30 June 2008

Special Educational Needs Tribunals

I've just had an email about the changes in regulations relating to the Tribunal Service...

This is what it says...

"Some parents will be aware that the regulations relating to The Tribunal Service are being 'rationalised' in order to have a more consistent policy right across the range of tribunals. Discussions concerning the new regulations have been kept strictly between the Government and the legal profession but several lawyers have highlighted their concerns as the proposed changes are far from parent helpful. In fact they are definitely unfair to parents. and, if put into action, will make parental appeals to the Tribunal far more complex and pro Local Authorities. If you wish to access the new draft rules up for 'discussion' you should try the following:

The draft rules are at http://www.tribunals.gov.uk/Documents/Draft_HESC_ChamberRules_290508.pdf with the rules for the new upper tier tribunal (for appeals) at http://www.tribunals.gov.uk/Documents/Draft_Upper_Tribunal_Rules_02_06_08.pdf and also for the the transition rules - http://opsi.gov.uk/si/si2008/draft/plain/ukdsi_9780110817828_en

Basically what happens now (unless persuaded otherwise) is that SENDIST is abolished from 3rd November and everything becomes subject to the new rules, including appeals which have already been begun. Although there is provision for the tribunal to give directions disapplying this in relation to individual cases, they are not going to be able to do that in practical terms for appeals listed for hearing during the week of 3rd November. Theoretically at least we could all turn up for cases listed that week with 10 witnesses if the rules stay as they are! If any one thinks that there will be real consultation going on they may like to know that, according to the staff of SENDIST, in London their jobs end in October and the Darlington office closes shortly after end April 2009. There is talk of a kind of 'call centre' in Loughborough! The new system is scheduled to come into effect in November! If allowed to happen it will make appeals to SENDIST much more difficult for parents. 'Consultation' must be in by 11th July but for the new regulations to become law they must have Parliamentary approval and so be tabled in the House. Unless, however, we warn our MPs it is very likely that the new regulations will end up in Parliament and, if left unchallenged, will go the way of most delegated legislation and become law without debate."

I have also received a letter drafted by lead counsel regarding these new proposals / regulations for SENDIST which will impact on parents' right of access and appeal against their children's statements and creates an unfairness to many low income families ofdisabled children. Asking for it to be circulated to familiy and friends and sent to MP's and copy into SENDIST at Mowden Hall, Darlington - consultation finishes on the 11th July 2008.



Re: Children with Disabilities, changes to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal Regulations

I write to you as my member of parliament, because of proposed changes to therules involving the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. I amextremely concerned that these changes are being produced as a result of a general legal reform which pays no regard to the special role of the Tribunal, and its jurisdiction, which outside of the Family Court, is unique.

The current reforms are providing for an upper / lower tier of tribunals, and are convenient to lawyers, and to the legal administration. They have the following detrimental effect on families of children with disabilities, and special educational needs, and particularly are unfair and handicap the parents. The problems are as follows:

Firstly, the system favours local authorities, by abolishing a restriction on witnesses, and by getting rid of the substantial written elementof the case, which means that the Tribunal is a short cost effective and highly expert body.· Introducing directions hearings, and other administration orders,which will increase the costs.· If the restrictions on witnesses are abolished, plus the introduction of directions will mean that hearings which are generally one day or less, willbe much longer and much more expensive. The current system was brought in because local authorities had a substantial advantage and could call a large number of witnesses. Parents had limited budgets, and were concerned by their children's needs and disabilities, not by the budget. The new system helps local authorities unfairly.·

There is also a proposal that the Tribunal can order a child examined. The Family Court, which has jurisdiction in this area, only does so in certainset circumstances. Special needs appeals take place in circumstances where the authority is bound by statute and regulation as to how far and in whatcircumstances it can examine a child. The current proposals would seek to abolish parental rights, and in addition, create greater power for a local authority to examine a child in tribunal proceedings, than it is given bystatute.

Overall, I am extremely concerned by these changes in rules, and the fact thatthe consultation is really one for lawyers. It is unfair to parents and is only convenient to the Legal Administration. I would be grateful if you take this matter up, not only with the Department for Children and Families, but the Department of Justice. It would seem the bestway to deal with this is to call for these regulations to be actually debated inparliament.

Yours sincerely

25 June 2008

Product Fault: Key Words Flashcards

It has come to our attention that some of sets of Reception Key Word Flashcards; are missing two of the high frequency words - 'we' and 'went'. If you have recently purchased this item please can you check that you have these cards.

We are trying to contact customers who may have been affected. If your set of flashcards is affected please let us know and we will send you these additional two words to add to your pack.

We are sorry for any inconvenience caused.

20 June 2008

The Queen's Birthday Honours (Part 1)

About a year ago I posted about a petition to get Justin Fletcher made an OBE. This years Queen's Birthday Honours have now been announced and I'm pleased to report that Justin has been awarded an MBE for Services to Children's Broadcasting and to the Voluntary Sector.

So what has Justin done? Justin is the presenter of 'Something Special' which has raised awareness of signing (using Makaton) and put children with special needs onto mainstream children's television (Something Special is shown on CBeebies). Each programme focuses on aspects of the children's world about them (for example, shopping, food, pets and toys) and the format is simple, fun and informative with the language used throughout each programme being supported by Makaton signs and symbols.

Well done Justin.

14 June 2008

The New Baby - Preparing for a new sibling

Any parent with more than one child has had to help that child through the transition of being an only child to having a sibling or more siblings and help prepare them for the new baby's arrival. The arrival of a new baby can cause lots of sudden change in a family and before the baby is born, parents typically spend a lot of time on preparations and then after the baby arrives a lot of attention involves meeting the newborn's basic needs. This change can be difficult for older siblings to handle and it is not uncommon for an older sibling to resent the newborn for getting the attention and to react by displaying negative behaviours.

To try and minimise the upset to your existing child(ren) there are steps you can take to prepare your child for all the change, by discussing the pregnancy in terms that make sense to them, by carelful planning and including your child in the care of the newborn, you can make the transition a little easier for the entire family. This post will hopefully give you some good ideas to help your toddler / pre-schooler understand what is happening and help them to look forward to the new baby as much as you are.

To start with, at some point you need to tell your child that you are having a baby, when you do this is up to you. If it is important to you that you tell them rather than them finding out from someone else this may need to be sooner rather than later, we told our four year old after the 12-week scan, mainly because we didn't want him telling people before we did! Young children find it hard to understand the length of a pregnancy so it is a good idea to frame the baby's expected arrival time around fixed events - luckily for us we had our eldest's birthday, then our youngest's birthday and then the baby is going to be born; our four and two year old both seem to have accepted this and are now aware the baby could be born 'any day'. Talk to your children about the new baby by calling him "your little brother or sister" / "our baby" instead of "mummy's new baby" or even "the new baby" so that they know that they are not being replaced but that the baby is someone special to them.

Some activities for during your pregnancy that can help your child prepare for their new sibling are:
  • showing them their baby pictures and how they've grown
  • reading books about new babies; for example - The New Baby
  • visiting friends who have babies
  • letting them sort out baby things
  • asking their advice about potential baby names
  • letting them come to antenatal appointments and involving them in measuring the bump / listening to the baby's heartbeat
  • making a scrapbook of baby pictures from magazines, showing nappy changing, baby feeding, sleeping, crying etc
  • making a 'birth' day cake

You may find it helpful to involve your child in the decisions about what is going to happen to them during the time you are having your baby. Explain to them what will happen if/when you go to hospital, who is going to look after them and when they will be able to see you. Also discuss the fact that the midwives and doctors will look after you and the baby so you will be ok, in talking to our four year old we found he needed reassuring that these people worked at night so it was ok if the baby was born at night time.

Try to keep your older child(ren)'s routine as regular as possible in the days and weeks surrounding the baby's arrival. If you plan to make any room shifts to accommodate the baby, do it a few weeks before the baby's expected due date. If your older child is approaching any major milestones, like potty training or moving from a cot to a bed, you may want to make those changes well in advance of your due date, or put them off until after the baby has been at home for some time. Some children regress after a younger sibling is born, the best way to deal with this is to give your son more attention for positive big brother / sister acts, than for the baby acts - even negative attention can be motivation for acting "like a baby," so make sure you only reward the behaviours you want to continue. It is important to encourage your older child to talk about feelings they may be having about the new baby. If your child cannot articulate his or her feelings, don't be surprised if he or she acts out by knowingly breaking the rules or reverting to whining or speaking in baby talk. If your child misbehaves, don't bend the rules, but understand what feelings may be motivating that behaviour. It may be a sign that your child needs more one-on-one time with you. Let your child know that although his or her feelings are important, they have to be expressed in appropriate ways.

You might want to plan for your child(ren) to visit you in the hospital as soon as possible after the baby is born and to 'bring their baby' home to show other visitors. The first introduction of the new baby is very important, you might want to have your son choose a present to give to his new sibling and have presents from the baby for the big siblings to exchange the first time they meet. When you introduce the new baby, plan for his new little brother or sister to be in the crib and not in mummy's or daddy's arms so that you can cuddle your older child.

Once the baby is born there are some things you can do to help your older child to adjust to all of the changes. First, it's a good idea to include your child as much as possible in the daily activities surrounding the baby, so that they doesn't feel left out. Your child may be willing to help take care of the baby or they might enjoy role playing with a doll. There will be occasions, for example during breastfeeding, that your older child can't be involved with the baby, and you may find it useful to have toys on hand (last time we had a special box of books and toys that were just for feeding times) so that you can feed the baby without being interrupted or worrying about your older child feeling neglected.

Also remember to try and take advantage of any opportunities for one-on-one time with your older child(ren). Spend some time together while the baby is sleeping and if possible, set aside some time each day for your older children to get one parent's undivided attention. If your child knows that there is special time exclusively for him or her, it may help reduce any resentment or anger about the new baby. You may also want to remind relatives and friends that your older child might want to talk about something other than the new baby!

Have you got any other ideas to share? Please let us know!

05 June 2008

Changes / Transitions

Things are constantly changing and there are lots of changes that children experience during their lifetime. Either positively or negatively our four year old is going to have several changes over the next few months; first he's going to gain a new sibling, then he is going to move house and then he is going to start school.

Over the next few weeks there will be a series of posts on this blog about these transitions and how to prepare children for the changes they will experience - do let me know if you have any experiences / information to share!

The changes will also be affecting us here at Littlesheep Learning due to the maternity leave and relocating, your orders maybe slightly delayed from our usually quick despatch. We will also be having a Sale over the next month or so to reduce stock for our move. Unfortunately this move means that some items will be out of stock for longer than usual, please contact us if you need something that is out of stock and we will try and let you know an expected restocking date.

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02 June 2008

Down Syndrome Awareness Week

This week (2nd-8th June 2008) is Down's Syndrome Awareness Week, organised by the Down's Syndrome Association.

Awareness Week this year will focus on empowering families and carers of people with Down's syndrome by providing them with knowledge about their rights so that they may demand appropriate services and treatment. The Down's Syndrome Association are producing an easy-to-read guide about the Human Rights Act and how to use it. We will also be asking our members to find out whether their local authority is paying sufficient attention to the Disability Equality Duty and the Human Rights Act.

Every year Awareness Week gives all our wonderful members and supporters the opportunity to stand-up and shout-out about Down’s syndrome and the Association. It is the perfect chance to raise awareness of the work of the DSA and to champion the rights of people with Down’s syndrome.

This video clip was put together especially for this week by Stepping Stones Down Syndrome Support Group, I'm sure you will agree the children are all gorgeous.

To celebrate this week the code DSAW08 will save you 10% at Littlesheep Learning (offer ends 9th June).