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Don’t Shoot the Messenger: Keep Faith in EHCP Talks

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But what if it’s not working out?

Can you celebrate an achievement when a decision goes against you, or an appeal timetable gets moved back months, what is there to be positive about? These times test us, but should not break us, there are aspects of your EHCP journey that are reliant on systemic structures. These systems have been in place for decades, with a series of significant statutory changes over that time, the last being the 2014 Send Code of Practice with the introduction of EHCPs, replacing Statements.

What seems to permeate the changes in the system, is the triangle, of lack of funding, limited resources, and questionable priorities in allocating funding to taking parents through the legal system instead of providing a robust balanced process that aims to serve the SEN market with minimal need for appeal.

So how can you think positively when the laws of the system are at times, unbalanced? With some work, it’s possible to adjust to what is within your sphere of control and what is outside. This is one of the areas we see the most.

Disregarding positive feedback, shoot the messenger

In psychology, the tendency to disregard positive feedback or “shoot the messenger” can often be rooted in our cognitive biases. This phenomenon, where individuals dismiss or devalue positive input, can be attributed to a variety of factors, and is often referred to as negativity bias—our brain’s inclination to pay more attention to negative information than positive. This bias is evolutionary, helping us to avoid danger and prepare for potential threats, but it can skew our perception in modern settings where such acute vigilance is less necessary.

  • We tend to remember traumatic experiences better than positive ones.
  • We recall insults better than praise.
  • We react more strongly to negative stimuli.
  • We think about negative things more frequently than positive ones.
  • We respond more strongly to negative events than to equally positive ones.

It’s important to note that while the negativity bias is a common tendency, it doesn’t apply to everyone in the same way. Individual differences, life experiences, and other factors can influence how strongly this bias is expressed.

Parents can find themselves at risk due to the nature of engagement, the critical importance of the outcome, and the long duration the process tends to run for. At some point, the EHCP process itself will begin to feel more like a process of attrition, than a process of logical steps. There is also a high risk that your trust in people will erode, as you begin to view those on the ‘other side’ with some form of suspicion. To add fuel to the fire, human nature kicks in, The ‘How to handle a complaining parent’ manual must be part of the training, as more and more engagements tend to end nowhere. Both sides will fall into an entrenched position, the only problem is, that you-are-you 24 by 7, and the other side is, well just a set of independent, revolving set of doors actors, who seem to be on annual leave a lot or just leave. In reality, they don’t have a lot of annual leave, it is just a subtle sign of how long you have been engaging with the process. You’re not engaging with one person, it’s a system, that incorporates the Local Authority, Education and Health.

Parental Broken Trust – can it be rebalanced?

The challenge for parents in the EHCP funnel that stands out, as we touched on above, is one of trust, and we tend to tune out what does not align with our understanding of our perceptions of right and wrong. A negative experience can often label all information from that source questionable or with low value. This phenomenon is probably more relatable to politics, we tend to conclude the messenger as opposed to the content of what is being said.

Why does this matter in your EHCP journey? When we don’t trust, we don’t hold value in our information sources, and we are more likely to experience burnout. Can we simply learn to trust others more? It is more complicated than this and requires at times some unravelling of the experience and an assessment of the cognitive thoughts and behaviours.

A client we shall call Emily found the parent’s evening the most stressful process in the academic calendar. Out of all the teachers, one presented a relatable picture of their child’s reluctance to engage and put their hand up in class, while the other teachers presented a child they did not recognise. The mismatch further fueled the cycle of anxiety that there was an overall plot to discredit their child’s special education needs

Are there solutions for Emily? if this resonates, and this is something you would like to work on, then do reach out.

Positive Reinforcement Using Hypnosis Using EHCParent 1-to-1 Therapy

Imagine navigating a particularly daunting EHCP meeting. Utilising an approach in hypnosis to mentally return to a moment of prior success, harnessing the strength from that memory to confront the present challenge confidently.

A Practical Tip for Positive Reinforcement:

Create a Success Journal: One effective CBT-based technique for positive reinforcement involves maintaining a “Success Journal.” In this journal, parents are encouraged to record small victories and positive experiences related to the EHCP journey. This can range from successful communications with teachers to moments of breakthrough with their children. The act of writing down these successes helps in solidifying them in the individual’s mind, making it easier to recall these positive moments when faced with future challenges. Regularly revisiting this journal can serve as a constant reminder of past achievements and a source of motivation and strength during tough times. This practice embeds a positive feedback loop, reinforcing the mindset that every challenge overcome is a step forward in the journey.

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