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To think my DS might do better in a special school?

(25 Posts)
GratefulHead Sat 27-Dec-14 17:30:19

My DS is Y7 and is autistic, he isn't at all academic and copes on,y with a great deal of 1-1 support in mainstream secondary school. He started off in the second from bottom stream and I know he is being moved into the bottom sets next term. DS doesn't know this yet although he is aware that there will be moves made. He is so out of touch with all this that he is saying "I might go to set 4 Mum" which is a set up from where he currently is.

I was persuaded to choose mainstream secondary for DS due to the amazing progress he made in his Junior school . He went from P-scales in Y3 to L3 and 4 in his SATS at the end of Y6. He was awarded a certificate at the celebration assembly for outstanding progress in KS2. I was so proud of him....and I still am.

Since going into secondary school though he has struggled. The school are great, it's the smallest one locally with less than 1000 pupils. They give DS a great deal of support ...a 1-1 scribes for him and his handwriting is illegible for example. However, homework is a nightmare, DS doesn't see the point of it and doesn't want to do it. I scribe for him and its a constant struggle to prevent everything becoming a battle. It's been semi resolved by me doing much of the preparation so I can guide him and in some cases actually DOING the bloody homework and then going over it with him. I do ensure the teacher is aware if I do this though.

So.....academic work is a struggle but I would be happy with this if the mainstream system was working for him socially. That was one of the big positives put forward by the specialist teacher, that DS would benefit from mixing with non autistic children to see normal communication skills etc. which is all very well but from what I can gather this isn't happening, instead DS has become closer friends with a boy from his junior school who is also autistic. This is great in many ways but the reality is that DS isn't minding with other children and I get the impression that he and his friend spend all their spare time together.

Recently I found out a new free school is opening in Sept 2015 which will focus on children with communication issues such as speech and language disorders, autism, ADHD etc. DS is autistic with ADHD.

Given his learning difficulties (mild), his self esteem problems (about to take yet another battering as he is going down in set) and his choice of mixing with others like himself rather than the NT cohort I can't help thinking he would do better in a special school where the classes are even smaller. I don't think the LEA or his current school would agree though.

The SENCO is very nice but so far suggestions of an Alphasmart system (so DS can type his work) and support to do homework in school have not happened. I get this, I really do, the school is mainstream and having to fit in an increasing number of children with special needs. However, all I can see is DS's self esteem getting lower and lower.

Am going to approach the LEA in the New Year but AIBU in wanting to move DS. He seems happy enough in the school at the moment but I am concerned that this won't continue if he can't keep up with the work.

MatildaTheRedNosedReinCat Sat 27-Dec-14 17:41:27

I can't comment on the right school for your son. I guess it's a question of where you think he will enjoy the learning and meet his potential.

I have a friend who has a son with Aspergers. He copes fine at school but when he was this sort of age he struggled massively with homework. To him, school was school and home wan home and homework was eating into 'his' time. Eventually, after huge struggles ( getting work done was taking way too much time and effort and upsetting the whole family), they got him into the homework club at school and he completed all or most of his work there. Would this be an option? Otherwise I would be tempted to find out how long the task 'should' take, spend that length of time on it and then put the work away. If he gets into any trouble he will hopefully start to get more done. Of course, I would do this with the support of school.

I don't believe home life should be compromised by children refusing to cooperate with homework.

Tbh if he isn't benefiting in the way you have hoped from mainstream then changing school is certainly NU. Good luck.

RaspberrySnowCone Sat 27-Dec-14 17:41:27

We had similar issues with my brother through secondary (learning disability). My parents desperately wanted him to get on ok but he fell behind his peers so he enjoyed his time there but came away without a peer group and no useable skills. My parents them arranged for him to go to a specialist school/college and he has come on in leaps and bounds and loves it as well as having 'real' friends as opposed to just standing by people his age he has people to talk to and go to parties with etc. specialist education seems to still have a stigma attached to it when actually it's helps people to achieve everything within their potential and cope with 'the outside world' in a way that they can understand. Best thing that happened for my brother. Definitely worth exploring.

ocelot41 Sat 27-Dec-14 17:52:00

I am not a specialist, but didn't want to read and run. I have two friends who moved their DC to special schools, one at primary and one at secondary level. Both have compound special needs, including autism. Their children's low self-esteem was a key deciding factor in both cases.

Both children have flourished in an environment more geared to their needs and where they are not near the bottom all the time. They have also flourished socially and have lots of friends, although settling in took awhile as I am sure you can imagine. Their self esteem has soared and they are both much more able to cope in other kinds of environments because they aren't under stress the whole time at school. Plus the rage/melt down incidents have just vanished.

I don't pretend to know what would be right for your family, but it is an option worth looking at seriously. Hope you find a solution which works for you and your child - I know from my friends that it is such a worry.flowers

billiejeanbob Sat 27-Dec-14 18:02:50

If you copy this thread into special needs children there are some fab experienced posters who can offer advice.
I could potentially be in your position soon with dd, it's such a tough choice to make.

fanjoforthemammaries7850 Sat 27-Dec-14 18:13:06

I would definitely apply.

You are probably being discouraged from applying due to limited spaces, tbh.

CalleighDoodle Sat 27-Dec-14 18:18:28

Can school leave him in the set he is in? Those levels do not warrant being in a bottom set! Meeting with HOY7 to discuss the date the support offered will be implemented and you assume it o be the first week back. Find a lunchtime club that he likes to help him socialise more.

QueenofLouisiana Sat 27-Dec-14 18:30:29

Is he statemented or on an EHC plan? Most special schools would want one of those in place before considering him. The current school would probably need to make the application for a place at a school like this with you, but your opinions should be taken into account- along with those of your son. I'd ask to speak to the SENCO and specialist teacher together so that everyone gets the same information about what the school should be going for him. His levels at the end of Yr6 were ok, so how are they supporting his needs to maintain that progress?

QueenofLouisiana Sat 27-Dec-14 18:31:35

Sorry, should have paragraphed that. Couldn't really see what it looked like on my phone!

PortofinoVino Sat 27-Dec-14 18:38:53

My son, Aspergers, didn't cope in secondary school. He went to a special school where he thrived. I see no point in making a child struggle in every way just to keep them in 'inclusion'. I say, go for it OP smile

Nerf Sat 27-Dec-14 18:42:45

If he has a Statement you can ask fora change of school with few exceptions. If he has a Plan or its been converted to a Plan ask for an early annual review and ensure your request is sent to the LA. Look at ipsea on line. If he doesn't have a Plan or Statement you need to apply, but you are looking at twenty weeks if they agree to assess and longer if you have to appeal.

Ineedmorepatience Sat 27-Dec-14 18:50:01

I have pm'ed you grateful smile

lambsie Sat 27-Dec-14 18:54:39

I think it depends upon what special schools are available. The special schools local to me would not suit your son because they are aimed at children with severe learning difficulties but somewhere with expertise in asd might do.

GratefulHead Sat 27-Dec-14 19:00:17

Thank you for the responses, yes he does have a Statement of SEN and I am happy so far that it has been adhered to.
They don't have a homework club as such, just separate ones for each subject. DS does tend to compartmentalise things so that school is for school work and home is for relaxation and that doesn't include homework. It's only being done as I do it with him to try and back up what the school are teaching.

penelopicon Sat 27-Dec-14 19:23:11

I'm a teacher and have worked in both mainstream and special school settings, though mostly with primary school children. I can't answer definitively, but from what I've seen, if an autistic child is struggling with work and not making friends/connections in a school, then a special school will give them a much richer, comfortable, and educationally beneficial environment. I've found that if they don't play, chat, or interact with NT children, then instead of learning social cues and behaviour patterns, they sometimes come to reject and even resent them.

On the homework issue - I've seen this a lot! There's often a definite split between places, and trying to do school things at home might feel illogical, frustrating for your DS. I knew a family that made a special "study" (really a desk behind a room divider, which became a relaxing, quiet space) where they explained homework - a separate "state" to school and home - could be done. Maybe try something along those lines?

Every ASD child is different, and while the school your DS is in sounds like they're doing a brilliant job of supporting him, I'd say he'd thrive more in a different environment.

elderscrolls Sat 27-Dec-14 19:53:19

My DS has ASD and he transferred to a private special secondary school after a mainstream primary. It has been the best decision for him. The staff are well trained, the classes never have more than six students, and the whole school is much smaller with a high staff ratio so it's easier to keep an eye on any social issues. He isn't set any homework to do at home as it's school policy not to set any, as they recognise that it's almost impossible for students with ASD to manage it.

I'd agree that the idea that children will learn social skills simply by being in a mainstream environment is optimistic. DS certainly never learned how to be NT by being with NT children, it simply increases the risk of bullying ime.

We had to go to tribunal to secure our place at special school so don't be surprised if the LA turn down your request at first. But with help from organisations like Ipsea, and perhaps legal advice and private reports, you have a good chance of getting a special school place even if the LA is insisting there aren't places. And don't limit yourself to just the local school - our school is out of county and the LA has to pay for a taxi every day.

Eebahgum Sat 27-Dec-14 21:02:36

I'm a teacher and have worked with children that have asd in mainstream. One boy I taught moved to special school in year 5 and the progress he made was amazing. I've visited special schools that I think are fantastic - like a free private education in terms of class sizes and facilities. I'd certainly recommend visiting the special school to see how you feel about it.

beautifulgirls Sat 27-Dec-14 21:41:13

We moved DD1 to a SS middle of year 3 and the change in her has been very positive, both personally and academically. She is never going to be a high flier, but she is finally making some academic progress and the school is a huge support for her self esteem and overall welfare. We had to fight the LA for her place there and we had a lot of emotional turmoil about the choice to move her at the time, but I wouldn't change a thing in the decision. It is however very much about getting the right school too. We looked at others that would not have suited her but until you speak with the school and get a feel for the place (could be hard with a new school?) then you will not know for sure what it will be like and how it will suit.

jollydad Sun 28-Dec-14 01:51:51

Hi

If I read the OP right, your sons at the end of his first term at secondary?

Just wondering whether he just full settled in yet. My son has Asperger's and socially (and academically) it took him a fair while to get used to things at secondary. During the first year he spent most breaks at the learning support department and wasn't really integrated. Now in year 9 he barely goes there and has a variety of friends both with and without SEN.

Homework club - this is definitely worth pursing. Didn't work for my son but it does for others. A H/W club can be as simple as having a room set aside a few nights a week with a T/A in attendance. So not a massive drain on a secondaries resources especially if they have quite a few children with SEN now.

Alphasmart - I think you need to keep pressing for this. Again didn't work for my son (refused to use it) but apparently very effective with others.

Lastly you say the SENCO is "nice". I've come across quite a few SENCO's in my time now. I quickly realised you don't need them to be nice but to be effective. It doesn't sound like this one is especially so you'll have to keep pushing him/her.

So personally I think it might be a bit soon thinking of moving him. What about exploring the options for special schools but giving him a full academic year at his current school before making the decision?

cricketballs Sun 28-Dec-14 07:18:43

As a parent of a DS who has MLD and ASD in year 11 I can be 100% in saying that the special school he attends has been the right setting. Whilst my DS is academically at lower levels than yours (just going to L1/2); he does have friends at his school that are going to take GCSE exams and they have also thrived. Small classes, very high staff numbers (who are specifically trained), and a curriculum more suited to needs, for example travel training and life skills than can be offered at mainstream.

As a secondary school teacher I can also testify that I have taught students whom mainstream was not benefiting them as we couldn't fully meet their needs (even with 1-1support) as well as students whom mmainstream was the best option due to their academic abilities meant that they were able to achieve far more than in a special school.

Op; I can only suggest you investigate the options and whether your DS's needs will be met. The part of your post which I am most concerned is the special school is a 'free' school. This would be an aspect which would need the most investigation as a number of free schools have closed

OneInEight Sun 28-Dec-14 07:23:50

We had the decision for a SS for ds1 (AS) forced upon us (excluded from mainstream blush ) but in all honesty it was the best thing that could have ever happened to him. He learnt a lot of anti-social behaviour when he was in mainstream but it has been SS where he has learnt good social skills.

We did worry a lot about academic needs but actually because the SS was small they had the flexibility to meet his academic needs well. I overheard another parent recently saying that her son referred to his SS as an "elite school" which I absolutely loved. There can be stigma and a certain amount of brainwashing by the LEA's to promote mainstreams as it is the cheaper option for them but for many children on the ASD spectrum including my sons it is not the right place.

GratefulHead Sun 28-Dec-14 13:33:18

Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and experiences. Just reading them has helped me clarify some stuff in my head.

Right ...am going to ask for a meeting with SENCO, head of year and the specialist teacher in the new year. Will stress that while I love the school I have no desire to see DS flounder in the bottom sets being left behind (due to his autism. .not due to them) and that if this is to be the case then I will feel a special school setting might be better for him. Will say that I will watch over the rest of the academic year before leaping to any conclusions. I will see what they say in response to that.

Frusso Sun 28-Dec-14 13:48:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Dipankrispaneven Sun 28-Dec-14 14:20:39

Is Alphasmart in the statement? If not, I suggest you ask for it. Even if the LA doesn't agree to a change of schools it may well agree to that, and then there will be no choice but to supply it.

But it sounds to me as if you have a good case for special school. If they're looking at moving DS down a set then by definition he isn't making progress which demonstrates that the support he's getting isn't adequate. Children with autism often find secondary mainstream more difficult to cope with than primary, no matter how good the school may be.

I just wanted to add one tiny point, as a former secondary school teacher; bottom sets tend to be much smaller than middle sets, so it could be that your son will benefit from the move IF associating it with failure/ not doing well can somehow be avoided. The bottom sets I taught were often nicer places to be (with a TA often present, only 10 or 12 children, usually with children with mild SEN or EFL but not with the disruptive children with behavioural difficulties who can dominate lower middle sets of 30, not deemed to require TA support...). It might be worth keeping a slightly open mind and asking why he's being moved - if the school is good there is a chance its because he will benefit from calmer, smaller groups....

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