A TEN-year-old Chippenham boy with cerebral palsy, who was unable to communicate before being taught by his mother, is on a crusade to help other children with learning difficulties, after overcoming his own disabilities.

Jonathon Bryan suffers from mobility issues, is non-verbal and was unable to communicate three years ago, despite attending several schools for children with special needs.

His mum, Chantal, started teaching him at home and he can now read, write and spell to communicate.

“He went to a number of special schools but when he was seven years old I started teaching him at home for only a few hours in the morning,” said Mrs Bryan, who has two other children, Susannah, aged seven, and Jemima, aged four, with husband, Christopher, 40.

“I taught him the basics like how to read, write and spell and he went on this amazing catch-up and is now in Year 5 at the local school.

“I do think it’s a problem in special needs schools, particularly for children like him who are non-verbal and given a diagnosis of profound learning difficulties. This is part of his crusade, children like him just aren’t taught.

“He was taught like in reception style, such as basic letters and sounds and basic numeracy. If I hadn’t taken him out and taught him myself he would still be at that stage.”

The youngster has now written to the Education Minister, Nicky Morgan, calling for more to be done to help non-verbal children in schools.

In his letter he said: “What brings me incredible sorrow is watching my non-verbal friends in wheelchairs miss out on the fullness of life because no-one believes that they are worth teaching literacy to, and waiting locked in for someone to give them a chance to have a voice.

“Disabled children with communication issues are not being taught in special schools. They are being babysat!

“Underestimating special needs children is robbing them of their right to education and communication. Until this is seen as the abuse it is, nothing will change. Reforming the special needs curriculum must be a priority.”

The youngster, who now attends Stanton St Quintin Primary School, uses a spelling board – which consists of groups of letters and colours – to communicate and spent 30 hours writing a 500-word story for a BBC Radio 2 competition.

“He wrote the whole story on his own and wrote about a time when he was in hospital when he was seriously ill and about being half way between heaven and halfway being here,” added Mrs Bryan.

“At the time he could only say yes and no but since then he’s been telling us about this time and more.

“For a ten-year-old he’s very insightful and it’s amazing to be able to have a conversation with him and to really talk to him about anything.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “All pupils, regardless of their circumstances, should have access to a broad and balanced curriculum, which includes language and literacy. We are clear that we expect teachers to set high expectations for their pupils, to plan lessons so that they are accessible and ensure that there are no barriers to their achievement.

“We have made fundamental changes to the way the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) support system works for families by replacing (SEN) statements with integrated and personalised educational health and care plans – meaning children and young people are supported, where they need it, until they turn 25, helping them to achieve their full potential, both in education and later life.

“Ensuring teachers are trained to have an understanding of the needs of pupils with SEND is a key part of our drive to give all children access to the education they deserve. The Education Secretary has confirmed that SEND training will form part of the new core content for initial teacher training. Further detail on this will be published in due course.”

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