I have some exciting news for Special Needs Jungle for 2013!
In 2012, the site really took off and now covers a much wider range of issues about special needs and disabilities, thanks to the many fantastic guest posts that people have kindly contributed. I am aware that my boys are growing older and have a certain type of special need and I have been thinking about how to expand the parental perspective for the site.
Last year, I met the most amazing woman, a fellow transplated Northerner with an incredible knowledge of SEN/D who also has three children of her own with a range of disabilities. Her name is Debs Aspland and she is also the chair of Kent PEPS parent carer forum. Her energy and dedication amaze me.
I am delighted that Debs has agreed to become a regular contributor alongside me on Special Needs Jungle. I really believe that she will bring an incredible amount to SNJ. Below, Debs introduces herself to you all and I am sure that you will find her articles useful, informative and interesting!
Over to you, Debs…
My name is Debs Aspland. I am a Director of Kent PEPs (Parents as Equal Partners), a Lead Trainer for Early Support, a trainer for Kent Safeguarding Children Board, an independent trainer (Kent SEN Consultancy) for disability awareness and I am also a Performance Management & Life Coach.
Like Tania, I was raised in the North West – St Helens in Merseyside – and I know that my Northern blood and upbringing has definitely contributed to making me the person I am today.
I have three children, each with a different educational need. My eldest son was diagnosed at 5 months with hydrocephalus and at 2.5 yrs with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I have twins, 14 months younger than my eldest son, who were born 11 weeks prematurely and spent their first 10 weeks in NICU. As a result of his prematurity, my youngest son developed Retinopathy of Prematurity, stage V. This translates in our language to he has no sight or light perception. His twin sister (older by 1 minute, which she insists on telling everyone) has global development delay, oral dyspraxia and a number of other labels.
All three of my crew have statements and all three go to different schools. My eldest goes to an amazing special school and the twins both go to great mainstream schools with units (resource centres). The drama of going through the diagnosis, assessments, therapy appointments, surgery, locating a suitable nursery, securing a suitable school place, the statementing process and trying to live in the Special Needs Jungle has caused our family heartache, laughter, tears, frustration and an awareness that if we wanted things to change, we had to make this happen as no one was going to make the changes for us.
So, as you can see, I live this, I don’t do it for a living.
I have always been outspoken and a fighter, so when I was first turned down for additional support funding at a nursery, I came out fighting and there were times when it felt like I would never stop fighting. So I started to get involved, initially on a small scale – a few meetings here and there, but eventually this became a full time role for me and in my role of Director of Kent PEPs, I attend several meetings providing the views of our parent members and I also now Chair the Pathfinder Change Board for Kent. This is a huge honour for me but also a huge responsibility. The changes I have seen though over the last 18 months, in relationships between parents and Local Authority/NHS have been remarkable and I am truly proud to be playing such a proactive role in shaping the SEN reforms.
The current SEN reforms are a frightening and challenging time for parents, but if the aspirations of the Green Paper are met, then the potential for families could be extraordinary. We still have some way to go for those aspirations to come to fruition but it does appear that the Government is really listening to us and not just ticking boxes. However, I would recommend that you ask me again in September 2014.
I was flattered to be asked by Tania to be her co-contributor to this amazing blog; I really hope that I can fulfil her wishes and bring a different perspective to SNJ. My children are younger than Tania’s so, in some ways, I still have far to go in this Jungle but I hope that my experiences and knowledge can contribute in some way and make this the blog that parents turn to when looking for SEN news, opinions and support. I am always happy to hear from parents with questions, ideas, suggestions or feedback so please feel free to get in touch via the contact page