I’m working through my interview data at the moment and a phrase struck me. The participant was talking about parents of children on the autistic spectrum, and she said: “… or you are deemed to be a very vocal parent who’s only got what they’ve got because you’ve been so pushy about it and you’ve fought the legal system.”
That got me thinking about something that occurred to me quite forcibly a few months during a writing course at university. The thought was where was the child and the child’s voice in all this. Sometimes it can be presented as though parents are fighting the education system, the health system, or whatever because they want to. Yet surely the parents only find themselves in this fight scenario because of the needs of their child. To have a child who is unhappy and can’t cope with the ‘normal’ stuff most children are believed to thrive on is heartbreaking for most parents. Is it that surprising that parents find a voice and will “move heaven and earth” (as it said in the brochure for a school my son once attended) to get their child the help they need? The parents are not trying to achieve a victory for themselves, but to get their child’s needs met – or are they?
But what does the child actually want? How much of a voice do they have in the process of securing appropriate educational provision? I’m not going to attempt to answer that here, but what I do want to recognise is how important it is not to lose sight of the child or young person in everything else which may be going on.