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Being sent to Autistic Unit without a diagnosis or formal appraisal

(5 Posts)
prettybird Mon 21-Feb-11 15:01:04

Not sure where the best place for this is - I'll post in Chat and Primary Education as well as it is urgent. Sorry it is a bit long.

A friend of mind has just (today) been informed by letter from the council's education dept that her ds (8) has a place at the local Autistic Unit starting in August - not something she had been pushing for.

He is in P4 (=Y3) and she has been asking unsuccessfully for an assessment since he was in P1. She's finally managed to speak to the head mistress of his current school who said that her DS met all the criteria of a child with Asperger's and that he would be better off at the unit and that he didn't need to have a diagnosis to attend.

She has an emergency meeting at the school tomorrow morning with the head and the education psychologist to discuss. She has had dealings with the education psychologist but there has been no formal appraisal or referral to other services/support - in fact I was talking to her yesterday about her frustration about the lack of an appraisal and offered to help her write a letter demanding asking for the appraisal.

She is not sure how she feels: devastated, upset, maybe in denial (direct quote from the email from her) She is trying to write down questions and can't think of any just now - so I thought I'd ask the wisdom of Mumsnet (with her permission).

Her son is challenging - but is also very bright. He is youngest in his year - which had been her dilemma when sending him to school as he was ready educationally but not socially (in Scotland we do have the option of genuinely keeping them back a year, so that a child ends up one of the oldest in the year rather than the youngest).

He is capable of major meltdowns - but also understands discipline. He relates fine with adults. I know her (and her son) through Minis Rugby, where the coaches can cope with him - ensuring that he had clear boundaries and when he transgressed them he had a "time out" (no different to the other kids, although he possibly had more timeouts than most).

He was kept in the P1-P3 group for a couple of extra months (as his coaches had a good relationship with him), but he is now training with the rest of the P4s. His P1-P3 coach says some days he could be fine - really good, helpful, charming, but other days he could be awful - although he only once over the 2 years had to send for his mum. He can understand, however, how a school might find it unacceptable to have a child that needs that much attention (fine on a rugby pitch when you can send them to the side).

He has been excluded from the school 3 times over 4 years - always with the support of his mum. However, she has not been happy to find out that recently he has been the subject of bullying (coming home in "spare" school trousers because he had pushed into the mud) and not been told about it (she only found out when she washed the trousers and noticed that they were girl's trousers).

Should she allow this to go ahead without a formal statement? What sort of questions should she be asking? Having looked at the HMI (Ofsted) report for the Unit and the School Handobook, a lot of the emphasis of the Unit is on "learning core social skills" (and not so much on "mainstream" schooling one of the HMI's criticisms). It also has shorter school hours and different playtimes to those of the mainstream school it is attached to (again, a criticism by HMI - so that may have changed).

How will that impact on her ds' long term education? What should her next steps be?

CameronCook Tue 22-Feb-11 12:26:15

I think first of all your friend needs to look round the school and get a feel for it.

I would also suggest a meeting of the head of old school, new school, Ed Psych - anyone else involved in looking at the childs needs to establish where this decision has come from.

I would still be pushing for a diagnosis - theres been lots of discussion about labels etc that sometimes bypasses the importance that a diagnosis offers so many more open doors.

Will your friends DS be statemented? If so then this will usually have details of his issues and needs and may indeed go some way to supporting a diagnosis in terms of documenting his condition.

Will go away and think more about this.

GooseyLoosey Tue 22-Feb-11 12:30:37

I don't think a head and an ed pysch can diagnose autism. It should be done by a peadiatrician. I have no experience of this kind of unit, but would have thought it could be damaging for a child who does not have the condition it caters for.

I think I would push for referral to a paediatrician and full diagnosis before I accepted this, but that is from a largely uninformed perspective (although ds has also been assessed by an ed pysch for social issues).

Lokovatoress Tue 22-Feb-11 23:11:08

On which basis do they want to place him to the special school? Is it going to be the statement? Did they prove exhaustively that a mainstream school cannot meet his needs? What is going on at school now is due in significant part to lack of understanding of his needs and absense of corect support to meet those needs.

Both the diagnosis and the Statement requires a comprehensive multidisciplinaruy assessment in different context - at school, at home etc. This process gives your friend the structure, the time and support to question, to learn about Asperger and to consider what is right for her son. I feel it is not right that they are pushing so abruptly for sucj drastic action.

If he is bright and high functioning he might be better of in mainstream school with the right support. What future does your friend sees for DS? My feeling is that with SEN the parents should be in the driving sit. Parents know best. I have DS with high functioning AS and I was furious when a specialist suggested special school. My DS is now doing fine in mainstream grammar with the right statement. I would beware of the LEA or school that do not want to invest in the right support via a statement and are in the hurry to put the child in special school. This is not a decision to be taken lightly.

I would ask for a diagnisis, the statutory assessment of SEN and would take Parent partnership to the meetings.

prettybird Fri 25-Feb-11 20:45:14

Update over here from taramoonstone, the mother of the boy in question.

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