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Richard's Education History - A Father's Perspective

The following is a brief history of my son Richard's, secondary education, which I was asked to produce. You may find it of interest.

Richard Hensby (date of birth 17/5/84)

Richard suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder, a chemical imbalance of the frontal lobal section of the brain. The symptoms are many and varied but with particular reference to school work, Richard is unable without medication, to concentrate on any task for more than about 5 minutes. He is easily distracted and impulsive, his short term memory is very poor and his behaviour can be extremely unpredictable and disruptive. The medication referred to, is the drug Ritalin, which does help with his concentration and has a calming effect with his behaviour.

Richard is nearly 13 years old and was diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), last November by Dr.Sarmah, consultant paediatrician at Margate Hospital. For ten years, we, his parents, have been trying to get the authorities to recognise that there is more to Richard than just being a 'naughty boy'. This campaigning was with the Essex authorities up to 3 years ago. Finally we were referred to Dr.Sarmah following a potentially life threatening incident, where Richard held a knife to a boy's throat in a Home Economics lesson at St.Anthony's Special School. He was not able to recall what he had done for over 24 hours. Fortunately no one was harmed, but Richard, of course was expelled, with our agreement.

He has a special educational needs Statement which is currently under review. Infact the last one was issued in 1994. Prior to St.Anthony's he attended Hereson School. Initially full time for three weeks but his erratic behaviour meant this was reduced to part time and then it was recommended we keep him at home until a place became available at a more suitable school. His Junior school attendance was equally erratic, with the result he has probably had around 8 weeks of full time education in the last three years. Clearly Richard had fallen behind in the basic skills and this became even more apparent to me, his father, when following his expulsion from St.Anthony's I decided to teach him at home until a home tutor was provided. This was in September 1996. I started Richard on a structured timetable, covering all subjects including History, Geography, Art, Information Technology, Craft Design Technology, French, Science, Physical Education and Religious Studies as well as English and Maths. I quickly found that his reading, writing and numeracy skills were very basic indeed. I had been aware of this before but teaching him on a regular basis rather than providing backup after school as previously, made his weaknesses more apparent to me. With Richard, I altered his timetable to concentrate on reading, writing and basic maths, regularly every day, with emphasis on the times tables. I shortened the lessons to blocks of fifteen minutes to half an hour as he seemed to gain more from shorter lesson times. It should be noted this was all prior to his diagnosis and subsequent medication. History, geography, French and science were reduced to one lesson a week. In history we studied World War II, geography, cities towns and counties of the United Kingdom, basic French and in science we covered, electrical circuits, magnetism and forces.

Richard has shown in the past a particular skill with computers, so a year a go we rented a multi media computer from Radio Rentals. We now have a mountain of software and Richard required no encouragement to use it to it's full potential. The computer played a big part in my teaching him and he has produced some excellent work, with it, far beyond I believe, that which could be attained at any school in this country. I have written some of my own software which has helped him, without additional expense to us.

He also showed an aptitude for practical skills, which I was able to encourage. Fortunately, I have many skills, having worked, prior to looking after Richard, which I now do full time, in many occupations. I had a career in insurance as a Claims Manager, where I ended up teaching others how to use computers. I left that 8 years ago to start my own business, to spend more time at home to help my wife with Richard. It was a property maintenance business incorporating carpentry, plumbing, electrical and small building work. As this business became more successful, so it defeated the object of me spending more time at home, so I had to give this up as my wife could no longer handle Richard on her own. I was able to teach some of my practical skills to Richard and he has made several projects in our home, such as notice boards, filing trays and a height measuring chart.

Home tuition, though promised on many occasions, was never forthcoming, until we learnt of the sterling work being done by Lesley and her staff at the Ashbrook Centre. Lesley was so concerned that Richard was apparently receiving no support from the education system, she offered him a place, free of charge at her unit. I volunteered to attend with Richard as whilst Lesley and her staff were well able to cope with children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, it was an opportunity to help to improve their knowledge of this particular disorder, ADD. Also, he has a history of running off when faced with a difficult situation as well as the disruptive behaviour. He felt more comfortable and relaxed knowing I was around, though he is not keen on me being in the class with him now, which is a big step forward in raising his self esteem and confidence.

Whilst personal tutoring at home was fine for Richard, the one singular aspect that was missing was interaction with others, particularly from his own peer group. Richard has positively flourished in the short time he has attended here. The homely feel helps him to relax and the one to one tuition he desperately needs is well provided for. He is developing good interaction with others and has struck up a friendship with his fellow classmate, Stephen. Following his start at the Centre in March 1997, I received a 'phone call from Tony M, saying he had been asked to contact us to see about home tuition for Richard. Once he heard of Richard's attendance at the Ashbrook Centre he wholeheartedly agreed that it would be more beneficial for Richard to be in this school environment and that Lesley and her staff could provide far more than home tuition tutoring.

As I understand it, Kent Education are still evaluating Richard's position but have agreed to fund Gill Y to teach Richard for part of the time he spends at the Ashbrook centre. Money legally allocated to Richard prior to this, including the extra provision made in his special educational needs statement, seems to have disappeared or is in suspension somewhere. I feel sure that it will come down to land very shortly, if my wife and I shake the tree hard enough. Hopefully it won't come to that!

Richard has two brothers, Michael, 14, who attends Dane Court Grammar School and Alan 10, who is about to start at St.Georges. Neither suffer from ADD. My wife and I now run a support group for sufferers and their families of ADD, called Thanet ADDers. We have 89 members, hold meetings, issue a regular newsletter, have an Internet website, which Richard contributes to and are just starting up a youth group in conjunction with Kent Artwise in Ramsgate.

Simon Hensby (father)
5th May 1997

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