The Special Educational Needs Code of Practice (DfES 2001) requires that parents participate in the transition planning process. For most of the parents I spoke to this was a period of anxiety rather than of optimism. Of course most parents hope that their children will live safe and happy lives. However, while expressing similar thoughts, the parents in this study also had many fears and dilemmas, exacerbated by the fact that they and their children had few real choices: 'Well, we both want him to be as independent as possible and to have a proper job not sitting in a sheltered workshop-type place' (Mrs Simpson).
Some worried about their children having to leave home, 'I mean, no parent likes their children going away from home, but nevertheless you have to accept it' (Mr Hussein). Others were concerned about bullying and physical or sexual abuse:
a lot of these colleges I've heard some things about. People that stay
at places, they end up being abused … I know people do get inter-
views but these people do get attracted to these jobs and if anything
like that happened, I'd be extremely upset to say the least.
Yet parents can sometimes be dismissed by professionals as overprotective or, alternatively, as uninterested. Gascoigne (1995: 138), herself a parent of three disabled children, eloquently describes the feelings of many parents as their child approaches the school leaving stage.
Parents are torn by conflicting wishes for and on behalf of their
children as they approach the end of their formal school education
and begin to consider the range of future options. On the one hand
they want their child to become as independent as possible, and on
the other hand they wish to extend their protection of them. This is
true of all parents, whether or not their child has special needs. The
feelings are exaggerated however where the pupil has special needs.
The parents have probably fought many battles both within the
home and with external agencies over the years to maximise their