One of the biggest issues that I’ve come across from our SEND journey is that some professionals working with families are unable to read the signs.
In fact, I could go so far to say that some of these experts have so much tunnel vision that they become unable to be objective when looking at needs. What often happens is that they hone in on a behaviour and stick an opinion (or a reason behind) why that is happening, instead of reading it as a signal of something bigger.
If they are oblivious to behavioural indicators then they often remain clueless to the unmet needs – fuelling the process even further.
I will give you a personal experience to explain this issue further.
When my youngest child was three she had mild speech difficulties and her speech was limited. She could only refer to herself as ‘baby,’ and pull or point to items saying ‘mama’ or ‘daddy.’ This was mortifying when she would point to a random man in the street and say daddy!
I have a short video from this time that went onto our Facebook handle – for anyone interested in looking back to this time you can view it here.
I flagged this issue and she was assessed for speech and language therapy some months later (at which point she had had some degree of catch up). However, the issues never fully resolved and although she learnt to say her name, she continued to call her key worker ‘mama’ and her grandfather ‘daddy.’ She still froze and was unable to speak in certain situations but my concerns were quashed as her vocabulary had increased enough to not warrant their intervention.
As a parent, my expertise on the child and the communication difficulties she still had, were filed away as redundant paperwork.
Fast forward two years and one of the last things still noticeable is that she still calls her grandfather daddy. The entire family refer to him as ‘grandad,’ but despite being able to say the word now she prefers to call him daddy. He is also our registered carer and her reference to him in a fatherly role is perhaps testament to the stable relationship he has founded with her.
Now, with an access to records for one of her siblings, suddenly I’m given information that one of the concerns raised by the school nurse is that I allow ‘all of my children’ to call their grandparent ‘daddy’ and they feel ‘uncomfortable’ with that. A nurse who was brought in to work with her sister’s anxiety and who never met my youngest. A formulated opinion that they have then used to backup up their argument that parenting is to blame for the behaviour they witness.
Taking out of context, oblivious to any of the earlier history, a judgment made on bias has been made and is counterproductive to understanding the situation further.
The initial sign was the disparity and disorder in my child’s speech. Instead of looking at the speech sign as a potential need, by identifying and providing the relevant support and provision, the need has not been met.
Missing the writing on the wall can be debilitating to families who have a multitude of needs. Missing a need is harmful enough, but using it to gaslight or defame an individual, should really be criminalised.
Training on what the signs are should be paramount to anyone working with neurodiverse families.
Sadly, the writing is always visible, but only for those professionals who are willing to detect it.