Special Fighter for Special Needs Children; Ros Dodd Meets a Solicitor Who Thinks All Youngsters Should Get the Best Education Possible

Article excerpt

Bryony Walker believes every child deserves the best education available. Yet she fears many youngsters with so-called "special needs" are being denied the schooling to which they're entitled.

The Bewdley solicitor, recently appointed Midland representative for the national parent-led charity the Association For All Speech Impaired Children (AFASIC), specialises in the law relating to youngsters with special educational needs.

One of only a handful of lawyers in the country involved in this complex area of legal work, Bryony says many parents don't know how to push for what they feel would be most beneficial for their children.

"Speech and language disorders are hidden disorders," explains the mother-of-two who works for Morton Fisher Solicitors. "They affect one in ten children and impact on every aspect of their lives.

"These youngsters will not only have difficulties with communication - either pronouncing words or understanding what is said to them - but may also have problems with their behaviour and specific learning difficulties.

"Unless the problem is very severe, such children can go unnoticed or may be dismissed as simply being plain thick.

"There is no magic cure, but providing these youngsters receive the correct therapy, and enough of it, they can make amazing progress."

It is crucial, she says, for schools, education authorities and agencies to work together to find out what is best for each youngster. Because resources are limited, however, this doesn't always happen.

If parents are still unhappy even after a child has received all the help the school can provide, they can apply to the local education authority (LEA) for a "statutory assessment" with a view to having a statement drawn up. …