My son, Findlay, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD) and Dyslexia became very ill in the summer of 2011 with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). He was bedbound and unable to attend school. At that time, he had a Statement of Special Educational Needs, but the school and local authority (LA) insisted on him attending school. 

At that time we did not understand how severe over-exertion could be. We were advised by the Paediatrician to send him back to school, but he got worse. 

We fought the order to return to school and ended up at Tribunal. This was an extremely difficult and upsetting experience lasting two years and came as a complete shock! 

How IPSEA helped

Following our first experience at Tribunal, I knew I needed help. This was such an adversarial process, and I did not have the skills or experience to manage.

I have no words to thank IPSEA and the volunteer adviser that I was lucky enough to have support our family. She attended our next two SEND Tribunals, and at the Upper Tribunal, she read out my statement as I was crying and could not speak. She guided me through every step of the process and educated me on how to respond and remain calm and focused during the Tribunal. She helped me compose letters and responses and supported us in finding a pro-bono barrister to assist us further. 

The outcome

We stood our ground and were successful! The main outcome was simply that we kept going. I often felt physically ill attending the Tribunals but IPSEA’s volunteer adviser kept me going. When I thanked her, she said she had just given me a glass of water at the last mile (an understatement)! 

Because of the support from IPSEA, I now feel more informed and empowered. By January 2015, the LA reversed the Tribunal decision to return Findlay to school and he was awarded a personal budget for a bespoke home education in September 2015. He also received a £5,000 compensation for lack of education from the Local Government Ombudsman and an apology from the LA. I learned never to give up and to understand the law to ensure that my son's right to education should not be denied due to his chronic condition and SEND. 

My son kept his bespoke home-based education via an Education Health and Care plan until his 25th birthday. He is now studying for a BSc Hons in Mathematics at the Open University, achieving 100% in all his assignments, and has hope for the future. He is still housebound and has complex SEND, but he was once described as “too disabled to access education”. Without IPSEA's help back in 2014 I would never have been able to persevere to achieve access to education for my son! IPSEA is still my go-to source for advice and the service has got better and better over the years – I don't think there is a topic that IPSEA ever misses!