One of the areas I specialise in as a mediator is SEND (special educational needs and disability) mediation.

I facilitate conversations between parents/carers, schools, support workers and the local authority where an Education, Health and Care Plan may be necessary to support additional needs of the child/young person.

During the course of my various careers, I have come across many intelligent, highly educated and impressive people, but one person has always stood out for me. For the sake of confidentiality (and to spare his blushes) I’ll call this person Sam.

Sam happened to be ‘on the spectrum’ (his words not mine). His decision-making was truly excellent. I could see how he processed information in a unique way, totally embracing his differences, which gave him a definite edge.

Of course, being ‘on the spectrum’ is a very broad term covering dyslexia, dyspraxia, autism, ADHD, to name just a few of the many possible diagnoses that have become common parlance.

Ham & High: Shelley-Anne Salisbury specialises as a mediator in SEND mediationShelley-Anne Salisbury specialises as a mediator in SEND mediation (Image:

Long gone (mostly) are the general misconceptions that led to prejudices which, in turn, gave rise to stereotyping and tropes. We have more than begun to understand neurodiversity. We are aware of how a neurodivergent viewpoint can open up the parameters of how we look at and interpret scenarios. Thinking outside the box has a whole new meaning.

Sam felt his achievements had been possible because of the support he’d received from a particular teacher who acted as his mentor.  As Sam’s schooling progressed, this teacher had encouraged him to look at career opportunities Sam had never thought possible.

Sam’s autism diagnosis was not treated as an obstacle. If anything, Sam felt his autism had been a plus as it afforded him support and guidance which ultimately lead to wider horizons.

Sam was one of the lucky ones. As a SEND mediator, I have seen the difference a good teacher makes in often very challenging circumstances. And, sadly, I’ve seen the opposite. In a recent SEND mediation I conducted I was so impressed by the quality of the head teacher. The child, who had a number of additional needs, would not have stood a chance without this head’s intervention.

Sure, character, self-determination and resiliency all play a part in achievement, but these attributes are not necessarily enough on their own. A good teacher will shine a light on possibilities and all children (with or without additional needs) unequivocally deserve that.

  • Shelley-Anne Salisbury is a mediator, writer and the co-editor of Suburb News,