Spotted the signs of stress in a EHCP parent - a parent sitting at a desk with clouds above

Surviving the EHCP Tunnel: Recognising the Signs of Stress

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Parenting comes with its share of challenges, life itself is a challenge without children to look after, add dependents into the mix creates what we shall refer to as ‘Parental Base Load Demand’. This demand will fluctuate day to day, month to month, and year to year. The grass always looks green towards someone else’s base load demand garden, this is part of the problem where we may become influenced by how we should be feeling, based on the perception of ‘others’ av=.

Add into the mix a child with Special Educational Needs (SEN), This will be an add-on to the base load demand we have as individuals and as individuals looking after dependants. It is this additional stressor that has the real capability of pushing parents, guardians and caregivers into the red zone, of unhealthy stress and anxiety.

The EHCP process is a long-term endeavour, the process though time-bound, is not time-limited and the child’s education clock has no pause button.

In our various interactions, we have found the sources of stress to be broad and varied, here is one parent’s view on what could be seen as a :

“The area I found frustration with, was on the one hand the assurance, and I would say, positive meetings we had with the school on progress, until I really sat down and looked at the books. The unexplained gaps, poor comprehension, and what seemed to be a repeat of go to tasks. Even though we had a parents evening, even though we had meetings where a book was brought in to discuss, until you really look through it and be inquisitive with your child on what they are learning you begin to build a picture.

Covid lock down was the real eye opener. The online classes where limited but when they where ran we got a real sense just how disconnected our child was from the lesson. The teacher had a strategy of teaching, which semed to involve asking the same names on the call, and then called out our childs name for an answer, which was not every lesson, when a completely wrong answer was provided, and I mean not even close to the topic area, the teacher paused and then picked the same roster of students to answer the question and moved on. No loop back, explanation, and this is what you call meeting the child’s needs, either, make the learning relatively static or just keep the pace of the class going and move on.

We have friends who are teachers, and they balance the challenges of 30 in the class, etc i get all that, but then, why does the school spend most of their effort scraping with us, that they can meet the needs when they clearly cannot. When I pointed out that the school needs to voice concern over the funding specified on the plan to meet the childs needs, they say nothing, its a process that appears top down.”

Parents view on the stressor of meeting the childs needs

Recognising Signs of Stress in Parents During the EHCP Journey

Stress and anxiety have a way of subtly infiltrating our lives, often going unnoticed until we’re burdened with a high baseline of tension and our physical health has already shows signs of wayning. The silent accumulation of stress can profoundly affect our mental and physical well-being. By becoming aware of how stress and anxiety manifest, parents navigating the EHCP journey can seek to identify the early warning signs, seek timely support, and adopt strategies to mitigate these pressures more effectively.

Here are some common ways stress might manifest for a parent during the EHCP process:

Mental and Emotional Signs:

The real feeling of being overwhelmed

The complexity of the EHCP process, tge long time scales involved, along with the fear of not securing the necessary support for your child, can lead to frequent feelings of overwhelm and heightened anxiety.

Emotional and Psychological Signs of overwhelm
You might feel a surge of strong emotions such as anxiety, fear, sadness, or anger that seems disproportionate to the situation. You may come across the Inability to focus, leading to trouble concentrating or making decisions, as if your thoughts are clouded or scattered.

The variability of emotions comes from dealing with that weeks particular stress points. You may for example be completely wrapped up appealing a refusal for a EHC Needs assessment, only for this encounter to fade into the past, to be replaced with how to engage with the school for more evidence. Each challenge becomes the weeks if not the months hot topic.

The EHCP process is best considered as not one step but a series of steps, that can run for the duration of the plans exstence, in various levels of effort required from the impact.

There’s often a sense of being stuck, with no clear path forward or solution in sight. Some people experience a sense of detachment or numbness, finding themselves disconnecting from their surroundings or feelings. Overwhelmed individuals might ruminate or obsess over their concerns, imagining worst-case scenarios.

Physical Signs
After being checked over by your doctor, perhaps you are possibly sleeping more (or less) to a regular sleeping pattern when things are neutral, but there can be difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing restorative sleep are common signs of feeling overwhelmed.You may feel constantly tired or drained of energy, even when you felt you have slept well.

Physical signs that can also be linked to stress and anxiety such as headaches, stomach aches, muscle tension, or other physical symptoms, all without a clear medical cause can occur. You might also notice significant changes in your eating habits, such as a lack of appetite or overeating.

Stress can weaken the immune system, making one more susceptible to colds, infections, and other illnesses. Have you ever noticed a friend or colleague under a particular amount of stress, becoming more absent through illness,? Have you ever had that thought of someone missing from an important meeting or event that required their input?

Behavioural Signs
Procrastinating or avoiding responsibilities, decisions, or even social interactions can be a sign of feeling overwhelmed. Small annoyances might trigger disproportionate irritation or anger. You might break away from your normal routines, either by neglecting responsibilities or by compulsively focusing on certain tasks as a form of avoidance.

Parental Guilt

Guilt is a multifaceted emotion that parents of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEN) may frequently encounter. This guilt can manifest from various aspects of their child’s care and education, particularly when navigating the complex EHCP (Education, Health, and Care Plan) process.

The Sources of Guilt
Parents might feel guilty for their child’s difficulties, irrationally blaming themselves for their child’s SEN, despite it being no one’s fault. This guilt is often compounded by societal pressures or comparisons with other families that seem to be coping better or whose children do not have similar challenges.

“When we used to travel on the bus or train I would look at the interaction other kids would have with their parents, especially from kids who seemed engaged and interested in their surroundings. I dont know why I found these social recordings useful, pointless really as my uninterested-in-anything child went on to University – and me as a child? I was interesting in everything, just not study and started work at 18”

Parents view on dont predict the future

The EHCP process, with its detailed assessments, meetings, and paperwork, can be daunting. Parents may feel guilty for not understanding every aspect immediately or for not advocating strongly enough due to their lack of expertise in the legal and educational terminologies and procedures involved.

Balancing the needs of the child with SEN, other family members, employment, and personal care can leave parents feeling stretched thin. Guilt arises when they perceive themselves as not spending enough quality time with their other children or partner, neglecting their own needs, or not dedicating sufficient time to navigate the EHCP process effectively.

Choices about interventions, therapies, or educational settings can carry significant weight. Parents may experience guilt over the decisions they make, worrying about the long-term impacts on their child’s development and happiness. This is especially true when faced with conflicting advice or limited options.

Coping with Guilt

Understanding that feeling guilty is a natural, albeit challenging, part of the parenting journey, especially under complex circumstances like navigating the EHCP process.

Engaging with support groups, either in person or online, can provide comfort and practical advice, reducing the sense of isolation and self-blame.

Building knowledge about SEN and the EHCP process empowers parents to make informed decisions and advocate effectively for their child’s needs, alleviating feelings of inadequacy.

Counseling or therapy can offer strategies to manage guilt constructively, helping parents to recognise their strengths and the positive impact of their efforts on their family’s well-being.

Practicing self-compassion, recognising personal limits, and acknowledging the immense love and care they provide can help parents forgive themselves for perceived shortcomings.

Guilt, while a common experience, should not overshadow the incredible dedication and love parents have for their children. Acknowledging and addressing these feelings of guilt is crucial in maintaining emotional well-being and continuing to provide the best possible support for their children with SEN.

Behavioral Signs:

  • Withdrawal from Activities: Parents may withdraw from hobbies, social events, or other activities they used to enjoy. This may be driven by a desire to work issue connected with the SEND process, or just not in the right frame of mind to enjoy doing things. The change may be subtle, building up over time. Until one day, someone in the family refers to ‘how we used to do these things.’
  • Increased Irritability: Stress can lead to a shorter temper and irritability, impacting relationships with friends, family, and colleagues. When we become focused on a stressor, how whole mood can wrap around the episode. The likelihood of irrational behaviour increases. It is these times where we become less open to suggestion and solutions. The glass is half empty, if not already broken.
  • Difficulty Concentrating: Stress can affect focus and make it hard to concentrate on tasks, leading to decreased productivity at work or in other areas of life. Stressors impact mood, thinking and behaviour, if you are in this particular mindset, we are less likely to be inclined to stop and have a chat with a dog walker for example.

Coping Strategies:

  • Seek Support: Connecting with support groups or networks of other parents navigating the EHCP process can provide emotional support and practical advice. Conversing with a parent who is not navigating this process will yield some support, but there will be a particular gap of understanding of how a process can become all consuming over multiple facets of life.
  • Temptation to drown in group sorrow: There is a risk if not a temptation when discussing SEN matters with other parents of SEN children to open the taps of self pity, in an ever growing cycle of who can subconsciously outdo those in attendance, with stories of unfairness and outrage. Even child is different, one child’s provision is another child’s strength, and vice versa. We must always be mindful of not building a support network based on toxic mix of discussion that only resolves in making us more angry.
  • Professional Help: Counseling or therapy can help manage stress, anxiety, and other emotional challenges. The EHCParent has developed multi modal therapy using a combination of hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapies, led my someone who has been through the entire EHCP process. Reach out using the contacts on the site.
  • Self-Care: Engaging in physical activity, maintaining a healthy diet, and finding time for relaxation and hobbies are vital for stress management.
  • Education and Advocacy: Becoming informed about the EHCP process and rights can empower parents to advocate effectively for their child’s needs.

Recognising these signs of stress and taking proactive steps to manage them can help parents navigate the EHCP process with more resilience and a sense of empowerment.

The EHCParent Approach: Bespoke Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy

Problem Statement: The education system can be overwhelming for parents of children with SEN. Anxiety, stress, and self-doubt often arise, hindering their ability to navigate this complex landscape effectively.

Our Solution: At the private Practice, we recognise the unique challenges you face. Our specialised Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy program is designed to empower parents, equipping them with the mental health tools and strategies to overcome these challenges.

The Power of Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy

Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy combines the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and hypnotherapy. It focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns while harnessing the relaxation and focus of hypnosis.

Our sessions are customised to address the anxieties specific to your journey. We work together to reframe negative beliefs, build resilience, and foster a proactive mindset, enabling you to confidently advocate for your child.

Personalised Assessment: We begin by understanding your concerns, challenges, and goals. Through a personalised assessment, we tailor the sessions to your unique situation.

Gentle Exploration: Our skilled practitioners gently guide you into a state of focused relaxation, where we explore the sources of stress and anxiety. We collaborate to rewrite these thoughts and feelings, instilling a sense of empowerment.

Tools for Daily Life

it’s a set of tools you can carry with you. We equip you with self-hypnosis techniques and coping strategies, helping you maintain a positive outlook in your daily interactions with the education system.

Embrace the Journey

Parenting a child with SEN is a journey of growth, learning, and resilience. With bespoke Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy, you’re not just navigating challenges – you’re unlocking your potential as a parent, advocate, and source of unwavering support.

Don’t let anxiety hold you back.

Practical Tips for Parents Navigating the SEN Landscape:

Navigating the world of Special Educational Needs (SEN) can often feel overwhelming. While understanding the intricacies of the system is crucial, equipping yourself with practical strategies can make the journey smoother. Here are some actionable tips to help you manage the challenges and ensure the best for your child:

  1. Stay Organised: Create a dedicated folder or digital space for all SEN-related documents. This includes assessment reports, communication with schools, and any resources you find helpful. Having everything in one place can save time and reduce stress during meetings or reviews.
  2. Open Lines of Communication: Regularly check in with your child’s teachers, therapists, or SEN coordinators. Open dialogue ensures you’re updated on progress and can address any concerns promptly.
  3. Educate Yourself: Invest time in reading about your child’s specific needs. Websites, books, or seminars can offer insights and strategies that can be beneficial. Resources like the National Association for Special Educational Needs can be a good starting point.
  4. Join Support Groups: Connecting with other parents who are on a similar journey can be invaluable. They can offer advice, share their experiences, and provide emotional support. Local community centres or online platforms like SEN Parenting Forums can be useful.
  5. Practice Self-Care: Remember to take time for yourself. Engage in activities that help you relax and recharge. This could be a short walk, meditation, or even a hobby you love. Your well-being is crucial for your child’s journey.
  6. Seek Feedback: After interactions with the education system, whether it’s a meeting or an assessment, take a moment to reflect. What went well? What could be improved? This self-reflection can guide future interactions and make them more productive.
  7. Advocate with Confidence: Remember, you know your child best. If you feel something isn’t right or could be done differently, voice your concerns. Your advocacy plays a pivotal role in ensuring your child gets the support they need.

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