Thursday, December 12, 2013

“To have to go to court to get these things is just ridiculous.”

Findlay, age 16, and his mother, Jane Waters
This story is about a mother who is being forced to go to court to get a tutor for her son, who contracted ME/CFS in 2011 after a viral illness. 

For those who are not familiar with the UK system, The General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is an academic qualifying exam given for specific subjects (somewhat like the SATs in the US). Without tutoring it is unlikely that Findlay Waters will be able to attend college.

My own experience mirrors that of Jane Waters. In the US, the Americans With Disabilities Act is supposed to provide tutoring for any child suffering from a disability or ailment that prevents him or her from attending school. But when my daughter contracted ME/CFS in 1992, her school resisted providing tutoring for her on the grounds that she did not have a "real disease."

Mum facing council at tribunal over son's education at St Ivo School

By Eleanor Dickinson for Cambridge News, December 4, 2013
A desperate mother has launched a fight for her sick son’s chance to have an education after his illness forced him to leave school two years ago.

Jane Waters, from Arrington, has been at loggerheads with Cambridgeshire County Council since 2011, when her son Findlay found himself unable to attend St Ivo School, St Ives, due to severe chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Mrs Waters and her husband Richard are facing the council at a tribunal today (Wednesday, December 4).

The 59-year-old said: “The council has failed our son. His illness means he cannot attend school and he desperately needs a tutor to come teach him and a computer with the right software so he can use distance learning to get the education he needs.

“To have to go to court to get these things is just ridiculous.”

Findlay, 16, began suffering from CFS in September 2011 after the whole family was struck down by a virus during the summer holidays.

Finding himself crippled with extreme fatigue, sickness and mental confusion, Findlay was forced to drop out school completely by January 2012, despite his best efforts to keep attending. Now more than two years later, the once active teenager finds himself mostly confined to his bed and without any GCSEs.

His mother said: “He is a very bright and intelligent boy. Before he became ill, he struggled with dyslexia and dyspraxia, and yet achieved a grade 8 in his maths in his Year 9 exams and was set to do 10 GCSEs.

“He really wants to study maths and physics at Cambridge University. But since his illness he has had no tuition in either of those subjects and has only been given 35 hours of tuition in English.”

Mr and Mrs Waters were facing County Council representatives at a Special Educational Needs and Disability tribunal in Cambridge yesterday in the hope of gaining a maths and physics tutor and the rights computer equipment so Findlay can get back on the educational tracks.

A spokesman for Cambridgeshire County Council said: “The council has offered appropriate tuition and continues to engage with the family to find the best way to meet their son’s needs.

“A parental appeal is being made to HM Court first tier tribunal and as such it would not be right for us to comment further.”

St Ivo School declined to comment.
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