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Surviving the Special Educational Needs System: How to be a 'Velvet Bulldozer'. By Sandy Row. Jessica Kingsley Publishers     ISBN  1 84310 262 5 PB £14.95  Click here to order your copy

The Velvet Bulldozer is a book about our four children who have diagnoses that encompass the following problems: ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, ASD, Auditory Processing Disorder,  Attachment Disorder, Dyslexia (SLD),  Dyspraxia, Learning Difficulties (MLD), Semantic Pragmatic Disorder. If any of these issues affect you and your family, and you are experiencing difficulty accessing diagnosis and appropriate educational support and placement, then read the Velvet Bulldozer which will hopefully help you (even if you borrow it from the library!).

"It has to be the best book I've read this year on anything to do with autism" Review by Ruth Heeks Information Officer, Autism West Midlands

                                            book now out!


Book endorsement

' Throughout my years as a practicing clinical psychologist, I have seen the anguish and emotional turmoil that can be experienced by children with special needs, their parents and their families. Living day to day with a child who has autism, an attention deficit- hyperactivity disorder, or a specific learning disorder such as dyslexia, can be both physically and psychologically draining for families. It is a process which requires an abundance of support, including a true partnership between parents, teachers and their Local Education Authority.

Sandy Row's moving account of her family's battle against all odds is truly inspiring as she shares with us the positive outcomes which were laudably achieved. Each chapter resounds with her resilience and that of her family's. Acting as a no-nonsense, practical and intelligent guide, Sandy helps parents learn how to chart their way through the potentially turbulent waters of the Special Educational Needs system. This is a bare-knuckle and heartening reflection of events which ultimately proves that through adversity, truth and justice can prevail. It is a testament to all those parents who have shown unwavering determination and is a must read for parents who need support for their special child(ren) with needs in school.'

     Dr Angel Adams, Chartered Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychologist

Click here for the Jessica Kingsley website


An article in the Sunday Times, in February 2003, alleged that ‘two million British children have special educational needs.  The law says that the authorities must provide for them.  But all they get is a wall of silence’.  It was a truly shocking article.  Sadly for Sandy Row it wasn’t a surprising article as she has experienced the system at first hand.

Sandy Row has written a guide book which aims to cut through the jargon and this ‘wall’ which exists in the special educational needs field.  She doesn’t pretend to know all the answers but hopes to provide a bridge between the layman and the organisations who might be able to help them so that desperate parents can easily access information and practical help for their troubled children without having to wade through a morass of obscure information (some more suited to those studying for the Bar!) and misinformation, to find an answer.  Sandy was naïve and ignorant when she first embarked upon this path.  She felt isolated and powerless against the all-powerful authorities who were so recklessly careless with her children’s lives.  She now knows that she was not alone.  If there are ‘two million British children with special educational needs’ then there are at least two million parents out there right now facing the same problems that she faced and, in all likelihood, encountering the same problems and struggling. 

The numbers of children with special educational needs are mushrooming.  To stand any chance of accessing help for your child he will need a Statement of Special Educational Needs.  Even with this document you could still be in for a fight.  Without this document your chances are practically nil.  However, the Statementing process is legally fraught, frustrating and filled with possibilities for error.  It can be very daunting for the average parent, and impossible for some, so that children with genuine need simply slip through the net and don’t receive appropriate help.  Twice Sandy had to go to the Special Needs and disabilities Tribunal to fight for a change in one of her son’s Statement.  Twice the Local Education Authority used tax payer’s money to engage a Barrister to fight Sandy and her husband.  Sandy discloses where she went wrong and how the LEA were able to wriggle out of their responsibilities on the first occasion and how she managed to secure a victory against all the odds at the second Tribunal.  Whilst Sandy’s battles have been in the field of Autism her practical advice will be useful to anyone struggling in the world of special needs.  Sandy has shared all the contacts she has made along this rocky road on subjects as diverse as special needs holidays – to the complex Benefits system.  Sandy now knows that all four of her adopted children are on the Autistic Spectrum plus other psychological problems.  However, they are now acknowledged difficulties and these young people are at last receiving some of the support they require and are leading happier, fulfilled lives.

I hope you read the book as I truly believe that the Velvet Bulldozer would have helped us enormously had we had the information it contains when we first commenced our struggles.    This may not look like your ordinary Special Educational Needs site – probably because it isn’t.  I do not promise to be an expert.  We’ve made lots of mistakes along the way but I hope that I might act as a ‘signpost’ for you.  I will continue adding information to the site as we encounter it in our daily situations caring for the children.  If I hear of any useful conferences or talks, or anything relevant I’ll try to bring this to you.   For example I’d like to draw your attention currently to the IPSEA parliamentary pledges campaign which we should all get involved in.

This book was conceived in frustration and has been a labour of love.  I hope the birth heralds a new age of  justice for all our ‘special’ children.  Good luck!



Sandy and her husband  have  four adopted children, all of whom it has transpired have Special Educational Needs, all are on the Autistic Spectrum ( Asperger’s Syndrome and  Semantic Pragmatic Disorder).  Some have ADHD, Dyslexia, Auditory Processing Disorder and Dyspraxia as well.  Sandy and her husband have battled for years to achieve accurate diagnoses, Statements and assistance for the children - fighting two Special Educational Needs Tribunals (SENDIST) against the LEA barristers on the way. 

‘A pea-shooter against a tank,’ as Sandy wryly comments. 

Finally they have at last secured funding for places for all their children in special needs schools and colleges (following another recent battle) and feel hopeful about their children’s futures .  They want to share their story and the useful contacts and information they have gained during their journeySandy kept reading books that told her what should  happen.  Her book tells you what actually does  happen!




Children now

I promised you in the book that I would continue Jack’s saga and you can check into the ‘children now’ link and we will try to update you on what is new in their lives.  This isn’t just whimsy with every new twist in their tale I learn something new.  In Jack’s case you will see that we have now applied to the Local Education Authority (LEA) for a Statement of Special Educational Needs – here we go again!

The three definitely diagnosed Autistic children are at different special educational needs placements.  Two of them, Alice and Alex are now classed as adults as they are eighteen and twenty.

            This has opened a whole new can of worms so I’ll try to keep you posted on any new snippets gleaned about government legislation, benefits, new colleges/communities that we have found, as I think you might find these helpful.





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"Velvet bulldozer" illustrations courtesy of the wonderful Wendy O'Mahony

this is on my site because I love daisies!