Parents of children with special education needs and the professionals who support them attended a national conference, Towards a Positive Future, in Newbury on Saturday, 16 June.
Speakers included Jane Asher, President of the National Autistic Society, who spoke to the gathering at the Arlington Arts Centre, Mary Hare School, and said afterwards:
“At a time when the procedures for families of those with autism and other conditions are in a state of flux, it’s more important than ever for those affected to have access to information that will help them access the support services they need. This Wordswell conference impressed me enormously with its range of speakers, and the professionalism and knowledge exhibited by them: I found it extremely interesting and was honoured to be a small part of the day – I’m sure all those attending found it as informative and useful as I did.
‘One of the biggest problems that we hear about at the National Autistic Society is that of accessing the right school for a child with autism. From getting a diagnosis in the first place, via the difficulties of getting a statement through to the minefield of having to go to tribunal against the Local Authority, every step of the way can be fraught with tension, unhappiness and despair. All of us who are involved in the world of special educational needs are waiting to see just how the proposed changes to the system will turn out, and whether they will improve the current complex and often ineffectual situation.
“Janet and her colleagues are extremely well informed about this area, and her new book, Towards a Positive Future, contains a wealth of information, based on her own experience and that of relevant case studies, about what it’s like to be on the other end of the system and how tricky it can be to negotiate.”
Organiser Janet O’Keefe, who founded Wordswell Speech and Language Therapy Services in Cambridgeshire, and is an expert witness for families at appeal tribunals, said their second annual conference at the Arlington Arts Centre had been very successful:
“We are tremendously grateful to Jane Asher for her support, and for our excellent expert speakers too. Without exception, the range of speakers and presenters at this year’s Towards a Positive Future conference were exceptional and all the delegates feedback is overwhelmingly positive. Parents and professionals learned much from each others experiences, and particularly those parents who have had previously bad experiences feel a sense of renewed hope for their children as they realise there are passionate, knowledgeable and caring professionals working in the field of SEN.”
Some of the topics covered by expert speakers included the government’s planned reforms for SEN, how the care system was failing vulnerable young people who disappear or die in care before the age of 25, as well as the parent perspective and writing SEN statements.
In addition, there were 12 seminars covering social skills, speech language and communication needs, dyslexia, deafness, acquired brain injury, NLP, Down Syndrome and autism.
We hope to offer these presentations in a webinar and e-course soon so they are available to a wider audience and make the conference an annual event. Please put 19th June 2013 in your diaries now. Venue tbc but is likely to be Central London (and 2014 in Birmingham).