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HFA support in Cambridge primary schools

(12 Posts)
MovingFromEurope Sat 11-Feb-17 14:46:57


Apologies in advance for the length of this post! There's quite a lot going through my mind at the moment and I'd be grateful for any advice that forum readers can give me.

I am working in Cambridge while my partner and children live in Europe but am considering moving the family to join me later this year. My DS (6 years old) has a diagnosis of HFA and currently receives state-funded specialist interventions 4 times per week (45 minutes each session). He is in a mainstream classroom of 18 children and is doing well - his teacher says that, other than some difficulty with socialisation, he learns well and does not have disruptive behaviours.

From my own research, it looks like state schools in Cambridge can have large class sizes - up to 30 (sometimes even 32) children - and so I looked at options for private schools where class sizes, as I understand, are considerably smaller. We've been in touch with most of the private schools in Cambridge but unfortunately the response has not been great - they have invited him for assessments and, after a couple of hours, find it too hard to engage him and so reject him. My own take on this is that a couple of hours isn't nearly enough for him to feel at ease and perform in a new place - but it would be difficult to challenge their decision without coming across as a fussy parent.

I have also been in touch with my Cambridge GP about treatment options for HFA on the NHS. He has very kindly made us a referral to CAMHS but their response was negative and they suggested we do a CAF through DS's eventual Cambridge school. Community Paediatrics also made us the same suggestion - they said theirs was a purely diagnostic service and, given he already has a diagnosis, there was nothing else they could do for him. I've looked at the council's website for info on the CAF but the whole thing is still a bit of a mystery to me and I cannot figure out what treatments they can and would actually offer.

So my questions to the forum are:

(1) What do other children with HFA do for schooling? State or private? I've heard that Cambridge has quite a high proportion of kids on the autistic spectrum - surely a good number of them must be attending mainstream schools?

(2) To parents of HFA kids in state schools - what sort of support have your kids had in school? Do the large class sizes pose a problem or is this adequately compensated for by extra support?

(3) Regarding the CAF - how long does it take to get support down this route? What does it involve and what treatments/support can I reasonably expect from this process?

My fear is that my DS moves to Cambridge only to be left with no support from either the school or the medical system. Right now he is well looked after where he is, and I feel it would be wrong to move him if there is a risk of jeopardising his well-being.

Many thanks for any advice/info/personal experience you can offer.

terrifictoddlers Sun 12-Feb-17 08:41:06

Hello 'movingfromeurope'!

I don't have personal experience, so talking from professional knowledge and general mum talk.

I hear that sanction wood school (private and v small classes) is well suited to children with extra needs. You may well have already come across it in your investigations, but if not, might be worth a look.

At your sons age, most of the state primary schools would most probably cater well for him, and with the potential exception of sanction wood, would probably cater better for a child with additional needs, than most of the private schools.

My little one attends the new university school, and although he doesn't have additional needs, others in the school do and they appear to b very well supported with additional teaching support. Other primary schools have seperate resources within the school for SEN, so worth phoning round the primary's to see what they offer.

If he is high functioning and no mental health problems, CAMH won't take him and a CAF is a good option - it basically just identifies any needs he might have, with a view to identifying the best additional services to support him. However, if the school support is good, there probably won't b any additional needs??

(BTW, Cambridge is the home of great research: re HFA / ASC. Have a look online and there may be research on new interventions that your family could b part of if there is a lack of interventions from the LA)

Best wishes,

Catherine26 Sun 12-Feb-17 11:24:57

I'm slightly down the road in Essex. Friend has a hfa child and says Cambridgeshire is a bit of a nightmare for support. What area are you plan to live in as I'd look at local schools and check their Sen policies and also contact the sencos. Also check out Cambridge local offer. We live in a town 20 minutes from Cambs and my dd is in mainstream and has moderate autism (she needs ft 1:1 support). And we've got good support from the council team.

Tingalingle Sun 12-Feb-17 15:54:34

State-funded specialist interventions 4 times per week (45 minutes each)
sounds the sort of support most of us would dream of!

It's hard to imagine that level of support being replicated here in mainstream, where the most we've seen is a sort of containment policy at primary age - just enough help to keep a lid on things and prevent massive disruption to the rest of the class. DS never had anything I would call 'treatment' or specialist support for his ASD before secondary, though he did have a good, well-meaning primary and (eventually) 1:1 support there. But he's late teens now, so things may have improved since then.

terrifictoddlers Sun 12-Feb-17 17:05:30

Also, if you are not happy with mainstream options, you could check out 'Gretton school' in Girton. Don't know much about it personally, but might be worth a visit(?)

jaynebxl Sun 12-Feb-17 19:00:05

A caf is just an assessment form / signpost. If your ds was in a state school the senco and teacher would need to start the ball rolling by assessing him, planning for him then reviewing. After a couple of cycles of this, if they still feel they need extrenal help they can refer to the specialist teachers.

terrifictoddlers Sun 12-Feb-17 20:37:13

and me again.... re my earlier post - it was meant to say, 'sancton' wood, not 'sanction'! Damn that auto correct !!!

Catherine26 Sun 12-Feb-17 22:12:05

WHat did they do in the intervention? My dd has ft 1:1 and they do do specific intervention or work like on phonics. I visited gretton and it wasn't for us. What about castle school in cb4 if you wanted a more specialist school.

Tingalingle Sun 12-Feb-17 23:25:07

A child currently learning and doing well in mainstream would be unlikely to be offered a place at special school, I would think, Catherine?

MovingFromEurope Mon 13-Feb-17 00:31:29

Thank you, everyone, for all your replies! It's very good to hear from people who have local knowledge and first-hand experience and it's certainly given my partner and me plenty to think about.

terrifictoddlers - Sancton Wood was, unfortunately, one of the schools that invited him for a taster morning but then declined him after finding it too hard to engage him during the couple of hours he was there. I discussed this result with his current teacher who felt that one morning wasn't sufficient to show what he's really capable of. My DS did have 1:1 support in his current school but only in his first year; he hasn't needed it since last August. Re: autism research in Cambridge - I had a look at their website a while back and it doesn't look like they do any clinical work (the website suggested consulting a GP or the NAS). I did buy some of Prof Cohen's books on the 'Theory of Mind' and also the DVD for helping kids with ASD recognise emotions and think they're pretty useful for working with him at home.

terrifictoddlers, Catherine26 and Tingalingle - I did check out the websites of Gretton and Castle and it looks like a statement of special needs is required to get into one of these... and I think the route to getting a statement is again the CAF? Please correct me if I am wrong. Re: my DS's current interventions - it's psychotherapy twice a week and speech therapy twice a week. I don't have a background in medicine or psychology but, as I understand it, the psychotherapist works on anxiety management and symbolic play, while the speech therapist works on communication and language.

Thank you all again for your advice and suggestions. It's very much appreciated, and please do post anything else that you can think of which might be pertinent!

jaynebxl Mon 13-Feb-17 07:19:14

The route to getting a statement isn't the caf but an EHCP request. In fact statements have been replaced with EHCPs (Education Health and Care Plans). You can make an application yourself on a parent form or a school can do it on a professional form. They take about months though. It could be worth checking out Gretton as it is for autistic children.

Shells Thu 16-Feb-17 15:25:50

Hi, I have a son with HFA who started off in mainstream in Cambridge. He is 12. Happy to chat but prefer to do privately. Happy for you to message me.

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