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To try and help my sister who feels a lot of resentment towards her sons sen school.(35 Posts)
My sister has a little boy who is 5 in October.
He has autism, he is non verbal with very limited understanding. He is her only child.
He currently splits his time between a mainstream nursery ( attached to a mainstream school) where he has full time 1:1 support and a nursery attached to a sen school.
My sister loves the mainstream nursery and is always singing its praises but is very resentful of the other setting ( which he will go to full time in September) she is critical of every aspect of the school.
She criticises his care, has contacted mps and picks apart every thing they are doing and trying to implement.
The mainstream nursery cannot manage his complex needs so he won't remain there and attend the attached school when he begins reception this year.
The school he will attend specialises in autism and I know other parents of children who attend the school that sing their praises from the rooftops.
My sister is increasingly negative about it.
I think a lot of it is that she wants him to have some "Normality"and maybe on another level there's an element of denial.
( She mentioned him being more capable and advanced than other children there)
I haven't written this thread to judge it's from a place of genuine concern as I don't want my nephew to start the school from a negative standpoint, she is making it very difficult for the staff and I don't want them to see her as a problem parents before he properly starts.
Do you think she will develop an element of acceptance as he goes through the school? Is there anything I can do to help!?
As a parent of 2 autistic children who have been failed by the school system and are now homeschooled i'd suggest that you respect your sister's judgement.
She is the only advocate for his needs, it is not her job to be friends with staff it is her job to ensure the school meets his needs.
That’s not what OP asked though is it? Unkind.
OP does your sister have a solution in mind or is she too unhappy to have got that far yet?
It's not unkind. Do you have autistic children? Parents of autistic children are often judged and often by family members.
If the sister is writing to MPs it is because she believes that the child's needs are not being met. She should not be judged a troublemaker by her sister for that.
And she asked how she can help. I have answered by suggesting she is supportive of her sister and believes her sister when she says she has concerns rather than taking the side of the school based on the opinions of third parties.
I think she will realise once he starts that the school is good for him (if it is). And I don't think anything you say will make her realise quicker so just be there and let her vent. Appreciate it is a shame mainstream can't accommodate if that is her preference and wait for nephew to settle in. Hard but just listen and support.
I think people need to listen to her concerns, she obviously doesn’t believe this is the right setting for her child so those worries need to be listened to.
I chose to send my son to mainstream for primary because I knew it was the right choice for him with 1-1. We are about to decide on secondary now and the specialist provisions that many say are amazing I refuse to send him too because they aren’t the right place to meet his needs.
She does sound like she's hoping that if he could remain in the mainstream school he will either learn or grow out of some of his issues, which just isn't true. As you say she is somewhat in denial and in a way who can blame her? Does she have a partner? What are his thoughts?
Autism is a range - there is no typical. Her son may well be more capable than some other children, and not as capable as others. But he needs specialist care and therapy and it seems she has the opportunity for her son at this other school.
Most parents of children with learning issues become experts at advocating for their child. I'm not sure how you can help her see this is the best option, other than be supportive of her feelings - this does not mean agree with her, just acknowledge she is struggling to accept a reality she doesn't want.
Children with ASD are very different and a school that meets the needs of one well could very easily be awful for another.
My DD1 attended a mainstream Austin base that did a great job for the lower functioning pupils who weren't able to access the mainstream lessons but nearly destroyed her. That really is no exaggeration.
A significant proportion of school staff are very inflexible and will use one set of strategies that they have seen work. If they don't work for other children, they plough on regardless and blame the child or the parents. As a parent, it's a horrific position to be in.
I feel for your sister. If his needs aren't being met in school, he could become traumatised easily and that takes an awful lot of undoing.
She started the school placement from a a position of trust, having had a positive experience previously. There must be a reason why that trust has broken down.
Just continue to support her. Let her do what she needs to do for her son.
If she wants him to remain in mainstream then that should be respected. If she has issues with the other school, that should be respected.
She sounds like a caring mum who wants the best for her child. You need to support her on this 100 percent.
This is one of many battles your Dsis will have to face.
I'm in the other side of it DS is starting mainstream I'm dreading it. I know he wont be able but as he has DMDD emotional dysfunction with level 1 SPD he is not eligible for SEN school. He can't cope with noise or crowds. Your Dsis is inspiring me to fight.
She probably needs to look at provision outside of LEA , 'the LEA will always try and push parents into LEA special school,s as it's cheaper ,but it's not always one size fits all ,there are privite providers that might suit him better but these will inevitably more expensive.
I think you should respect your Dsis's judgment, she knows her son best. Her son has a right to a mainstream education and if the mainstream school can't meet his needs, the local authority can help through his EHCP.
I really appreciate all the advice and all the different perspectives. Just a few points to clarify.
I really do want to support her and I'm posting here for advice so I don't say or do the wrong thing.
She has been told he won't thrive in mainstream as his needs are to complex.
She has said things like he is too advanced for the school as he can take his shoes off and feel he would be more suited to mainstream as he would have more chance to socialise with neurotypical children.
She felt the sen school weren't pushing him enough which I obviously can't have an opinion on.
She is not in a good place at the moment. I truly want to help but maybe I just need to be a sounding board for her.
Just support her, I bet she feels like the world is against her at the moment, respect she knows what her child needs better than the school. Of course mainstream won't want him if there is a sen school offer, it will cost them time and money, doesn't mean he wouldn't be better there with a 1:1. Don't dismiss your sister as delusional about her sons abilities or 'in denial' because she believes your nephew is more capable than others are saying. Autistic children are often underestimated one way or another- sometimes their abilities are underestimated, sometimes how much they struggling is underestimated, trust your sisters instincts.
She knows his capabilities. He may thrive in mainstream but without the choice who knows?
@cantdothisnow1 Do I have autistic children? What sort of question is that? Do you want to comment on my life too?
All children are different (whether or not they have additional needs) as are all families. Not all parents are able, or want, to do the best for their children. Not all parents can home school, not all children benefit from home schooling - see what I’m doing here?
You said OP should not take the word of third parties and then chuck in your threepennorth when you haven’t met anyone mentioned or done any more than read the original post.....
It does sound like she doesn’t want to accept that mainstream school isn’t an option and is worried that the SEN school will define him and not help him progress, but if the school is saying they can’t cope with him she needs to accept he cannot stay there, it’s in no ones best interests to force the school to take him. She could maybe look to see if any other mainstream schools would be willing to accept him?
I think all you can do is be a sounding board for her and provide a shoulder to cry on while she’s fighting the system and her own emotions, you sound a lovely sister!
I agree that you need to step back and be more of a sounding board for her. Be the person she can spill all her thought to so that she can pick through them and then make decisions, don't give your opinion or advice on those decision unless asked for it.
She obviously doesn't think the specialist school is the right environment for him, has she visited other schools from both streams to see what they can offer? Maybe this is something you could support her with.
I haven't said anything to her as like people here have said she knows her son best. I don't have any personal experience with autism but I have a lot of professional experience which may be clouding my judgement.
The school said themselves that they would struggle to meet his needs and I feel an element of that is his behaviour towards other children, he communicates by biting and lashing out, he screams constantly, he struggles to engage and prefers to run around for hours at a time.
He is a beautiful child and I adore him as I adore my sister but from the minute she was told a special school would be best for him she has struggled to process it.
I will take everyone's advice and continue to be a sounding board for her, she is under an incredible amount of stress and has coped with the situation admirably.
Please tell her she's doing a good job, OP, I bet she needs to hear it
She may be right that the expectations in the special school are low. I think it can be very difficult to find where your child fits in if they have special needs. It may be that mainstream can't manage his behaviour and the special needs school will do better with this whilst the expectations are low and pace of learning at the sen school is slow. Many special schools are set up to accept a very wide range of disabilities and this can mean that they do not meet the needs of a particular group that well. When my ds who has severe autism was little he went to one of these schools and in all honesty he learnt very little even about looking after himself. He was still in nappies aged 10. He left and went to a specialist independent and was out of nappies in three months. Your sister is right to be wary.
Imagine there is no school that can ever meet your child's needs fully, this happens to thousands of autistic children up and down the country due to the fact that there is a grey area between sen schools which are often for low achieving children and mainstream schools which are huge and mainstream school which suit their academic ability but they can't manage due to their other complex issues such as speech and language or sensory differences.
I haven't chosen to home educate my children, I have had no choice due to the fact that there is no school. I won a case against the local authority lodged with the Local Government Ombudsman last year acknowledging that the Local Authority had failed my daughter due to failing to provide an alternative provision to her.
The only option for my children, as there is no school for 100s of miles, is either residential which can meet their academic abilities , particularly my eldest who is extremely bright but can't cope in mainstream (he was so anxious he tried to kill himself at 10) or to home ed.
So, with respect, it does make a difference because parents of SEN children have constant battles that you have no idea about unless you've been there.
The OP does is a supportive sister which is great. The best support she can give is to see her sisters point of view and to accept that if her sister believes that school is inappropriate it probably is.
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