A Parent’s Story – My Child at I CAN’s Meath School
I have a little girl called Isabella. She has a severe speech language and communication difficulty.
This is our story.
Isabella was about 2 years old when I recognised that her speech was not meeting the developmental milestones for her age. Isabella also has epilepsy and learning difficulties and requires occupational therapy. The hardest issue at the time was the lack of information and help which I could access as a parent. The nursery where she attended tried very hard to get the Early Years team to help and acknowledge her needs and provide support. The epilepsy elicited more response for help than her increasingly obvious SLC needs. This was ignored to the point where I self referred my daughter for a SLT assessment.
Next was the frustrating year long waiting list before she was even seen. By now she was 4, 2 precious years lost. Once assessed it was acknowledged there was a problem however the only service they could offer was a block of 6 units consisting of half an hour, Once a term. To me this felt like trying to stop a severed limb bleeding with a plaster.
I have never felt so isolated and desperately worried for my child’s welfare and future than I did back then. SLCN is not acknowledged or treated with the seriousness it deserves.
Add to this primary school was looming and the LEA felt she would be fine in a mainstream setting. I knew this was make or break for my daughter future. I already had firsthand experience of the expectations and demands of the curriculum because I had 2 older sons already in the system. I knew there was no way she or they would cope. Isabella was a long way behind her peers already and was finding it hard to make friends. She would parallel play alongside the other children instead of with them and often gravitated towards adults for constant support. Speech not only affects the spoken word but our ability to relate to others. Isabella’s social skills were and even with all the help she has received up to today still lacking.
We were lucky I found out about Meath by chance- a friend knew someone whose child was at a specialist SLC school. Up until then I didn’t know such schools existed even though I had asked Bella’s SLT about the alternatives available to us. As soon as I visited Meath I knew it could provide for all my daughters needs. So I went to the LEA and I asked for an assessment for Isabella at Meath. Which they agreed to after some procrastination. The rest as they say is history.
Isabella was offered a placement at Meath and the LEA agreed with the proviso that it was short term on an ongoing assessed basis. i.e. when she magically began to speak, stopped having seizures and no longer required O.T she could go in to a mainstream setting. Needless to say Isabella is still at Meath and is now in Year 6. I have found this to be one of the biggest misconceptions about SLCN. That somehow these conditions are temporary, it must have been bad parenting, they’ll grow out of it. I was told by a good friend it must of been something I didn’t do whilst she was a toddler- like just sitting her in front of the telly and not communicating with her.
No one says that to a parent of a deaf child or a child in a wheel chair. This is one of the hardest aspects of having a child with SLCN. Life can still be very challenging and mentally wearing. Isabella is 10 years old but she can behave very immaturely which often tallies with the language age the child is at not the chronological age. The problem she looks “normal” so we are both judged by that bench mark. Some days you don’t feel like constantly explaining why your very grown up looking daughter is throwing a paddy in a supermarket like a toddler. But if you think about it- if you couldn’t argue or say what you wanted or were not sure you have conveyed your meaning to another person clearly, you might want to stand and cry too.
I am now in the process of trying to find Bella a suitable secondary placement but this time round it is a lot easier.
I have a network of friends whose children have similar issues and I have access to unbiased expert help and knowledge.
We are no longer isolated and Bella has friends and a future.
I would urge any parent reading this with concerns to trust your instincts and pursue the needs of your child. As you are on this website you are already one step ahead.