Child with Verbal Dyspraxia Secures Specialist Residential Placement

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Sarah Woosey

Interim Head of Education Law

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Our Education Law Solicitors  helped a family secure a residential place in an independent school for their child in year 7, who had severe developmental verbal dyspraxia.

What is verbal dyspraxia?

Verbal dyspraxia is a speech disorder, where the person has difficulty placing muscle in the correct position to create a sound. The muscles haven’t been damaged, it is just that the messages from the brain that tells the mouth muscles to move have been affected. Statistics show that on average, 1 to 2 children per 1000 will be diagnosed with verbal dyspraxia. Thesymptoms include:

  • Limited range of vowel speech sounds
  • Overusing one sound in particular
  • Unusual error patterns and inconsistent sounds
  • Unable to breakdown sequencing sounds in a word – in particular the length of a word
  • Able to say one word one minute, and not the next
  • Struggle to pronounce words
  • Difficulty with the beginning of a word
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Joshua's Situation

By the time Joshua was 11 years old, it was clear to his family that wasn’t getting the educational support that he needed to achieve the best possible outcome. As he was about to transfer to secondary school, the family felt this was the ideal time to find the right place for him, somewhere that offered appropriate provision for a pupil with verbal dyspraxia.

Unfortunately, there was nowhere within the local area that could meet Joshua's specific and complex needs related to his condition. As a result, the family were forced to look further afield.

Eventually, they found an independent school that specialises in teaching children with speech, language and social communication difficulties.

The family were sure that this was the right place for Joshua. They therefore contacted the Local Authority’s Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) team to request that the independent school be named in section I of his education, health and care (EHC) plan.

But the local authority didn’t agree to this and instead named another option – a specialist local school for children with profound and multiple learning difficulties and those with challenging behaviour.

After visiting the school, the family was convinced that this wasn’t the right place for Joshua and may potentially limit his progress, as it didn’t offer enough specialist support for his verbal dyspraxia. The local authority wasn’t prepared to consider the independent school for Joshua, citing it as an inefficient use of educational resources. His family therefore felt they had no option but to appeal this decision at a SEND tribunal.

How our Education Solicitors helped

We received instructions to represent the child after the appeal had been lodged and we advised the parents to seek independent advice from a speech and language therapist. The therapist’s evidence became central to the case – and with the report explaining the need for expert and intensive daily therapy for a child with verbal dyspraxia and also why specialist intervention was required through the waking day – it meant that the school the parents had found would suit him better.

The therapist attended the Special Needs Tribunal Appeal hearing as a witness and was able to answer many questions from the Judge on verbal dyspraxia and how it’s treated. The Tribunal noted the difficulties with phrases like waking day and 24-hour curriculum, but found that support from staff trained and experienced in verbal dyspraxia was required through the day to assist in the acquisition of language development.

The case was complicated by the fact that the child has moderate learning difficulties and arguments from the authority that verbal dyspraxia therapy would therefore not be effective. But on considering the evidence, the Tribunal decided a residential placement was required.

What did our client say about the experience?

“After logging the appeal myself, it quickly became apparent that we would need specialist legal support to help us with the complicated process of submitting the paperwork for the SEND tribunal and to represent us on the day of the hearing. Simpson Millar were recommended to us by another family who had used them and subsequently received a successful outcome in a similar case.”

“The solicitor was instructed to act on our behalf after an initial consultation call and from thereon, took full control of obtaining the relevant information and submitting the bundle to the SEND tribunal.”

“The amendment to the working document was a particularly delicate process and involved regular interaction with the Local Authority to gradually build up an education, health and care plan that was suitable to meet Joshua's needs. This was carried out meticulously by Simpson Millar and the majority of special needs support for Joshua had already been agreed prior to the tribunal hearing.”

“On the day of the final hearing, the overriding issue and main point for the Judge to decide was whether Joshua required a waking day curriculum. This would help decide whether Joshua would be placed at the independent school or the local authority school, which had now been changed to a mainstream provision with a specialist hub.”

“Simpson Millar and the specialist experts all argued that Joshua needed specialist support throughout the day and the SEND tribunal judge also agreed that this was necessary for him. The independent special school was then named in section I of the EHC plan. The level of support from the Simpson Millar team was fantastic and we could not have achieved this outcome without the help provided.”

How Simpson Millar Can Help You

Our Education Law Solicitors and SEN Lawyers provide legal advice and representation on Special Educational Needs (SEN) matters to parents and professionals including other Solicitors and case managers.

We also have significant experience of social care work, so we’re very well-placed to advise when there is crossover between the care and education elements of a child’s provision, or when a residential placement may be required; like in this case studies instance.

If you don’t think that your child is getting the right support for their education, then reach out to our friendly team on 0808 239 9764 – We’re happy to discuss and provide legal advice at any point, and will always work with your child’s best interest at heart.


Simpson Millar. (n.d.). Special Educational Needs (SEN). Retrieved from

Speech and Language Therapy for Kids. (n.d.). Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia. Retrieved from

Speech and Language Therapy (n.d.). Verbal Dyspraxia Factsheet. Retrieved from

Sarah Woosey Profile Picture

Sarah Woosey

Interim Head of Education Law

Areas of Expertise:
Education Law

Sarah re-joined Simpson Millar in 2018 having previously trained at the firm before spending a number of years working for a different national firm. She has a number of years’ experience in a range of Education Law and Social Care issues and has focused particularly on getting suitable education and/or services for children and young adults with a wide range of Special Educational Needs and/or disabilities.

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