuming and, to be honest, depressing doing the application,” she says. “You have to break down every aspect of your child into a document, and for me it brought back some of the difficult times and challenges I didn’t want to revisit.
"We were refused the first time, but reapplied the next year. This time I met the woman at the special educational needs department of the local authority who was overseeing Ayesha’s application. We went through the whole statement together, outlining what Ayesha needed.
"I had also started working at a charity within the learning disability community, so I was more aware of what was needed. This time we got it. Ayesha is in mainstream school, and the statement says she should get 25 hours of extra support a week. She is really benefitting from it.” Read Monica's story.
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