I liken the Local Offer to a travel agency. It comes complete with a Guide Book, helpful Guide, and a helpline.
You have all your bags packed, you have read the guide book. You are both excited and nervous with anticipation on your new arrival. You are all prepared – well as prepared as you are ever going to be in welcoming a baby into your family.
Only when you arrive, you are not where you thought you would be, this is not the destination I had planned. Your child is diagnosed disabled. You realise you read the wrong guide book, packed the wrong bag. You were taken to a place you had never visited. Your first reaction is to run back but you can’t – you are here now so you had better get on with it. But you stand still and look around – but I don’t know anything. I don’t recognise myself, these strange feelings and this baby in my arms.
Then you realise you are in the right place - a different place with a different path. You go in search of a new guide book and guide for your journey.
First the diagnosis – for us this was quick, we were seen by the best which made this difficult time easier and less prolonged. We left Moorfields with an Early Childhood Journal and a Space blanket, though still not sure where we were going. But Health, social services and education pulled together to give my daughter a funded place in nursery to give us some time. The voluntary sector offered a support group, so another step was taken on our journey.
We were lucky when we moved to York, we were visited by both the Specialist Teacher and the Early Years Coordinator – a BOGOF (Buy one get one free) deal. They had a guide book, maps and a sign posts with helpline if you got lost on your journey. I was beginning to like this place we were taken, I probably wouldn’t have chosen it but now I couldn’t think of a better place to be. I read up on what was on offer, I asked a million questions, I went on courses, I made new friends, went to drop ins. It was hard work but we always tried to have fun along the way – we were given a Max card which gives us endless fun and leisure opportunities.
There are cross roads along the way but with the support I think we chose the right paths.
There are transitions which test us. The biggest transition was moving onto school. We tackled this head on and had fun creating Fred’s very own comic to share his views. Seeing everyone around the table all working together on Team Fred was very humbling and I want to thank every single one of them. When the EHCP was complete it felt we had a very own passport – access all areas. Most importantly it came with its own survival pack designed just for us; containing the best people and equipment for the job in hand.
When people see Fred they often comment on how well he is doing. He is, we are, and that is because of the early support and intervention we have received and continue to do.