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Type of school - advice needed please

(22 Posts)
WellTidy Mon 20-Jun-16 12:03:48

DS is 4.1yo, and would normally start school in September 2016. However we are deferring his entry into reception until September 2017 on the basis that he is summer born and not yet ready.

He has diagnosed ASD and a severe speech and language delay. He is up to 2 years delayed across the board, save for puzzle and technology, where he is at the same level as you'd expect for his age. His language is limited to pronouncing the first letter sounds of words, but he does not link words. He has a huge intent to communicate, and used PECS for a few months before the letter sounds came. He has since dropped his PECS because he is more confident communicating with speech sounds.

We've done ABA at home for nearly a year, and will continue ABA for the year that he would have been in school. He also goes, and will continue to go to, mainstream pre-school with one to one support for three sessions a week. I am hoping that when he does start primary, he will just do mornings, and then ABA at home in the afternoons.

An LEA ed psych has assessed him and written a report, but it makes no recommendations for the type of school but for saying that DS will need one to one support.

I've looked at what the LEA can offer for primary, from September 2017. There are mainstream schools, mainstream schools with language units, and specialist schools for children with ASD.

Would DS be 'allowed' a place at a mainstream with a speech and language unit, given that he also has ASD? Or are places at such schools for children who 'only' has speech and language difficulties? I know that if he went to a mainstream school, it is likely that he would only be able to stay a year or two before the pace of learning would be such that he would be better suited to a different learning environment.

Friolero Mon 20-Jun-16 20:58:35

I looked at a range of options for my DS, who has complex needs including ASD and speech and language difficulties. One of the places I looked at was a mainstream school with a speech and language unit, and I was told by the SENCO there that it wasn't suitable for DS, because it was basically for children who can generally cope in the mainstream classroom, but need a bit of time out in the unit for help with their speech, language and communication. Then at the SN school panels, the speech and language panel said his needs were too great for the schools covered by that panel.

Things will presumably vary depending on where you are, and what the individual schools are like, but in my DS's case they wouldn't have given him a place at the mainstream school with a SALT unit.

Donki Tue 21-Jun-16 08:22:18

The LA Ed Psych cannot name type of provision - the report is supposed to state what needs your child has, and how they should be met.

WellTidy Tue 21-Jun-16 10:58:20

Friolero, I thought that about the mainstream with a speech and language unit too. DS needs help with more than his speech and language. What are the SN school panels that you referred to please?

Donki, the report is long but it is waffly. The ed psych says what DSs struggles with as a result of the ASD and that DS needs one to one help, the ability to take himself off somewhere else when things might be overwhelming, regular assessment and reassessment of objectives etc. I don't really have a steer as to what type of school would be best for him, and I don't know anyone with a child with ASD in real life to get their input.

Friolero Tue 21-Jun-16 14:00:18

The panels are the way they allocate most of the SN school places in my county (Surrey). So they divide it up by type of need, and have an admissions panel for speech and language, one for autism, another for learning difficulties etc and then each panel deals with different schools depending on what their specialisms are. Then all the children with that type of need are discussed at the panel and they decide who gets the places.

It's not a great system if you ask me, as it doesn't really take account of children who have more complex needs and don't fit neatly into a particular category. So my DS didn't get offered a school place from the panels as one said his needs were too complex for their schools, and another said his needs could be met in mainstream (despite already agreeing he needed a specialist school place at an earlier stage). Thankfully he has since got a place at an amazing SN school, but I had to fight for it.

If I were you I would visit or at least talk to as many schools as possible. The school we have ended up with didn't sound like it would be right for DS on paper, but I went to visit anyway and immediately knew it was the right place for him. I visited another (mainstream with SEN unit) that sounded like it would be much more suitable, but I just didn't like it at all.

WellTidy Tue 21-Jun-16 15:38:11

Thank you. I have made contact with a handful of schools and have an appointment to view one mainstream with a Sen unit attached (it is just the hint that I am looking around this week). Did you have any guidance in questions to ask and what to look out for, or was whether you liked a school or not more instructive for you? I don't know what to expect or want tbh.

WellTidy Tue 21-Jun-16 15:38:29

Not instructive. Instinctive. Sorry.

MrsJ0612 Tue 21-Jun-16 16:02:47

You've almost described my DD - except we're only now beginning the ASD process. DD has a specific language impairment, she is also around 2 years delayed with speech, understanding, communication and attention (also writing/reading/numeracy at nursery) She's 4.5 now, will begin full time school in September.

At the moment she is in a nursery attached to the mainstream school my ds attends, she has a space for September. At the moment nursery are supporting her well - she gets one to one for 20 minutes a day. I'm not so sure she will be supported sufficiently come September. We are under the SENCO and has an IEP in place but i've had to push for everything. Our private speech therapist has even put a package together for nursery to target DD's needs. We have had very, very little NHS support - dd has been waiting since November for a follow up speech therapy appointment. We finally have the initial appointment with the development consultant next week.

So, as for the mainstream school we have decided to just see how it goes to begin with. We have no language units nearby and dd is familiar with the current setting (F1 and F2 are in the same unit and come together to play) DD has no friends, she is happy to play alone. She will play with one or two of the girls, if they initiate play - she would never initiate play. She is uncomfortable around one of the girls in particular as she is a very touchy feely child and likes to give DD a cuddle - DD goes as stiff as a board and looks so awkward sad She holds it together all morning but then has almighty meltdowns in the afternoon. I just don't know what will happen come September.

Friolero Tue 21-Jun-16 18:09:22

I mainly judged it on instinct / feeling. In the SN school that he now has a place at, they just seemed so clued up on everything, and so had answered most questions / explained everything before I'd even thought of it or asked it! They were very good at adapting everything to meet the needs of each individual child. The children all have their own targets and timetables, but had plenty of time together as a group, they seemed happy, and the facilities were amazing. The classes were small, with a high level of adult support at all times (I.e, including at lunch / playtime). DS also spent some time in the classroom and was very happy there (which was amazing as he struggles so much with new and unusual situations).

When we were considering mainstream with 1:1, I was concerned he would spend his whole time out of the classroom separated from the other children, with just one adult. I wanted to know how they would adapt the timetable / teaching for him, but also how they would keep him included. I also had questions about toilet training / nappy changing and how they would adapt PE lessons (he also has a physical disability).

The only other thing I can think of to ask, is what are the main needs of the other children. At the mainstream school with a SEN unit attached that we looked at, there were currently no other children with a physical disability and I felt even that within the unit, DS would stand out as being different - the majority of children had autism and so everything seemed to be geared up to that, and they didn't seem to have as much expertise in other needs.

Donki Tue 21-Jun-16 18:22:56

I would look for a setting where your son can be given as much SaLT input as possible from a therapist who is experienced in working with autistic students. They can help with so much more than speech. I woukd not gave thought that much SaLT time would be available in mainstream. It wasn't at my son's school, whereas students in a school I know who have language delay/difficulties (several autistic students too) got 3 to 4 sessions of SaLT time a week timetabled, and all the staff were trained to support language skills.

Donki Tue 21-Jun-16 18:23:59

[Must remember to preview and check for typos blush ]

PandasRock Tue 21-Jun-16 19:21:10

If you're already doing ABA at home, is an ABA school an option? Just a thought.

As to your question re: SALT units, you'll have to ask the one you have in mind. Admission policy differs - it may be published on their website. Often the answer is yes, they will take children with ASD, but not with significant behaviour issues. 'Significant' being undefined, and therefore a movable feast, sadly.

PandasRock Tue 21-Jun-16 19:22:42

My dd1 is at an ABA school. She gets 30 minutes a week of individual SALT, a twice weekly SALT group, and her SALT targets are integrated into every part of her curriculum and day.

WellTidy Tue 21-Jun-16 19:59:18

I would really consider an ABA school but there are none in our LEA. So I'd have to make a case for DS to be funded out of borough, and it would almost certainly go to tribunal. I've spoken to our geographically closes ABA school which is Quest in Paddock Wood, but that is about 90 minutes drive for us and would involve a house move, and even they said that it was likely that DS would first be placed somewhere within our borough first. Some have limited myself to our borough first.

I really appreciate everyone's advice and experiences.

PandasRock Tue 21-Jun-16 20:26:10

I am not a million miles from Quest.

I do understand re: house moves. We moved 3 times to get dd1 into the school we wanted (long story!)

90 minutes from Quest is a long way. Are you sure there isn't another ABA school closer?

My dd's school is out of borough, so it is possible, but it is a lengthy fight. You already have part of the ammunition, though, as you are already running a programme, and have an end psych report supporting 1:1.

WellTidy Tue 21-Jun-16 20:51:30

Pandas, we live in Bromley. Snowflake is probably our closest ABA school, which is in Earl's Court, but that is a nightmare journey. Fastest in public transport (train, tube and tube and walk) but I couldn't do that twice a day with DS and driving into and out of London would take longer I think than 90 minutes.

We could also consider Jigsaw, but again we would have to move house.

We also need to be within commuting distance of work which is central London for DH. I wonder whether I will still be working at the time that DS starts full time school.

We Re fighting for a personal budget at the moment, to fund the fortnightly catch up meetings between the tutors and lead ABA consultant, which is what the ed psych recommends should continue. I want that recommendation in the EHCP.

Starting school in September 2017 seems ages off, but I need to be Informed and prepared.

notgivingin789 Tue 21-Jun-16 22:15:13

DS is at a specialist special and language school; though the school is mainly a social communication disorder type of school; DS gets very intensive SALT; combined with OT.

The speech and language units that I've looked at; tend to focus a lot more on Grammar and sentence structuring etc and not so much on social communication skills and social use of language; and the type of kids ( at the speech units I've looked at) who attended there, were children whose first language wasn't English; or children who only have specific speech impairment but whose social skilsl were intact and to be honest; they weren't units, like I imagined, like another poster said, the pupils spent 70% of their time in their mainstream class and they would go to the "speech unit", which really was a classroom in the school where pupils would spend some time there and go back to their class.

Also, typically, a speech and language therapist would only come in twice a week; or half a day in a speech and language unit. At DS specialist school; there are 20 speech and language therapists who are on site, full day and everyday.

Friolero I also get the 1:1 dilemma. To be honest; I wasn't really that thrilled when DS had his 1:1; of course I was happy that he had some one to one help; but I was worried if the TA would teach DS some social communication skills?; would DS be left out while the TA does some work with him?; would DS be dependent on the TA? etc etc.

notgivingin789 Tue 21-Jun-16 22:18:08

OP; if you want an ABA school and you'd won this at tribunal; then the LA is obliged to transport your son to school and back. DS school is far; and he is tired and often sleeping on the way back from school; but he has made so much progress that it is worth it.

bedelia Tue 21-Jun-16 22:29:06

WellTidy in your position I'd research to create a list of as many potential schools as possible (the Good Schools Guide has an excellent search function) and arrange to visit to get a "feel" for each placement: SS, Mainstream and Units alike.

Just done this for DS in preparation for EHCP, and also made lists of reasons why certain schools wouldn't be suitable.

The one which became my preference is an LA SS which uses TEACCH (I was so surprised when I found out!). Is this something you'd consider as an alternative to an ABA school?

blaeberry Wed 22-Jun-16 00:15:33

I wasn't sure if you knew from your posts so I thought I would just confirm - if you want to access a unit/base at a ms school you will have to apply for a place in the UNIT not just the school. This is often through a LA panel which may meet well before school application cut off dates (possibly as early as September). Criteria for language units vary but SLCN must be their primary need. ASD may not exclude a child but it would be usual to expect a child to be able to cope in ms were it not for their SLCN.

WellTidy Wed 22-Jun-16 15:50:18

Thanks very much all, this is great advice and suggestions. What does SLCN stand for please, and how would I know whether this was DS' primary need or whether something else was his primary need?

Donki Wed 22-Jun-16 15:57:34

Speech, language and communication needs

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