'They can't meet his needs' - Family's dismay as non-verbal boy assigned mainstream school
PUBLISHED: 07:30 10 July 2019 | UPDATED: 09:24 10 July 2019
The mother of a severely disabled teenager has criticised the council after her son was assigned a place at a mainstream college - despite the fact his care plan specifically states that he must attend a specialist school.
Daniel Dellar, from Kesgrave, had always assumed he would continue his education in a specialist setting after spending 13 happy years at The Bridge School in Ipswich.
The 16-year-old has autism and Dravet Syndrome, a form of paediatric epilepsy, which means that he often has multiple seizures in a day.
He is also non-verbal and struggles to walk, often relying on his wheelchair to get around.
But despite his complex disabilities, Suffolk County Council (SCC) has assigned Daniel a mainstream college from September - even though his education, health and care plan (EHCP) specifically states that he requires "teaching in a specialist school with staff experienced in working with children who have severe learning difficulties".
The mainstream school does have a specialist offer, but it caters in the most part for students who do not require extra support.
Defending its position, the council has said it follows the statutory process for assigning school places to post-16 students with special needs.
Daniel's family were informed of the decision in May and have been fighting to get it amended ever since. The case is currently being heard at appeal, so no final verdict has yet been made.
It comes just a year after the family were treated to a 'DIY SOS' style organised by charity GeeWizz - when 30 subcontractors donated around £65,000 of materials to make special adaptations their home.
Daniel's mum, Mandy, said she is at her wit's end with the process after beginning her search for appropriate post-16 provision back in October last year.
"I have been fighting and fighting for him to go to school," she said.
"He's been at The Bridge since he was three. He's loved it."
Mrs Dellar said she had concerns Daniel's needs would not be met at a mainstream school, as he could not easily navigate the campus or take part in 'mainstream' activities.
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"With his condition his legs are weak," she said.
"He's just going to be in one room and possibly go out and do cooking.
"They can't meet his needs - he's non-verbal, he's got no sense of danger. He'll sit there and shut down and do nothing.
"They need to be firm with him and make him walk. I worry he will become a vegetable."
As the case has dragged out since the initial decision was made in May, Daniel has also missed his opportunity to 'transition' to his new school.
"It's not going to be sorted before the summer holidays," Mrs Dellar said.
"I am so angry as a parent that he hasn't had a chance to transition.
"It's like trying to get blood out of a stone. All the stress is dumped on me."
She added that at one point she had "sat down and cried", as the pressure became too much to handle.
"I'd love to put them in my shoes," Mrs Dellar said.
"I am going round in circles."
A spokesman for SCC said: "We are unable to comment on individual cases; however, Suffolk County Council follows the statutory process for assigning education centres to post-16 SEND students.
"This process includes consultation with parents and/or guardians in line with the SEND Code of Practice."
The appeal process is ongoing.