A HAMPSHIRE mother is worries about what proposed cuts by Hampshire County Council will mean for her visually-impaired son.

She is concerned that they may result in him falling behind, and could even force him out of mainstream education.

Oliver White, who turns 11 tomorrow, has blue cone monochromatism, which means he is completely colour blind, and nystagmus, which means his eyes move involuntarily.

His field of vision is limited, and he cannot recognise detail at a distance of anymore than a couple of metres, meaning that he can't recognise people who are not very close to him.

His conditions were detected when he was an infant.

Throughout school he has, says his mother, Sue, received an excellent level of support, meaning that he is able to get the most out of school and hasn't been struggling to keep up with his classmates.

But Sue is worried that all that could be about to change, due to county-wide plans to reduce support for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Hampshire County Council has proposed changes to its Specialist Teacher Advisory Service (STAS), which provides support for children who have hearing or visual impairments, physical disabilities or speech, language and communication needs.

The consultation period ended on Saturday, and plans involve a reduction in visits for some children with special needs from specialists, affecting hundreds of children and resulting in the loss of several full time staff by up to 17 percent.

"If you look at Oliver, you can't see that there's anything wrong, " says Sue, from Romsey.

"He adapts well and people can forget how significant his visual impairment is. In class, the main differences are that he has to sit at the front, has additional equipment, such as an ipad, as he can't see the white screen, and anything he is going to read has to be enlarged.

"But his support assistant also does a huge amount behind the scenes, including enlarging everything."

Specialist training is also given at his school, to ensure that everyone from midday meal supervisors to the head teacher understands Oliver's needs and is able to help ensure he gets what he needs to thrive.

"He has been with the children at his school since reception and has a strong friendship group," says Sue.

"They accept his sight and naturally help him, like showing him which thing is a particular colour or helping him spot his friends in the playground.

"Oliver has been supported really well through the STAS, and reaching his targets in all his subjects on the basis of this. He is currently able to cope in mainstream education really well, and in September, wants to go to the same school as all his friends, which his sister already attends.

"If there isn't going to be the same level of support that he's been getting, that's a real concern as it's almost more important in secondary school; there will be more reading to prepare, more equipment to move around from classroom to classroom.

"If he is well supported and has someone there being a good advocate for him, he will be able to thrive, but if not, he will start falling behind, and it's not just him. There are children with additional needs across the county."

Sue adds that she thinks the proposed cuts are ill-considered.

"If these children aren't getting the support they need, they may not get their GCSEs and will be less employable and therefore a long-term drain on society."

Sue is also concerned that a lack of support could force Oliver to be withdrawn from mainstream education, where he is with children he has known for most of his life, and placed in a special school, which could be very disruptive and upsetting for him.

"My message to Hampshire County Council is please reconsider reducing this service," she adds.

"At the moment, my son is receiving an excellent level of support and he is thriving and happy in mainstream school. He deserves well-training, qualified staff going into his school to make sure that he reaches his potential."

* Hampshire County Council had not given a comment at the time of writing.