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Harry’s assessment gave us the answers we needed on the important questions

Having children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) assessed can often be arduous and painful. To get more of an insight into this process, we spoke to Janette Butler, a grandmother of a child with SLCN experiences. We spoke to Janette about Harry, the issues he’s faced in school and why I CAN’s Bill Harrison Assessment Service had such a positive impact on helping her and his Mum understand his conditions better.

Harry and his Mum lived with me for the first five years of his life. I supported both of them and have taken on an active caring role, trying to support my daughter as much as possible.

My daughter has a history of speech and language problems and severe dyslexia. As a result, I have a deep understanding of the challenges parents face when they are trying to get the right diagnosis and support for their child.

When Harry was born, things were difficult. He wasn’t the easiest baby in the world and as a toddler would scream and shout and have endless energy (and still does!).  In the back of my mind, I always had a fear that some of his mother’s speech and language and dyslexia would be passed on to Harry.

When he started playing football shortly before his fifth birthday, I noticed his behaviour more. He struggled to filter his language and would often say ‘You’re an idiot!’ to his coach!

It was Harry’s football coach that suggested we get him assessed for autism and communication difficulties as he was convinced that he was autistic. At that point that I started doing some research and decided to contact Meath School. I liaised with the Headteacher, Janet Dunn, who was so helpful and we arranged a time for a two-day assessment.

The very fact that there is a two-day assessment available is fantastic – all the experts working together.   I feared that Harry would be upset about having to spend two days being assessed but the staff were amazing and were so welcoming. He didn’t mind attending at all. Harry was happy to be left in their capable hands. For many parents, it seems an uphill struggle to get the correct assessment.

Harry’s just eight years old and often struggles to express himself. He’s very aware of his difficulties and often acts younger than his age. The report unearthed that Harry had a large emotional delay This often results in him lashing out or being rude.

When he looks back on his behaviour, he knows that it is wrong but doesn’t know why he reacts as he does. The added frustration emerges around his literacy and it is tough to hear him say, ‘I am no good at English, what is the point!’. The older he gets, the more important it is that he can express himself.

In his current primary school setting, it is tough to get the correct support. Although they can target certain elements that he is struggling with, the services are not catered across the board. For example, they can help to support his anger management but speech and language provision isn’t available as they don’t have the funding. The lack of support available is one of the key reasons why we looked at Meath School, where provision is all under one roof.

We are thankful for all the help and support that he received.

I would recommend any parent or carer who has issues, fears or misconceptions about what an assessment would be like to reach out to the Bill Harrison Assessment Service and to schools like Meath. Assessments are carried out by staff who are knowledgeable and caring. It made a real difference to our lives.