Mum of autistic Hounslow boy says he’s ‘in limbo’ as ‘inadequate EHCP has left him with no school’

By Staff

A West London mum says she is concerned her five-year-old autistic child might not have a school to go to in September, claiming the support package outlined by the council does not go far enough to address his needs. Kerry Finlay, from Hounslow, has spent months trying to find son Lennon a school that meets his needs after his current one said it could no longer accommodate him.

Kerry said her child, who has struggled with verbal communication and requires a speech therapist, has been let down by Hounslow Council which she claims has failed to find him a suitable school. As part of its agreed support, the council assigned his school £2,100 to cover the costs of speech therapy sessions vital to his development.

However, to her frustration, Kerry says that due to a bureaucratic error in how the therapist was paid that she was not made aware of until the council cancelled the therapist in December, Lennon has been without a therapist for over four months.

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The pausing of payments has convinced Kerry that the council simply ‘doesn’t care’ about her son. In emails shown to Local Democracy Reporting Services (LDRS), the council is shown apologising for how it has handled the situation, but Kerry worries that the continued lack of a therapist could see ‘his speech get worse’.

The speech therapy was assigned as part of an Education, Health and Care Plan (ECHP) prepared by council officers, which the mum feels doesn’t go far enough. While the plan acknowledges that Lennon has ‘a range of difficulties, including reduced attention and listening skills, delayed expressive and receptive language skills and delayed social communication skills’, it only designates a total number of Education Speech and Language Therapy hours per academic year of 28 hours – an amount which Kerry believes doesn’t meet her son’s needs.

This is reflected by the response of Lennon’s current primary school. In a letter, the leadership makes clear that they are unable to provide the support he needs and are ‘unable to admit’ him for another year.

Kerry said she was made aware that this would be the case, she said: “I’ve got a meeting with the school about next year. I don’t think they are going to keep him on.

“He’s in Year 1 but he’s been brought back to reception and he can’t really do it again. So the head teacher has said they don’t know if they can have him for the following year.”

Lennon has been forced to repeat reception and has been suspended on two separate occasions for ‘going for’ other pupils, which Kerry says is a result of his difficulties communicating and something that could only be helped by specialist support. She believes only a Special Educational Needs (SEN) school can provide her son with what he needs.

She said: “He needs to be taught in a certain way and without that it could just get worse or stay the same. The therapy [at an SEN school] is really the only way to get him to improve. It could also improve his behaviour if he had an OT (occupational therapist). They really work on behaviour traits which he massively needs. When he is going for pupils or something, it’s not his fault because he just gets frustrated and he doesn’t know how to express himself.”

Lennon often repeats words spoken to him by others. He suffers from something known as Echolalia which is a behaviour found in some people with autism and is associated with those who struggle to express themselves verbally.

While the single mum desperately searches for the best ways to support her son she says she has faced some challenges with Hounslow Council. With his suspensions, uneven development, behavioural problems and the likelihood that his current school will not be able to accommodate him next year, Kerry believes her son’s ECHP is inadequate.

Kerry says in her current situation she and her son are ‘in limbo’, unable to find a new school which could deal with Lennon’s needs while his current one is unlikely to take him back for another year. The mum believes that if Hounslow Council had agreed to put Lennon in an SEN school in its last ECHP back in June 2023 she would not be in her current predicament, with her now having to fight tooth and nail to try to get the council’s support to find him a place.

Appealing to Hounslow Council to find Lennon a place at an SEN school has been a struggle, Kerry tells LDRS. However, she explains that finding him a spot is crucial: “They have teachers that are trained to deal with his needs, there is nothing worse than sending him to school every day thinking ‘oh my god am I going to get that phone call, what are they going to say’.

“The teachers are trained. It’s smaller classes so they can do more work with him. They know what to do, and they have a sensory room so if he has an overload there is a place he can go to calm down, everything is there for him. Mainstream schools just don’t have that kind of funding.”

She says she has had two rejections for schools in Hounslow, one because it said it was unable to meet the five-year-old’s needs and the other which said it was full. At the heart of her frustration is the fear for her son’s future. Kerry told the LDRS: “When they [children] get older they get more stuck in their ways so I think when they are younger it is easier to get that intense therapy than when they get older and the longer it gets left he’s going to be [at junior school age] and that help could have been done earlier. He’s already massively behind his peers. He needs that therapy.”

Although not willing to comment on Lennon’s specific case, Councillor Lily Bath, Cabinet Member for Education, Children, Skills & Employment, said: “Hounslow Council, in partnership with the NHS, educational institutions, and other stakeholders, is dedicated to collaborating with parents and families to assist children and young people with additional and special educational needs in accessing and succeeding in their learning journey.

“The council supports over 3,000 children and young people in Hounslow who benefit from an Education, Health, and Care Plan (EHCP), developed by healthcare and education professionals. The EHCP outlines suitable provisions and offers guidance on effectively addressing a child’s requirements. It is the responsibility of educational establishments to implement this support, utilising resources allocated through the Schools’ High Needs funding.

“EHCPs undergo regular reviews to ensure they accurately reflect progress and evolving support needs. This process involves active participation from the local authority, educational institutions, parents, and relevant professionals. As a council we are committed to supporting all children through their educational journey to build a brighter future for all.”

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