A parents journey to have their child set for school is an exciting and nerve wracking time of year. Uniforms, stationary, name tags and school orientation.
For a parent of special needs children starting in mainstream schools here in Victoria, we endeavor a journey to an Education Needs Questionnaire (ENQ) meeting.
This meeting determines your special needs child eligibility to get funding for aid assistance at schools.
Now this morning I have just sat through my eldest son’s Education Needs Questionnaire. We had preparing for this meeting for 7 long months.
Yep… and now we wait patiently for the Board of Education to get back to us, to let us know if we were successful.
Now you are probably wondering why so long? Why does it take so long to be prepared for this thing?
There are many steps to be prepared. You need to provide proof that your child is in dire need of assistance.
My journey began soon after I enrolled my son into school.
We knew we had to get a move on to get a speech assessment and a cognitive assessment to see if he was eligible for the funding. A child with an IQ 70 below with a diagnosis of Autism was what was needed. We had the diagnosis.
We had the tests done within a month. My son truly struggled to do these tests, and as his parent I was not allowed to help or assist him in any way. The tests revealed that he was below the 70 mark. And he was eligible. There are a few categories of eligibility and he rested in 2.
We then had to wait for the specialists to finish their reports from their tests. Now these reports are written negatively about your child. Written to describe your child’s worst days and moments. Because if they are not worded specifically, it is easy for the Education board to dismiss it and rate your child lower in the need for funding even though you know they absolutely do need the help. Keep in mind they don’t meet your child. You are simply another number to them.
Now our specialists work side by side at our Early Intervention service. And between this time and those reports reaching me was 4 months. The Service had received word that Council planned to close the service at the end of the year, so suddenly everyone was in a mad rush to complete everything and a lot of stuff got put on the back burner. Including report writing.
Lucky for me the school our son will be going to don’t process Prep ENQs until the 2nd part of the year.
Once the reports were ready, the school has to be ready.
Within this time I actually did an ENQ workshop with my ECIS to understand what to expect in this meeting. The more prepared you are, the more mentally prepared you are.
To put it bluntly we will be talking for 1hr about how dysfunctional your child is. It is best to be well aware of this before you step in the office.
Once the meeting begins you must hand over your reports of every sort that helps with your child’s diagnosis.
A Pediatrician report on the diagnosis, Cognitive, Speech and O.T reports and any other supporting information you can provide like a support statement from your Early Intervention Service.
They will read through it. A psychologist will score what s/he believes your child will rate under certain developmental headings. (Communication/Safety/
These meetings can get quiet heated as well, as you are fighting for your child’s best interests. And even though you are convinced your child may fit under 5 under communication skills.. you may lose and be placed in 4 or 3. So be prepared.
Meetings generally last close to an hour, but be prepared to have to do a 2nd meeting if you can not complete the sheet in 1 meeting. It comes down to how much proof you have.
Once the meeting comes to a close. Goals are created for each development category. Papers are signed. You leave and put your dark negative reports in the darkest deepest places never to be found again.
This meeting is the only time and place you ever have to talk about your child like that. It does not, and should not leave that room.
The scored sheet is then sent to the Board of Education to look through, including your reports. They will determine if the scoring is warranted and determine what level of funding you might be eligible for. There are 6 levels, and levels 5 and 6 are for your physically disabled children who maybe in a wheel chair or needs feeding tubes.
So families going through this process. Be prepared. Reports, reports, reports. Be prepared to fight in your meeting. Have examples. Behavior and Safety are the 2 big concerns and scorers in these reports.
Be mentally prepared. It will be hard, it could be upsetting. It could be a long process. And you may possibly cry, a lot.
If you do not get the results that you are happy with, APPEAL.
As happy as I am that this whole process is done and dusted. We now wait for the Education department to make the decision of our child’s future. We will know in the next few months. We have every little finger and toe crossed.