The definition of education and what support is available is broad. The Children and Families Act 2014 widened support that is available to include support for education and training.
This means that support that might not have been thought of as educational support in the past (because it was felt not to be educational support in the traditional sense) can now be included under the umbrella of ‘educational support’. Examples of provision that may now be considered educational support include certain physiotherapy programmes and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Areas of support for a child with a brain injury
The SEND Code of Practice 2015 sets out the following four broad areas of difficulties with education:
- Cognition and learning
- Communication and interaction
- Physical and sensory
- Social, emotional and mental health
The following are types of support that may be considered under these categories. The actual type and quantity of support should be advised by professional working together with the school and parents.
Cognition and Learning
A Teaching Assistant or Learning Support Assistant (TA/LSA) may assist either during all lessons on a 1:1 basis or to work with the child in small groups on certain tasks. The TA/LSA can be trained to deliver therapy programmes as advised by therapists and can liaise with teachers to present differentiated materials to assist learning. A TA/LSA can keep the child on-track in the class, provide prompting and assist with their executive functioning skills.
The TA/LSA can be a good point of contact between home and school – but the TA/LSA should never take the place of the teacher. The teacher is in charge of teaching each child in their class.
The child may also get specialist equipment e.g. a laptop with special software.
Communication and Interaction
Input from a Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) may be required. Depending on the severity of difficulty, the SLT will advise either direct input from a SLT (either 1:1 or in small groups) or may devise a programme for the child’s TA/LSA to deliver. In this case, the SLT should still be involved in regularly assessing and reviewing the programme. They may also need to work alongside other therapists, for example an Occupational Therapist, when advising on assistive technology.
Specialist equipment to assist in communication has developed significantly over recent years and input may be required from Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) experts. AAC can supplement or replace speech or writing for communication. It can take the form of low-tech
communication e.g. signing and books with pictures or symbols or it can take the form of high-tech communication systems e.g. computers and tablets that can convert symbols, text or pictures to a voice output.
Some local authorities and schools will have access to AAC and ICT professionals who can provide support with implementing high-tech voice output AAC devices within school. The teams will consist of AAC technical officers who will assess, programme devices, and arrange training for the child, parents and school staff. If this service is unavailable in the child’s area, parents may want to consider requesting an independent assessment from an AAC specialist.
If there is a problem with social communication, the child may need help learning / re-learning these skills. Time will need to be set aside or incorporated in the school day to allow the teaching of these skills e.g. turn taking, listening to others’ opinions. This could be carried out during lesson times or break times and will likely need input from a TA/LSA or therapist.
Physical and Sensory
Assistance may be required for mobility and this could take the form of equipment such as a wheelchair or walker, or, if the child is unstable, a TA/LSW may be required to keep a close watch for safety reasons.
The child may have difficulty with personal hygiene and getting changed or organising their bag/lunch. If so, a care assistant may be required during these times. This can be a care assistant during lesson times and also break times.
Specialist advice is likely to be required from an Occupational Therapist and possibly a Physiotherapist. Any advice regarding specialist seating, fidget toys, writing equipment, use of laptop etc. should be shared with the school and purchased by the school or local authority. The therapists may advise on a programme of graduated exercises / programmes to follow. The programme can be implemented by the therapist directly or training may be required for school staff to follow through programmes. If school staff implement programmes, there must be provision for the therapist to re-visit to monitor and review progress and to amend the programme as required. The therapists should have regular meetings with the school and information should be shared with parents.
For older children/young adults, support may be required for learning independent living skills.
Social, Emotional and Mental Health
Children who have had a brain injury can suffer from emotional problems which may display in various ways. They may have anger management problems, insecurity, or see themselves different to their peers and having less ability. Support by way of a key worker should be made available to them at school. They should have a system whereby they can excuse themselves if a situation becomes overwhelming or if they are suffering from fatigue and need a break. The child may require more specialist input from CAMHS and, if so, a referral should be sought from the school and/or the child’s GP.
All these types of support can be accessed through the child’s school. However, if the school is struggling to provide adequate support, then you need to consider requesting an Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment.
If you have concerns about your child’s education following a brain injury, Brain Injury Group have specialist education lawyers who can assist.
Produced by Laxmi Patel of Boyes Turner’s Education Team
Laxmi Patel leads Boyes Turner’s leading Education team. An expert in special educational needs, Laxmi works closely with parents, schools, local authorities and case managers to ensure that children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities receive the support they need to achieve their potential in their education.
Brain Injury Group members Boyes Turner is a Reading based full service law firm with a dedicated Education team who help families get the extra help and support require for their children with special educational needs and disabilities.
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