“You really are asking for trouble with this article, aren’t you” read one of the comments to the Guardian’s Secret Teacher section latest instalment. And I have to say I couldn’t agree more… The Secret Teacher deals with all aspects (and sometimes perils) of a teacher’s life and this week’s it was the turn of a SENCO to vent about over-concerned parents who present her with diagnosis to explain their children’s shortcomings in the academic world.

The author was making the point that we are a bit too keen as a society to stick a label on individuals often to the detriments of real sufferers. Fair enough. She also said that she has found herself having to pander to increasingly farcical theories from parents and carers as to why things aren’t working out for their offsprings. Now in my experience and from what I’ve heard from parents in similar situations it is almost impossible to get any educational help without a diagnosis from a professional and even then in most cases the fighting isn’t over. Access to support is often discussed in our Helpp coffee mornings and for a lot of us it has been a struggle. I also doubt that in today’s economic climate and squeezed budgets many SENCOs have the luxury of time to “pander” to parents’ theories and ideas without a solid professional back up.

For me this article highlighted far more. We are the first generation of google parents and we have come to expect that the solution to all our educational woes are a click away. We are then looking for validation from teaching staff that according to the National Careers Service are only expected to complete limited SEN training unless they choose to become a dedicated SEN teacher. I would say to teachers that it is ok to share that they don’t know or are unsure and redirect parents to the traditional avenues. But please don’t dismiss us, our approach may be misguided but our concerns are real.

To the read the full Guardian article click here

Helpp organises a series of coffee mornings where parents and carers discuss various issues including access to support. Our next coffee mornings will be held on 3 July and 4 September 2015. For more information click here


At the weekend, America hosted the Tony Awards, the theatre’s answer to the Oscars.

This was a big night for the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. The play, based on the 2003 book depicting a 15-year old teenager on the autism spectrum scooped up two of the main awards namely Best Play and Best Lead Actor for Alexander Sharp’s interpretation of Christopher the story’s main protagonist.

On its release the book struck a cord with many and rapidly became a best seller. It then went on to become a successful play in the West End and has now achieved Broadway recognition. There’s even talk of a film by David Heyman and Steve Kloves, the producer and screenwriter behind the Harry Potter franchise.

When it comes to raising awareness it’s difficult to do much better. Whilst the character’s condition has never been confirmed, his social communication difficulties are clear and the success of the book and subsequently the play have given the autism spectrum an unprecedented platform in popular culture. So far so good… Yet reports that the author Mark Haddon has expressed reservations about the novel being used as an autism “textbook” by social workers and police forces.

Whilst this book is clearly a novel, not written by an expert and has therefore no vocation to become an autism textbook, it has undoubtedly lifted a veil over the autism spectrum world. Individuals with no personal interest in this field are unlikely to refer to specialist publications but may read this novel and get an insight of the condition. It is a fiction with a view to entertain but it does help putting the spotlight on social communication difficulties.

So to the question blessing or curse, I firmly believe that the incursion of ASD in popular culture can only be a good thing – and I understand Mr Hatton’s reservations but he has helped many and probably more than he knows.