Fighting for Big

I’ve alluded to the issues that pre-school have identified that Big is struggling with. Being the consummate professionals, they don’t – and won’t – label her. Something I am hugely grateful for. She’s four. She has a lot of growing up to do.

At the beginning of last term, they secured extra funding for her to up their adult:child ratio so that they could spend more time with her. How they managed this without the supporting statements of a million professionals is extraordinary. Like I’ve said before, Big’s pre-school is outstanding. And not just because Ofsted say so.

At a recent meeting to discuss her transition to school, They – the faceless decision makers that hold a child’s future in their hands – decided that Big’s primary school will be able to meet her needs, despite that place having not yet even been offered, without extra support. I received a letter that was so badly worded it took me several re-reads to work out exactly what they were saying. I even had to pass it by pre-school’s supervisor to check I was reading it right.

Let me be clear: Big certainly doesn’t need to go to a special school. Her issues are not severe at all, but pre-school maintain that she will need extra help to reach her potential. I went to our GP to ask for a referral to the Child Development Centre in order to get some sort of paperwork to support their concerns. The CDC refused to see her and referred her to Speech and Language, who promptly discharged her and referred her back to the CDC. Unwittingly, I’d entered a playground of swings and roundabouts where reaching the top of the slide seemed impossible.

We’re incredibly fortunate to be able to engage an educational psychologist privately. I am incredibly fortunate to have received a fantastic education and having been brought up with parenting that resulted in my becoming a tenacious and confident adult, willing to question to status quo and fight for what our family needs. I lucked out with Lovely Husband who supports me unequivocally and, when I said we needed to pay for an EP, didn’t even question me. Like I’ve said before, he rocks and he is my rock.

Yesterday, the educational psychologist visited us at home and took Big through a battery of tests. Some that I didn’t even understand myself. Big’s unwavering cooperation and concentration was brilliant and I felt immensely proud. The EP will visit her at pre-school the week after next to get a rounded view of her in two different environments.

Today, the EP emailed me her initial thoughts and she confidently believes that Big has a Specific Language Impairment (SLI): a type of speech, language and communication need. This means that, while she is as able, bright and healthy as other children, she has complications with talking and understanding language. This could be a legacy from her hearing impairment days, or, more likely, something that developed before she was born. Our bright little button talks ten to the dozen. In fact, she never stops. Much of her monologue though, is irrelevant – a trademark of SLI. She has ideas in free fall, but she can’t necessarily articulate them.

Big needs instructions and questions posed to her in a certain way. If you ask her to, for example, pass you the tractor after she has put the car behind her back, she’ll give you the tractor and forget about the car. Instructions need to be clear; ask her to put the car behind her back, let her do that and then ask her to give you the tractor and she’s there. Her dialogue can be muddled: She will talk about what she wants to talk about, despite the conversation you were engaged in seconds ago. Most importantly, children with SLI can find it hard to join in and follow what is going on in the playground, and that epitomises the concerns that pre-school rightly raised with us and it’s that which I most want Big to be able to overcome. I want her to enjoy meaningful relationships with people that have her back.

SLI can (and hopefully will be) short lived. It can affect children long term. Either way, children with SLI need appropriate support in and out of the class room. I have already been back in touch with Them and they have agreed to reassess Big’s needs as soon as the ed psych’s report is ready. Good job. It’s not as if I would’ve let it lie. Will this guarantee her the funding she needs? No. But it re-opens the conversation and those that know me, know that I can talk the hind legs off a donkey.

But how do I feel? I feel angry for the children of parents who may accept the status quo and either can’t afford to or don’t have the confidence to question it and hire their own experts. How will children with additional needs ever succeed if those needs aren’t supported? We could’ve left it; we could’ve taken Them at their word and assumed that because they said they’d reviewed her file and she’d be fine, that she would be. It breaks my heart to think of her beautiful little face becoming worried as she tried her best but couldn’t quite understand what was being asked of her.

I question myself. I question if this is my fault; did I grow her wrong? And then I chastise myself for even thinking it: Big is wonderful. She’s a bright, kind, funny and beautiful little girl. She’s an eternally bubbly and happy little soul, despite the challenges she faces. I didn’t grow her wrong: I grew her and this is part of her story. She’s my amazing daughter. Maybe more amazing because of this. I’ve lost count of the amount of people that have looked at me like I’m mad when I’ve told them of pre-school’s worries. That clever little girl has found a way already to muddle through. But I don’t want her to muddle through. I want her to fly. I will make damn sure she does. No matter who I have to convince, no matter who I have to harangue. The fight is on. And I’m ready to step into the ring. My little girl will fly, even if I have to blow the air under her wings.


Fighting for Big

Family friendly breaks: Review 2

It’s taken us a while to get ourselves organised to head off for another family weekend. We’ve just got back from Chisel Barn’s Whites Ground in Blandfold Forum, Dorset. Blue Chip Holidays promise a ‘Baby Blue Chip’ package that should mean you can leave at least the kitchen sink at home.

We don’t know Dorset particularly well. Our hearts lie in Devon, really. But lovely though the A303 is, it’s just that bit too far for a weekend. We think we might have hit on the perfect compromise in Dorset and, in particular, at Chisel Barn. White Grounds, a converted dairy, boasts three large double bedrooms with either twin or king sized beds, a large open plan lounge/dining/kitchen area, a safe enclosed garden and two bathrooms. It has a separate utility room with washing machine and tumble dryer and the kitchen has all the mod cons. The beds are comfy and, most importantly, Big and Medium settled immediately from the first night. Bedtime was a breeze.

Decor is restful; I’ll go out on a limb and say Farrow & Ball throughout. A large, comfy corner sofa comfortably envelopes the whole family and there’s a cheerful log burner for chilly nights. Outside, the garden is fully fenced without compromising the beautiful view over Chisel Barn’s land. Baby cows, sheep, horses and a large pond are all you’ll see and the quiet is wonderful. Even the cows don’t moo at night and, weirdly, despite them being only a 40 or so metres from the front door, they don’t smell. Big, Medium and Little adored the cows and made several visits a day to say hello. They also enjoyed using the fishing nets left for them in the pond and hunting for frogspawn. Lovely Husband and I enjoyed an evening drinking champagne and eating cheese around the fire pit while the smalls slept. Lovely.

And onto the Baby Blue Chip promise. Well, we felt this was a bit ‘meh’. It didn’t induce us to write a glowing report on the ‘reduced packing’ aspect. There was a potty, loo seat, steriliser, monitor, some bath toys and the owner thoughtfully bought a Bumbo (at our recommendation) for us,  but we were disappointed by the lack of toys and DVDs. If the weather had been too bad to throw the kids outside, we would’ve been stuck. We did need that extra crate of things in the car after all, which means more packing and unpacking at both ends. That’s really what we want to avoid.

That said, we would definitely return, even with the extra crate in the car. The house is restful and incredibly easy to live in. It has a better broadband connection than we have at home, so Lovely Husband could work. It’s location is handy for several beaches (we visited the gorgeous and unspoilt Studland beach) as well attractions such as Monkey World and the Tank Museum (honestly – this place is fascinating and well worth a trip). We were all sad to leave and White Grounds could well be another contender for our regular jaunts.

Find out more about Chisel Barn here:




Family friendly breaks: Review 2