Sawyer’s planning meeting took place just days before school reopened after the long summer break. These meetings take place after all professional reports are gathered, and mark the end of EHCP application, determining what should be written in to the final plan.
All the guidance documentation suggests that the child in question should be allowed to attend at least the first part of the planning meeting, in order that they may put their own views across to the panel. I knew that Sawyer would have little to contribute to any discussion that would take place, yet I felt it important to allow him to meet the person who would in many ways decide his fate within the education system. I needed to make Sawyer a real person. I needed her to see that my son was a child in need of support – that he wasn’t just some part of detailed paperwork and complex terminology.
Inside the school office where we waited to be met, anxiety radiated from Sawyer in more ways than I knew possible. Despite extensive preparation techniques to make him fully aware that we would visit his school for a short time that day, it was clear within seconds of entering the office that we would not be able to keep him there for long.
Eyes closed and flinging his dead weight from one side of the room to the other, Sawyer bounced hard from my body to my Mum’s and back again, forgetting – or not understanding – that we are human beings whom he loves. Forgetting that we could be hurt, forgetting that he could be hurt, he desperately clambered for ways to make himself feel better, to make whatever it was that felt so wrong feel right again. I cannot begin to explain how counterproductive this process is for my son. As he bounced and span around the small space, letting off shrill and upsetting sounds in a bid to make himself feel better, suddenly not only was he somewhere he didn’t want to be, but he was too hot, too tired, too overwhelmed, and in too deep. By this time the EHCP Case Worker had arrived and introduced herself, and was now sitting opposite me as my Mum and I tried to find whatever it was Sawyer needed in order to find some peace.
The ten-minute wait was excruciating. I offered ear defenders, to remove his top, a stern word, a playful exchange – but nothing would settle him. By this time I was too hot, too tired… too tired. Tired of the wait. Tired of the process. Tired of fighting. Tired. And as I opened my mouth to tell my mum that he wouldn’t make it as far as the start of the meeting, and ask her to take him home, in walked the school SENCO. “Hello, Sawyer! Would you like to see the new workstation I’ve made you for Year 3?!”. And with that, he found his solace.
In the end, Sawyer didn’t come to the planning meeting, because by that point it just didn’t seem necessary anymore. The Case Worker had seen him in both the throws of meltdown, and then after his escape, in a place where he was capable of speaking, learning, loving and laughing. She had seen him. And you know what else she had seen? Me. She had seen both Sawyer and I at our most vulnerable. Both of us trying continuously, desperately to seek out the help we needed, even though we each felt completely out of our depths. And I suppose that despite being completely different in so many ways, Sawyer and I will always be linked by that one common interest.
We are both desperate for him to be happy.