Types of support
A child or young person returning to school after a spinal cord injury will require a personalised, varied plan of support. However, this mix of support need not necessarily be expensive or create significant additional work.
“Inclusivity isn’t necessarily something that is very complex. [Schools] actually have a lot of the skills and the ability and the resources to be able to include people, just by good differentiation and mixed-ability teaching. They don’t need to over-complicate inclusivity. If you have a good school or a good teacher, they are used to differentiating or adapting what they are doing for children.”
Dr. Phil Vickerman, Professor of Inclusive Education and Learning, Liverpool John Moores University
What is more important is that the right support options are identified and provided by the school in consultation with the child, their family and other professionals who may be providing support.
The support a child or young person with a spinal cord injury requires when returning to school is not formulaic. Each child or young person’s situation is obviously different and the support they need is too. Any necessary adjustments are determined by the child’s medical requirements, academic situation, age, background, emotional and psychological situation and social circles.
Understanding what support is necessary entails coordinated communication among all the professionals and adults around the child – but, most importantly, it requires asking and listening to what the child or young person feels they need and want.
“The teachers asked me what I wanted. Every week they would ask me how I was doing, is there anything else they could do for me, were the times okay for me to come into lessons, and told me to let them know when I wanted to start increasing the times I was in school. The decisions were in my hands and that helped a lot. I controlled the process. There was a level of trust there. If the school had no idea what I was going through and they weren’t supporting me in the right way I would have definitely have wanted meetings with everyone to tell them ‘this is what’s needed’ or ‘this is what you can’t do’ . But because I trusted them I didn’t need to do this.” Ben, 17
One of the first steps of including a child or young person with a spinal cord injury into schools should be developing a support plan. This means knowing what a young person may require in order to feel included in all elements of their educational experience. When a child with a spinal cord injury is due to be discharged from hospital and return to school, designated hospital staff at the spinal injury centre will contact the school and likely organise a visit to discuss the child’s physical and medical requirements.
In addition to this, schools will need to consider what educational provision will need to be made for the student and look at applying for an Education Health Care Plan or EHCP for short. Not all children or young people with spinal cord injuries will apply for an EHCP, but if they do, an assessment and the creation of a support plan will need to take place and review meetings will be organised.
Even if a child or young person does not have an ECHP, organising a meeting with the child, family and relevant professionals to discuss the requirements of a return to school is a vital early step. These plans should be developed alongside the child or young person and their family and regularly reviewed and modified as needed.
Early Help Assessment
Using the Early Help Assessment (EHA)
The Early Help Assessment is a shared strength based assessment tool used in Children’s Services across England and Wales. It should inform all planning and frame all analysis around children and families who are identified as needing extra support. A preventative early help system is key especially when working with children with disabilities.
“Inclusion is the duty of the school’s leadership and it shouldn’t be a new educational initiative in any establishment. However, bringing all the services available together (even with the Early Help Assessment) is not always easy, especially as time goes on. Even with ‘established protocols’ and schedules, it may still require one agent to bring all the relevant parties together and ensure that agreed actions happen.”
The Early Help Assessment or EHA has replaced the CAF – Common Assessment Framework.
However EHA principles remain the same:
- consent based process
- assessment should be completed with the child/family
- should be used as an assessment of strengths and needs
- a support plan should be developed with the family and all agencies involved and regularly reviewed
It is a holistic approach which looks at the whole family and should clearly detail all aspects of what is working well, what is not working well and what needs to happen. An EHA facilitates discussion between professionals from different sectors and organisations who are working with the same child or family so that they communicate and work together more effectively. Setting up an EHA for a child or young person with a spinal cord injury can be a good way to coordinate the work of the large number of professionals now working with that child or young person.
The EHA is set up with the consent of the family and child or young person, who are all active participants in the process. It supports partnership with families, involvement of the child or young person and a systematic, integrated way of services working together for the benefit of the child. One professional becomes the ‘lead professional’ and initiates meetings and communication for the group. An EHA can be set up a for a limited time and closed when it is seen to be no longer necessary and the child’s needs have been sufficiently met.
To learn how to set up an EHA, contact your local council or Children’s Services department.
Information and supporting tools on setting up and facilitating a EHA (from different local council web sites):
For best practice in education settings:
This organisation offers useful downloads and example Early Help Assessment forms:GO BACK