Since leaving the classroom and a SENCO role in 2013, and following my passion to set up Wraparound, I am often asked what Wraparound actually does. Yes we help families, yes we support individuals, yes we work with schools, attend meetings and anything to support positive outcomes for the individual with special needs (SEND) and their families, but trying to give a short sharp statement about what we actually do, when we operate within the education, health, social care, housing, benefits, criminal justice systems is exceptionally difficult, this is a question that has been plaguing me for rather a long time.
Finally, one evening my daughter, who has SEN aged 14 but is functioning about age 2 ½, was watching one of her favourite videos to the song; ‘Clean Bandit – Symphony’ and suddenly it came to me; Wraparound conduct the whole system to achieve the best harmony for the child/young person and their family.
So imagine, you are about to conduct a symphony. You have all the sections of the orchestra, the strings, woodwind, brass and percussion and you need to ensure that they are all following the same piece of music, are all in time, in tune and are playing the same bar. You have in front of you the score (sheet music) which has all the notes and details all sections of the orchestra are expected to play, you have practiced and you know and understand how each section of the orchestra interact, communicate and more importantly you know they will all be looking at you. You will give them the lead, help them along the way, give encouragement and leadership, despite the fact you are feeling nervous. You know what your role is and what you have to do.
What follows is a perfect sounding symphony where all parts of the orchestra are in harmony, follow the music expertly, communicate and listen to each other and who delight the audience, and themselves, with the beautiful sounds that they collectively are able to produce.
Now as a metaphor for real life, I know this is painting a perfect picture and that real life is not this simplistic. There will be times when all sections are not working in harmony, but generally speaking if you have a child without any special educational needs, there is less room for mistakes as there are fewer sections involved.
Imagine now a different symphony you are about to conduct. You have the orchestra in front of you, strings, woodwind, brass and percussion. You need to ensure they are all in harmony, all working together, listening and following your leadership and guidance. However, in this instance you have not had chance to practice. Though all the orchestra are expert musicians in their own right, they have not played together as an orchestra before, there is the added complication that the score has not photocopied very well, and you have not met any of the orchestra beforehand but know that you must perform well to the audience, so the stakes are high.
Everything starts off very well and you start to relax a little. Then suddenly the flutes have lost their way a little and are two bars out. They panic and look to each other rather than to you for assistance. Next to lose their track are the second violins. Now the orchestra is starting to sound not so great and you are struggling to maintain control. The flutes and the second violins start to look to each other for assistance. Percussion then lose their music score in a gust of wind and are then silenced. The whole thing is just a noise; lots of individual sections doing their own thing and no one looking to the conductor to help, they all look to each other or to their own section for support.
To me this is what it can feel like as a parent or young person with additional needs. The list of external agencies can seem overwhelming and endless. I can count 23 who are engaging with our family right now, from teachers to LA Transport Teams. We have action plans from school, occupational therapy and physiotherapy for medical care and feeding.
This may seem to some a large team of professionals, yet to others it may seem a small team. This depends on what our families have to manage. At times some members of this team of professionals are listening, and some are not. Some of them are playing in harmony, and some are not. Some don’t want to play in harmony, and some do. Mainly though, they are all part of their own unique eco-system within their own unique ‘professional’ area and struggle to break free of the processes, procedure and systems that they are surrounded with in order to really and truly listen to what the individual wants to achieve.
This is what Wraparound does; we conduct the whole system and make each part of the system truly listen to what the individual wants to achieve. For us to answer the questions; what can we do to help you achieve good outcomes? How can we support you to improve your life? What other partners do we need to talk to in order to develop a coordinated approach?
Parents and young people do not want to be part of a revolving door, or ‘pass it on referral system’ which continuously shifts responsibility from one place to another.
At Wraparound we work with families to ensure that all parts of the system are working in harmony to support them to ensure that our children have the best life possible.
Elizabeth Stanley @wraparoundfp