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Aspergers son - what to look for in secondary schools?

(7 Posts)
singinggirl Mon 29-Jul-13 14:05:49

DS2 was diagnosed as Aspergers last October. He does not have a statement or any specific help in school at the moment; we are very lucky in that his primary school has a brilliant reputation for dealing with Special Needs, treating all children as individuals. The main reason they were behind getting a diagnosis was for secondary transfer.

He has just finished Year 5, so we are due to look at school in the next few months. We are lucky enough that we should have a genuine choice - we are in Kent, he will sit the 11+ in September, and I am very confident about him passing that. (The Grammar School also has the advantage that DS1 is there, only two years ahead). In addition we are a church going family so can consider the church schools (the only schools locally that can claim to be comprehensive) and he plays two instruments, so could audition for a selective music place in another school. There is a high school (think secondary modern) that has an excellent autism unit, but his needs would not be severe enough for that, so I don't know whether that schools' experience with autism generally would be worth considering?

DS1 was very straightforward, so thinking about the special needs side is very new to me. Are there generally people around at the open evenings from the special need department? What sort of help/ support should I expect a secondary to offer? I think he will find the change quite daunting initially, since his primary school is very small and close-knit. Any words of wisdom, or questions to ask, would be much appreciated.

Sunnymeg Mon 29-Jul-13 14:27:05

I went through the process last year and my DS is due to start secondary after the holidays. We had a genuine choice of schools due to it being a low birth year. I made appointments to see the schools on our own, rather than on the open days when there are scores of parents looking round. As part of the appointment I also met and talked to the SENCO and they met DS as well. I asked specifically what experience the school had of children with Aspergers and what strategies they used to help them. From this I deduced that two schools really had no idea, and the other school was so full of SEN kids (over 25%) that children with Aspergers weren't exactly priority. The school we plumped for had a SENCO and head of year who appeared interested and knowledgeable about my son's condition. The suggestions they made seemed sensible and above all doable. Time will tell if we have made the right choice, but so far everything I have seen concerning how they are handling his run up to starting in September has been great.

singinggirl Mon 29-Jul-13 20:13:26

Thanks Sunny, I hadn't thought about seeing whether I could look round at other times to the main open evenings, that's a great idea. I think I will ring the main schools we are interested in and ask about speaking to the SENCO - we have had very little contact with the SENCO at primary, so it all feels rather new. Thankssmile

DS2 has AS and (treated) ADHD and is highly able in Maths & Science. He is about to start secondary in September. At the open days, I was looking carefully at the Learning Support departments as I had already looked around the rest of each school two years before with DS1.

School 1: LS dpt was six staff and one room. I spoke with the head of LS. She was lovely but didn't fill me with confidence that it was the right place for DS2. She didn't introduce herself to him. In the Science dpt (his reward for waiting while I looked at LS) we bumped into the teacher who had organised some practical work for him in primary (he has been doing KS3 since Y4 but no labs at primary). She hinted that they would not be able to meet his needs there with regard to his aptitude.

School 2: LS dpt is 22 staff and a whole building. The head of LS invited me into her office for a chat. She engaged with DS2. She explained in depth what they could offer him, including a six week transition programme and an LSA in every class for the whole of Y7. Pupils with SEN can go to the LS dpt at any time, have their lunch there etc. They have half a dozen boys with AS in each year, and a support group for parents of children with ASD is based at the school. There are many Y7s working at DS2's level in Maths and several in Science.

Guess which school we went for! grin

MrsBottesini Tue 30-Jul-13 23:55:41

my ds1 is also aspie and has just finished yr7, amazingly well, incredible progress and the most fantastic year. I met with the SENCO of the school I wanted for him very early in Y5, and his transition (just orientation visits at first) started pretty much straight away. We chose the school with the most logical layout and best sen support. Like your ds he is outstanding in science and maths, also history, geography and technology - his interests have allowed him to excel in high school. We have ensured that he has every organisational detail sorted at home - the school have been absolutely fantastic in communicating with me about homework and any stuff he needs to take in to school.
I'd definitely suggest meeting with SENCO of any schools you are considering. Check out what provision they have for break and lunchtimes - this is important. DS is involved in various clubs and there is a [sen] support base, mainly full of aspies wink at lunchtime - they play chess and card games and other aspie stuff. Interestingly ds has made a number of friends there, all like minded mainstream people! Interestingly this isn't the school with the asd unit attached to it, like your ds he was too high ability for us to even consider that. For us, the layout of the school was also an issue, we were very lucky that the easiest to navigate with a brand new building was the one smile

I would seriously consider applying for a statement from the LEA in question. Its a big leap between primary and secondary and many secondary schools can feel impersonal.

Certainly meet withe the SENCO and grill this person thoroughly on provision (my guess is that without a statement not much will be provided).

Some private schools as well as some faith schools are not at all great when it comes to dealing with children with SEN; I would choose the school for your son with great care (not that you would not but this needs to be right first time). I would not rule out a state school particularly if there is a good autism base unit attached to it,

singinggirl Wed 31-Jul-13 23:55:25

Thank you all, I'm feeling much more positive about what I want to look for now. The point about clubs is an excellent one, which probably nudges me towards the Grammar School, since they do run lots of clubs at break, at lunchtime and after school - chess, stem club and programming club all being things they run. And of course that is where he is likely to find like minded people, all the aspie typical interests.

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