Hello, I`m Sarah and I am delighted to have joined the Wraparound family.

I was introduced to Independent Support and Wraparound Services in 2016 following receipt of an Autism diagnosis for my eldest son who is now 5.

At the time, I was brand new to the world of Special Education Needs and I was baffled by some of the words I kept hearing in school: assessments, panels, Education Health Care (EHC) Plans, timelines, reviews, IEPs and outcomes to name just a few.

This all meant nothing to me. I was becoming stressed with juggling a work as the Head of Customer Care at a busy Property Investment Company; my partner worked long shifts, we had no support apart from one family member and we were coming to terms with my son’s condition, his behaviours and how this affected our future. Our world had been rocked. I was looking after a demanding one year old as well as coordinating and attending what felt like a telephone directory of appointments for my son; Speech and Language, Occupational Therapy, CAHMS, Audiology, Ophthalmologist, Podiatry, Genetics, Community Paediatrician, various medical appointments at different hospitals, Education Psychologists, Health Visitors, Social Workers, School, Local Authority and so on, at the same time as planning my dream wedding!

I was struggling to think clearly and I felt like my brain had abandoned me. I was feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. All I wanted was to do right for my son. I was his voice, his champion and I knew it was my role to fight for what he needed, but I didn’t know what that was, so how could I? I was so frustrated.

No one understood what I was going through and every professional, no matter how good they were at their own specialism, seemed limited in helping me complete ‘the bigger picture’.

The only real support I had was my online community and Facebook groups. It was through one of these groups that I first read about Independent Support so after some (more) reading I was so relieved to have found an organisation who might be able to explain all these new words to me and help me navigate the EHCP process. I was at last feeling hopeful.

Days later I met with an Independent Supporter who listened to my story. She went through my sons EHCP with me to help me plan what I needed to do next and who to contact. She was wonderful. It was so refreshing to meet with someone who understood the challenges I faced and who could explain the system to me in words I understood. Finally I felt empowered and more confident. Most importantly my brain came back to me and I was now in a position to cope with the barrage of letters, calls and appointments, agree the content of the EHC Plan and, of course, finish planning my wedding.

A few weeks later upon receipt of the final EHC Plan, I disagreed with our Local Authority over the naming of my sons school. I contacted Independent Support for advice. This time, because the EHCP was finalised apart from the naming of the school, Independent Support were unable to assist so I was put in touch with Liz at Wraparound. Liz gave me options. I chose to take my case to Tribunal and Liz pointed me in the right direction of the documentation to help me prepare for my case. I attended a daunting mediation session and Liz came along for support. I gave my views to the Local Authority and it was reassuring knowing I had someone around the table who was on my side. Mediation wasn’t successful for us so we proceeded to apply to Tribunal. Luckily, a few weeks later my son was offered a place at the school we had requested.

I have stayed in touch with Liz since then and followed Wraparounds achievements on both Facebook and Twitter. I have also developed a keen interest in Special Educations Needs in Schools, Equality and Education Law. When I saw that Liz was recruiting in June 2017I immediately requested an application form and completed it straight away, emailed it off and stayed positive.

I was so passionate about using my own skills and experience to help other parent carers find the way and I guess this must have shone through at my interview as I was thrilled to be appointed as a Wraparound Partner. I have just completed my Independent Support and Legal Training and am keen to start helping parent carers and young people make sense of special needs.

My message to parent carers is this: While specialists and professionals know their area of expertise well, you know your child the best. Never give up – you are not alone.