Not sure which nursery to choose for 3yo possible ASD DS. DH and I can't agree!

(32 Posts)
ItsALuigi Wed 16-Mar-16 20:02:14

Hello,

I hope you don't mind me posting here for advice, I have a new username as my e-mail is apparently invalid!

My DS has just turned 3 this week and is eligible for his free 15 hours come April. He is currently on the pathway for a diagnosis of ASD and last saw the paedtrician in November who referred him for an early place due to his development delay but this never came to fruition so he has had to wait 6 months for this 3 year funding. Oh, they want him in nursery to observe his behaviour with other children to help with diagnosis etc.

Anyway, where I live there is little choice of pre-school nurseries. I don't have access to a car so can't drive to the one I would really like to send him to a few miles away. I originally got him a place at one around 10 minutes walk away which he will be in a class of 25 of 3-5 year olds. The room to me seemed very small and dark but had nice outside space (this would be shared on a rota with other children of different ages) but he would have to go 3 times a week for 5 hours a go, breakfast, snacks, lunch included in this time from 8am until 1pm. This nursery a couple of years ago was put in special measures due to safety issues but now is rated as good.

Another nursery rang this week (which originally didn't have a place but one child has dropped out) and said they can offer me a morning slot for him (I have a 19 month old also, who naps in the afternoon and also DS tends to be a bit within himself in the afternoons too). The place does look basic but has nice areas, a messy play area, reading corner etc, and also a nice outside space (although not as good as the other) which children have access to most of the time come rain or shine, DS looks being outside and this is where he comes out of himself more and tries to interact. Only thing is that it's quite a walk, around 20-30 minutes each way (DS walks). It would be every morning 8.30 until 11.30 including snacks. I don't mind the walk. It is a fairly new nursery but they have another nursery run by the same management that was rated as good and is praised for bringing independence out.

DH thinks that I should put him in the one closest, as it will be easier for me and I won't be walking 2 hours per day. Which could be tricky with a 19 month old who hates the buggy as it is and a tired toddler. Also he thinks that being with children his age and up will be beneficial and will bring him on more than this other nursery which is only 2 and 3 year olds, but I think this is a good thing as it puts him on more of a level playing field and won't frustrate him as much. I don't know what to do. Sorry I know this has got a bit long!

I hope someone can offer me their advice and opinions about this, would be well appreciated! Thanks smile

ItsALuigi Sun 27-Mar-16 06:59:30

Anyone, please?

ChalkHearts Sun 27-Mar-16 07:05:48

I think the half hour walk, with only a 2 hour session, will be too hard for you and you should go for the 3 long days.

Seeing how he copes in that environment will help you work out which is the best school for him and if he'll need an EHCP or not.

Getting a diagnosis of ASD doesn't automatically get you an EHCP. You often also need evidence of how he copes in a classroom type setting.

ItsALuigi Sun 27-Mar-16 10:47:11

Thanks for replying!

The session is actually 3 hours in total so would probably have a 2hr break in between picking him up if you know what I mean half hour there half hour back.

I just really prefer the nursery further away but I want to do whats best all round. I thought the 3 hour session everyday would be more like nursery for him and smaller classes for him as well. Also I would be rushing round to pick him up at 1 and get back for my daughters nap which is actually at 1 too. But I agree the walk is a pain to be honest but then think it's only for a few month until July. Argh don't know what to do.

Meeep Sun 27-Mar-16 10:51:21

Hmm, I think a daily half hour walk each way with the 19 month old hating the buggy is going to be too much of a pain.

Toffeelatteplease Sun 27-Mar-16 11:05:14

What toddler groups have been successful? What was the environment like was is cosy or was it low stimulation? Do either settings replicate the more successful environment? (Eg DS coped better in a large hall like environment as it managed sound better and the walls were less distracting)

Do either nursery have sandtimers? Do either nursery have Makaton or similar on the walls or staff who know Makaton? If they have any or ideally all of these then you are more likely to have a nursery with a bit of experience.

What are the rules on accessing the outside space? Ie DS' first nursery had incredible outside space but they were only able to access it at set times. It was a disaster. Second nursery it was smaller but (other than storytime song time or eating) if a child wanted to go out, sun rain or snow staff, were out with them.

See if you are happy to get your child there I would worry less about the walk and more about the right environment

Toffeelatteplease Sun 27-Mar-16 11:13:50

I would also have concerns about long days. Before I put DS in straight long days 5 days a week, the social and physical demand was too high he got too tired and he couldn't manage it. But that one is one where you really need a good idea of your child's specific difficulties. DS turned out to have physical stuff going on as well.

littleducks Sun 27-Mar-16 11:21:30

The nursery further away sounds nice but I'm not sure the walk every day would be great. Is there a back up option of bus or car?

On your average day or would probably be fine but on a bad day (one of the dcs had a meltdown or you have to collect as ds is sick or something) it could just be too much.

Could you ask for reduced length sessions to begin with at first nursery of you think it will be too much?

Toffeelatteplease Sun 27-Mar-16 11:36:01

More questions I would ask: how do you record progress? (DCs second nursery had learning journals that were packed full of observations pictures and occasionally pieces of work, DC first nursery just kept work and a daily home book (Both of which I learnt had very little to do with the abilities of DS and more to do with the very creative imaginations of the staff). What is your relationship like with outside community eg first nursery was a closed shop, second nursery had community members who came in play piano and games with the kids, you could come in and sit in if your child needed it no issues. The garden was very visible to the general public. Of courese these wont be for everyone and nog all of them will be available everywhere but the advantage of such openess is there always has to be best practice. A closed shop with parents who stand outside at the beginning and end if the day makes it very easy for bad pratices to sneak in on a day to day basis

ItsALuigi Sun 27-Mar-16 13:32:57

Toffeelatteplease Thanks for your detailed response, I will try and answer all the questions as best I can.

What toddler groups have been successful? What was the environment like was is cosy or was it low stimulation? Do either settings replicate the more successful environment? (Eg DS coped better in a large hall like environment as it managed sound better and the walls were less distracting)

He used to go to a playgroup on a Thursday morning for an hour and a half but I had to remove him because he was kicking off over the other children trying to share toys and him thinking everything was his. Nobody understood that he couldn't speak or understand, so the parents tried to keep their children away from him so I thought it best to remove him. It was in a village hall, one side was used for crafts, lego, painting etc and the other for the 'big' toys like ride on cars, bikes etc. After sing song time (which he hated) they occasionally let the children out into a massive garden and he'd enjoy running round. Outside is where he thrives. I also took him to surestart centre, he didn't like it at all it was quite small and he seemed anxious and agitated as they mainly played inside and didn't have many outside big toys to play with which is what he loves.

Do either nursery have sandtimers? Do either nursery have Makaton or similar on the walls or staff who know Makaton? If they have any or ideally all of these then you are more likely to have a nursery with a bit of experience.

I have no idea about sandtimers to be honest. The second nursery uses Makaton, all nursery staff have a basic knowledge with one being trained well in it.

What are the rules on accessing the outside space? Ie DS' first nursery had incredible outside space but they were only able to access it at set times. It was a disaster. Second nursery it was smaller but (other than storytime song time or eating) if a child wanted to go out, sun rain or snow staff, were out with them.

At the second nursery, they can play outside as much as they like, come rain or shine and have bought rain macs for them to go out in bad weather. They call it free flow play, where they can choose where they enjoy to play. The space is smaller than the first nursery, but the first nursery it would be shared, with other age groups throughout the day.

More questions I would ask: how do you record progress? (DCs second nursery had learning journals that were packed full of observations pictures and occasionally pieces of work, DC first nursery just kept work and a daily home book (Both of which I learnt had very little to do with the abilities of DS and more to do with the very creative imaginations of the staff). What is your relationship like with outside community eg first nursery was a closed shop, second nursery had community members who came in play piano and games with the kids, you could come in and sit in if your child needed it no issues. The garden was very visible to the general public. Of courese these wont be for everyone and nog all of them will be available everywhere but the advantage of such openess is there always has to be best practice. A closed shop with parents who stand outside at the beginning and end if the day makes it very easy for bad pratices to sneak in on a day to day basis

To quote the second nursery's information they gave me ''The progress of your child is a time to celebrate your child's learning which is being monitored and assessed constantly. Your child's learning and development is recorded in their personal learning journey. Both you and your child will be involved in this journey at all times and key workers will discuss with you their achievements and next steps. Your child's learning journey is available to you at any time and we actively encourage you to add your own comments about out of school learning such as clubs, hobbies and those key moments such as learning to ride a bike or scooter''. There's more which basically says they work together with parents to tailor learning and consider their development in activities etc. The first nursery didn't even tell me about any journal and it's not in their paperwork to read through. See, I always panicked how will I know if he's had a drink, snack, etc if there's no record of it, because he can't speak I'd like to know what he's done and eaten etc.

The first nursery is a private run nursery in its own private building. The second is a charity run organisation where they encourage parents to go in and help out with cooking, baking etc. It's based on the grounds of a primary school in a little port a cabin if you know what I mean? The garden is visible from the car park and school gates etc. I don't know about the first one as she just showed us the garden through the window! It looked like it had a nice climbing frame for him to use though! Oh the second nursery is run by the parents on the committee or something so I don't know if that makes a difference. The second nursery also gave me a EYFS framework and to highlight everything he can and can't do to identify how to help him along. First nursery had a SENCO and she seemed very nice and knowledgable, second nursery has 3 SENCOs according to the paperwork. The second nursery was very sort of, let DS be DS and we will try to encourage him wherever he needs it, like with communication and was like if he doesn't do this or that, it doesn't matter all children are different sort of thing. The first nursery seemed OK, but I feel it would be structured and would feel overwhelmed being stuck indoors all day especially with it being a bigger class too.

*Littleducks - the nursery further away sounds nice but I'm not sure the walk every day would be great. Is there a back up option of bus or car?

On your average day or would probably be fine but on a bad day (one of the dcs had a meltdown or you have to collect as ds is sick or something) it could just be too much.

Could you ask for reduced length sessions to begin with at first nursery of you think it will be too much?*

There is a bus stop next to the first nursery believe it or not! It wouldn't take me door to door either unfortunately. Although there is a little bus that goes around the streets that mainly the elderly use that I could look into but it would probably take longer. I could probably run there in about 15 minutes with the buggy and I was thinking of getting a buggy board for DS if he was tired.

Yes, I think he could go for a shorter length of time it just seems a shame to be wasting hours he could be using to interact with others.

DobbinsVeil Sun 27-Mar-16 16:22:07

I had a similar dilemma with my DS1 and initially made the wrong decision. I think a lot comes down to the management and staff - my bad choice preschool were dismissive of my son's difficulties, unwilling to accommodate any flexibility in their over their top routines, obstructive when SALT tried to arrange visits and always too busy to give any info on how he was doing... they kept him safe and alive but that is it.

Of course I didn't find this out until he started and I foolishly persisted with it as I thought it would be disruptive to change. (When I did move him he actually settled straight away).

I think if you are drawn to the other nursery you are seeing your son there rather than the nearer one for good reason. Some children will do fine in any setting - but IMO preschoolers with possible ASD really do need a setting who will work with parents and outside agencies to help him/her fully engage. So I would also be cautious of a setting who says he's happy as he is and let's him bimble around rather than encouraging and supporting him to engage with peers etc.

And if you do make the wrong choice it's recoverable.

Have you applied for DLA for your son? This could help go towards taxi to nursery?

ItsALuigi Sun 27-Mar-16 19:23:12

*I had a similar dilemma with my DS1 and initially made the wrong decision. I think a lot comes down to the management and staff - my bad choice preschool were dismissive of my son's difficulties, unwilling to accommodate any flexibility in their over their top routines, obstructive when SALT tried to arrange visits and always too busy to give any info on how he was doing... they kept him safe and alive but that is it.

Of course I didn't find this out until he started and I foolishly persisted with it as I thought it would be disruptive to change. (When I did move him he actually settled straight away).

I think if you are drawn to the other nursery you are seeing your son there rather than the nearer one for good reason. Some children will do fine in any setting - but IMO preschoolers with possible ASD really do need a setting who will work with parents and outside agencies to help him/her fully engage. So I would also be cautious of a setting who says he's happy as he is and let's him bimble around rather than encouraging and supporting him to engage with peers etc.

And if you do make the wrong choice it's recoverable.

Have you applied for DLA for your son? This could help go towards taxi to nursery?*

Thanks for your advice. I feel a massive responsibility in getting it right, but there is little choice which nursery to send him to. It is mainly for the paedtrician to see how he gets on in a nursery setting to aid with his diagnosis and he will start his 'proper' nursery in September (not looking forward to that at all!).

I mentioned SALT and both nurseries said they would be happy to work with her so she can give them advice on what to do to help DS with his language. I got the vibe from the first nursery that it's just a case of letting them run riot. But also the second nursery is 'free play' so would he just be left to bimble around in that case then? I know they said they like to let children be independent and choose what they play with whilst encouraging them to develop in whatever they need but I hope this isn't a guise to basically say they just leave them to it. When I visited the two staff were sat with the kids playing with them so not just sat doing nothing at least!

I should mention my sister's nephew goes to the second nursery and she thinks he's come on leaps and bounds. He has language delay too (but no concern of autism) and he's learning the 'rules' of playing with other children, he'd push other children for a toy now he grabs the attention of the staff to ask for a turn with the toy. My sister says he's also started to say a few more words. They are working with her at the moment to help manage his tantrums. He's been there since January (he's only 2).

ItsALuigi Sun 27-Mar-16 19:24:31

I'm really not good at highlighting the quotes!

lougle Sun 27-Mar-16 19:43:30

IMO, unless a child has a classic text-book ASD presentation, the ideal nursery for a child undergoing SN assessment is one that does preschool education really well, but isn't completely expert with SN. The reason I say that is that if the setting is beautifully set up for children with SN and the staff are experts in dealing with SN, the child may appear fairly typical. DD1 is in special school and a social worker observed her and actually said 'I couldn't work out why she was there.' That's because he was seeing a snapshot and the environment is just right for her. Visual aids are in place, expectations are clear, routines are established, Makaton is used as standard, staffing ratios are high, etc.

When DD1 was in preschool they'd never had a child like her. Experts came in and made suggestions but the staff needed a lot of help to cater for her needs. That meant that her behaviours were quite overt and made a stark contrast with her peers. This in turn helped them to write a strong report for her statementing application. Which got her the special school place she needs.

I'd be inclined to try preschool 1. You say that the structure worries you

lougle Sun 27-Mar-16 19:48:29

Posted too soon.

I think the structure is a good thing. It will do two things. 1. It will give your child a routine which brings security. 2. It will highlight his reactions to being asked to do things he doesn't enjoy.

I tell this story often in MN, so apologies to anyone who has read it, but I vividly remember looking around the special school and the teacher describing 'circle time'. I said 'Oh, DD1 doesn't do circle time. The staff were advised to allow her to do whatever she wants as long as it isn't dangerous or disruptive.' The teacher smiled and said 'Well DD1 will be very unhappy with us for a few weeks because we do circle time and so will DD1!' I was quite taken aback but realised in time that the value of circle time isn't what you're doing in circle time, but learning to do what other people want you to do when they want you to do it - to follow someone else's agenda. If they can do that, it opens a world of opportunity.

Notsogrimupnorth Sun 27-Mar-16 20:13:08

At his age, I would recommend trying to find a really good childminder who can take more time to understand his exact needs and give him the structure and security he needs. We started with a nursery because we wanted our son to have plenty of social interaction. Needless to say, we were not completely satisfied with the nursery and spent a long time finding a great childminder. She is brilliant with him and ensures that he spends loads of time with other children too. Really wish we had used a childminder in the first place. Sorry to add another option into the mix but really worth considering.

NotCitrus Sun 27-Mar-16 20:14:00

Is the first nursery so crowded and noisy and riotous that you think your son would be actively unhappy? Three days for a longer time, and a shorter journey, sounds better to me - he'd be able to get used to being there before having to go home again.

My ds loved his nursery and learned loads about social interaction from the older kids in the preschool class, with the help of excellent preschool staff who taught him useful phrases like "Stop! I don't like that!", but had at least a dozen conversations with me using lougle's phrase "we've never had a child like MiniCitrus before" - luckily I'd been a child like him so after explaining that asking if he wants to do X is a bad idea if you need him to do it, because if he says no, it will go badly when you try to make him, and saying that he's fairly amenable mostly, so if you need him to do X, just say "ds, I need you to do X", it worked very well. Though his needs probably aren't as severe as your ds's.

I suspect that either could be OK, or possibly not, and the staff are likely to be the deciding factor more than anything else.

ItsALuigi Sun 27-Mar-16 20:25:51

Lougle Thanks very much for that, it's really made me think.

I am lucky in that DS isn't too routine oriented in his daily schedule as is quite go with the flow. But, having a routine would obviously get him ready for nursery where I'm sure it will be more structured. He, however, hates doing something that he doesn't want to do like if he's playing with a toy he won't play with it in a different way if you should something to him he gets angry or he won't walk a certain route or he has a meltdown. So he is routine oriented in that sense, he struggles a lot with anxiety mainly.

At playgroup, I always removed him from singing time as he just wouldnt join in, he run off and do something else, if I forced him he'd have a uncontrollable meltdown. I think he does need to be nudged into doing things he doesn't like to, like you say to help his development and widen his opportunities.

To be honest, I don't think either nurseries are that au fait with ASD, they have their SENCOs and the first nursery was the one to say I'll get in touch with speech therapist we can sort that out etc. The second nursery was encouraging too, but I think it would be more up to me to sort of be the go between to arrange nursery visits etc. I mentioned earlier that my nephew goes to the second nursery, apparently he wouldn't follow rules at all when he started now he queues up and everything so maybe it would be ok?

Deep down, I feel both nurseries are probably 'let them get on with it' sort of attitude. The reason I said about structure for the first one was that he was sort of stuck inside for ages and not allowed out to play when he wanted to because I know he is most happy outside. I don't think either nursery would push him into doing anything he didn't want to do so probably not the best for his development either way then sad

ItsALuigi Sun 27-Mar-16 20:38:10

notsogrimupnorth Thank you, a childminder would be OK for him but unfortunately, the paedtrician noted that she'd like him in a nursery setting for observation. Although I could check otherwise, it may be an option. Also, the nearest childminder is about a 45 minute walk away that's if she has places.

not citrus He mainly tunes out to be honest, he's in his own little world. I was worried about the other children invading his space, it really agitates him and this leads to his main frustrations. Thinking 25 children in a small room running round, I worry he won't be able to 'escape' and it will all get too much for him especially if he's tired after 5 hours. Although I guess he will have to get used to it for school, the nursery however in September is much bigger for him to maraud around. If he lashes out I worry with it being a bigger child to staff ratio at nursery 1 it might get missed or they don't have time to discipline properly. The staff ratio is 1:4 at nursery 2 with it being 2-3 year olds. Also I was thinking 3 hours is more like a nursery setting structure getting him ready for school every morning than the 5 hours . So confused.

littleducks Sun 27-Mar-16 20:53:34

The early years curriculum is usually presented as child led and supposed to be free flow between activities. The activities are designed to be educational.

This can ime be a problem for some children with ASD who either don't choose activities and or choose one and only one. These v children often thrive when a more structured learning style is invidious on year 1.

But all children are different and nurseries/schools also really vary so it's not an easy answer.

Maybe you should worry less if you have a nursery lined up for Sept. If it's for one term only then perhaps it matters less?They are both prob good enough nurseries and you could pull him out if it didn't work out?

DobbinsVeil Sun 27-Mar-16 20:56:51

The Early years thingy EYFS? Places a lot of onus on child-led learning and free play so settings have to have that in place. The difference I found was the first setting didn't encourage any interaction at all, he was there for 5 months and never spoke to any staff or children in that time. (I only found that out after I removed him). The one I moved him to had more SN experience and were more adept at getting him engaged.

Both settings did circle time but the first setting spent 20 minutes discussing topics like weather etc which sailed over his head.

The better setting (for DS1) did circle time but in shorter bursts, so a brief morning one, one after snack with group singing.

I know the pressure of wanting to get it right very well (I'm going through it all again with my DS3) but I also got my DS1's school placement wrong and left him there too long (!) and despite my utter terrible choices he is doing o.k.

If his nursery is changing in September I'd try the more local one unless you are considering split placements? I'm not sending my DS3 to the most ideal setting due to logistics but will revisit if the one I've opted for really fails.

AntiquityReRises Sun 27-Mar-16 21:15:28

Ds2 is diagnosed with autism and the big benefits of his nursery are a high staff to child ratio so he can be explicitly taught so there is more availability of staff when he has issues, and plenty of access to outside where he's happiest.

As someone who doesn't drive a 20-30min walk seems pretty normal, if annoying with a small child.

You know the one you think he'd be best at so go with that one.

ItsALuigi Sun 27-Mar-16 21:48:33

I really appreciate all of your advice! There are positives for both nurseries, nursery 1 being closer, he gets his breakfast and lunch there so might learn some new skills from that maybe, SENCO seems knowledgable, older children to bring development on? but small and overcrowded and not good access to outside space and long and possibly overtiring days. Nursery 2 is more relaxed with less children, shorter days, will get used to going everyday, will still get time to interact at snack time, they seem to really work with parents to ensure the child is happy and development is monitored, great access to outside space. obviously it's a fair distance away and maybe not as structured to 'force' DS to interact and join in.

I think that I will go for nursery 2, as it's just in my gut. I felt relaxed when I was there. He seemed happy. I think it will benefit DD also. Since we stopped going to playgroup she doesn't really get much social interaction so if DS goes to nursery at 8.30 playgroup is 2days a week from 9.30 to 11 so could drop DS off, do a bit of shopping or whatever and walk to playgroup and then back to pick DS up so hopefully this will benefit DD too. At nursery 1, I could only go once a week and with the end time finishing at 1; even if I cut the hours down a bit, I think DD would be a pain to settle for her nap making the rest of the day unbearable.

It's only for one term so if I've made a mistake, he will be at school in September anyway and hopefully it will all be OK!

ItsALuigi Sun 27-Mar-16 21:51:06

I'm going to do a dry run tomorrow of the walk to see how fast I can get there, making DS walk fast ish on the way there and his normal snail speed on the way back.

ChalkHearts Mon 28-Mar-16 08:01:35

If it's only for one term I think it'll be manageable.

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