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Private vs. State for high functioning autism

(31 Posts)
MonsterDeCookie Fri 06-Nov-15 14:47:43

Our 3.8 year old DS has just been diagnosed as HFA. He has not handled nursery well and we have ended up pulling him out. The Ed Psych/Neuropsycholohist who has been working with him recommended a private pre-prep that she believes would suit him well. We put him down for the assessment for reception which I honestly didn't think he would pass and lo and behold he did. It's a selective preprep that feeds mostly into very academic schools. He struggles in large groups and with lots of noise. She is concerned that he won't cope well in a group of 30. We moved to this house in part to be in the catchment of the local outstanding primary. I like the idea of being part of the community and walking to school but I don't want to make the wrong choice for him.

Littlefish Fri 06-Nov-15 15:02:31

Is he likely to get an education and health care plan?

I have taught in both private and state primary schools, and have a child who has been educated in both (although she does not have HFA).

My honest opinion is that the state system offers better support for children with additional needs. Support for additional needs in the private schools I've known tends to be an "add-on" to the normal class teaching, rather than integrated into the classroom for all children which has been my experience of the state system.

Whilst I hear what you are saying about the busy classroom issue, have you been to the state school to discuss your concerns with the head teacher and SENCO to find out about the provision they already have in place for other children as there will undoubtedly by other children within the school with Autism.

Alternatively, is there another state primary school he could attend which is a smaller school?

MonsterDeCookie Fri 06-Nov-15 15:35:11

We are in London and all the state schools near us are massively oversubscribed so the one closest to us is really the only option. It's 3 form entry with 30 in each class and all three classrooms flow into a common area. The bottom line is 90 kids and 6 teachers in a hall-like space. I'm afraid he's just going to shut down. I don't know yet if he will get an EHCP. He doesn't have any cognitive deficiencies or learning disabilities that we know of. The paediatrician said that it's much harder to get one for high functioning kids than it used to be. He won't be a problem for anyone else. He will just curl in a ball and be miserable. The school is rated outstanding and most of the parents seem happy. My hesitation is that the private schools are also heavy oversubscribed and if we pass up our place now I don't think we will get another opportunity. The pre-prep is 16 in a class and single form entry.

MonsterDeCookie Fri 06-Nov-15 16:46:26

I did try to meet with the head and the senco but because we haven't officially been allocated a place yet they won't to to me.

Lowdoorinthewall Fri 06-Nov-15 16:59:14

Even without an EHCP I would develop a very clear picture in your own mind of the support you think your DS is going to need. Go and talk to the pre-prep and to the State school (after you are allocated a place) and then go with the one that you think will come closest to meeting his needs.

You say your DS didn't handle nursery- what sort of behaviours/ responses to the environment went with that?

mary21 Fri 06-Nov-15 17:51:33

Ds1 (asd) did not cope well with nursery but loved reception. When he went through it was quite structured and they sat at the same table each day with the same children. They had carpet places. There was lots of lining up for things. He loved the structure and predictability. When DS2 went through reception was much more play based and free flow which worked for him as a NT child but I remember thinking DS1 wouldn't have coped. In fact when he went into year 2 I remember thinking his play skills were now good enough to start nursery! However his maths reading etc were all age appropriate.
A lot depends on the school not the sector it sits in. Which is the best fit for your child.
Do look at all the local schools not just the catchment one. I would be wary if a Sen Co won't

mary21 Fri 06-Nov-15 17:58:19

Sorry posting problem. I would be wary if a school is resistant to discussing your child's needs prior to them getting a place. You can apply for a EHCP yourself and also you can apply for a school on social emotional medical grounds. You will need evidence. So do check out other state schools.Ofsted outstanding isn't always best.
Another thought sad though it is, going to your local community school won't necessarily make you part of the community. If your child has SN the school can be very inclusive but it can't make the other parents inclusive.
Just a few points to think of. Pick which ever you think your child would thrive in.

Mrbrowncanmoo Fri 06-Nov-15 18:48:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Finola1step Fri 06-Nov-15 18:57:22

In all honesty, if you can find the money for private, do it.

I say this as a teacher who has taught in wonderful state schools in London. I have taught many children on the ASD spectrum both pre and post dx. I have a sister who was not diagnosed until 27.

Either find a small, supportive state school or go private. 90 children in an open Reception = a nightmarish sensory overload.

Lowdoorinthewall Fri 06-Nov-15 20:05:39

This should be balanced out with reference back to the poster on here who had moved her whole family to be near a prep in London that she thought would be perfect for her DS with HFA. She had been in close negotiation with the school who had assured her, prior to joining, that they could and would meet her DS's needs.

She was posting a term in having been asked to withdraw her DS, who was already only in school for a few hours a week, because they had decided they couldn't meet his needs. They seemed to be mainly saying that he was on his own agenda a lot and not joining in with class routines. They were expecting the poster to pay for 1:1 on top of school fees.

On that thread the poster was unanimously told to look for a state school.

Mrbrowncanmoo Fri 06-Nov-15 20:25:06

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Cookingwine Fri 06-Nov-15 21:00:10

I am in the same situation for DD about choosing her secondary school. A massive co-ed state school with outstanding OFSTED and state of the art SEN department where all the staff have at least level 2 certificate in ASD, or her cosy girls private school without any qualifications in ASD, but familiar. She regularly has meltdowns about perceived pressures from school but how am I to know if this as good as it gets or if it would be better in the new school? If she gets a place in the oversubscribed state school we will be tempted to take it, but this is really stressful.

BluePancakes Fri 06-Nov-15 21:06:46

I'm just going to butt in then butt out again to say home education is a legal alternative to state or private school, where your child would be able to get an education tailored to their individual needs. I know not everyone wants to Home Ed, or has other constraints that prevent them from doing so, but where I live there are lots of children with ASC who are home educated and are thriving compared to their time at school; they have active social lives too, if that's a concern.

MonsterDeCookie Sat 07-Nov-15 06:49:42

Thank you all for your replies. Does anyone have the link back to the post in which the family are being asked to leave the prep? It's exactly the scenario I fear most.

Before kids, I thought home ed might be interesting option but if I'm honest I struggle mightily at times with DS and I can't imagine being in sole charge of his education. I don't think it would be healthy for either of us.

Dh and I went to have a meeting with the head after we received the offer and I was very blunt about my concerns regarding taking the place and then having it not work. We will have turned down our state school place at that point and getting an in year reception place in london is the stuff of nightmares! She did listen and offered to have him come back for a morning or two so they could see more of him and get a better feel for the fit. So I suppose we will see how it goes. I fee like he can present as very NT until triggered and then it's a mess. Once he's triggered it's a huge battle to get back to where we were.

DS went to a Montessori nursery and was fine so long as he wasn't pushed. The problem came with using the materials 'in the right way'. The teacher was quite forceful and he's quite rigid. If he doesn't think it should be used in a certain way, it's plain not happening. She went head to head with him and he freaked out. He just shut down and stopped choosing anything. He just sat at a desk with his down. He started asking if he had to go to nursery the next day and if the answer was yes he just began to sob and shake. The nursery said I just keep sending him but we are on year 3 of the same nursery and I just couldn't do it to him anymore. He was so distressed. So we pulled him. I wanted him to have a positive start to school and I ended up with the opposite.

MonsterDeCookie Sat 07-Nov-15 06:55:08

I should also add that neither DH nor I went to a British school which is making things even trickier. At home kids don't start school until at least 5 so get an extra year home. Most people tend to hold boys back for an additional year. We have lots of friends at home who teach reception in state schools and they are horrified by 30 in a class. None of this is helping my anxiety over what to do! DS has come on so much in the last six months I wish we could just hold him out a year and then maybe try state.

Duckdeamon Sat 07-Nov-15 07:03:03

In your shoes I would focus on progressing the EHCP - IPSEA website is useful - and identifying whAt kinds of support he is likely to need. and whatever you decide about reception look wider, eg to move within London or even commute for a suitable school. Lots of private schools openly state they will only help DC with VERY minor SEN - and others say they will but then don't. the other thread is not unique, have heard of several situations in RL with kids who are not NT or have SEN being let down and / or encouraged to leave. They can also charge an awful lot for specific support if the DC needs this.

mrz Sat 07-Nov-15 07:15:49

I don't think you should be thinking in terms of state or private but which school can best support your child's needs. Any school that refused to talk to me would ring alarm bells. I agree a EHCP would be a priority as you could potentially name your chosen school.

Fairylea Sat 07-Nov-15 07:20:46

I have a son aged 3.5 with autism (he is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum) and we are going through the whole mainstream / special / what kind of school thing.

The one thing I will say is that whoever tried to put you off going for the ehcp is incorrect - they are still being issued for all kinds of autism and you don't need anyone to apply for you, you can do it yourself through your councils website. The council then apply for reports from everyone involved in your child's care and they then decide whether to issue an ehcp. There is no harm in trying. We are now at the final stages of report gathering (had speech assessment yesterday and educational psychologist observing ds on Monday). It takes a long time (20 weeks plus) from beginning to end so I would definitely apply now.

Scope and ipsea have great ehcp support and information.

For us we are looking more towards special schools because we know ds wouldn't cope with mainstream environments (mainly the class sizes and noise) and he has a lot of sensory issues. His speech is a year delayed and yesterday at the speech assessment we were told he is in the bottom 2% for his age for comprehension. However I know this may be a very different situation from your child, just giving you some background.

MrsCampbellBlack Sat 07-Nov-15 07:30:01

Friend has a child with HFA at a private school, questions I would ask based on her experience are:

- how much additional 1:1 do they envisage your child needing - you will have to pay for this and it can mount up very quickly
- will they guarantee/think it likely that they will let your child progress through the whole school
- have they got/had any children with HFA before and what happened?

I hope it works out for you.

Lowdoorinthewall Sat 07-Nov-15 07:32:59

I will see if I can find you the link.

Just wanted to add that my DS is NT but has some traits and some social communication issues (I am an ASD Teacher so I feel reasonably confident saying this). He also went to Montessori Nursery and, whilst the school was amazing, it was a disaster for him. It made him so anxious he was biting his hands until they were constantly bleeding and they were starting to tell me had significant behavioural difficulties. The also wanted me to stick with it (the school went through to 11)- I think they thought they could 'break' him.

By chance we moved across the country before DS started Reception. He ended up starting at a VERY laid back, totally non-selective (DS is bright so my natural instinct would have been to put him in selective) prep in a class of 8.

He is a different boy! He adores school. He is learning in leaps and bounds and because he is not anxious he does not show any unhelpful behaviours at all. For what it's worth, I'm not sure at all that his anxieties would have dropped to this extent in a selective school where there was pressure to achieve certain things at certain times. For example- he didn't write or draw at all until May/June of Reception. They didn't push it. Then, as soon as he showed interest, they gave him 1:1 and he caught up. If they'd pushed him before he showed he was ready (as I think a selective would have) I rather think he wouldn't be writing now and would probably be throwing pencils in every literacy lesson.

Sorry- bit of a ramble. I think I was just trying to make the point that you want a genuinely child centred school!

MonsterDeCookie Sat 07-Nov-15 07:48:11

Almost all baby/toddler classes we tried were a nightmare. Arts and crafts/drama/singing/swimming - nope! Then we tried little kickers football and he loves it! I joked with my DH that I just want to take him there every day. Even now in the 3.5-5 class he's thriving. He can follow along and will execute all the drills because he wants to. I'm in the room which helps tremendously. He is a very physical child and the movement is what he loves. I don't think the coaches know he's not NT. He doesn't smile but he does want to be there and be a part of the group. He also doesn't celebrate when he scores a goal which confuses the coaches. He just doesn't see the point! I suppose the fact that he can and does function in that group setting gives me some hope for school.

I have no idea how or what kind of support he will need in reception which is making things harder. I see him at LK and think he doesn't need 1:1 but then nursery was a mess. A school that won't push him and wait for him to show an interest would, I think, suit him down to the ground. If you wait for him to come to an activity he's fine. Even trying to get him to play with a toy he hasn't chosen at home is hard going.

I'm going to look into starting the EHCP myself but I don't think it will be done by the Jan 15 deadline for state schools which will mean we can't name a school - is that right? I'm not sure which school I would name anyway as the nearest 6 that I know of all have 30 in a class.

Happyminimalist Sat 07-Nov-15 08:00:19

A larger inner city state primary has much more experience of SEN. Do talk to the head.

Sirzy Sat 07-Nov-15 08:02:40

I don't think it should be private v state but which you think is best for your child.

Ds goes to a state primary. The support they give him is fantastic and as such he is progressing very well and most importantly is happy at school. Other schools I visited o wasn't confident they could meet his needs in the same way.

MonsterDeCookie Sat 07-Nov-15 08:07:07

I would love to talk to the head of our local school but have been denied. The only group tour spot left if for Jan 7! I'm going to try to go see a few other of the local primaries but I'm not hopeful that I can even get on a group tour before the jan 15 deadline. Does anyone know how priority would work if we don't have the EHCP in place before Jan 15? If I put a school that isn't our closest first but have no prayer on distance will I not get the local school either?

Lowdoorinthewall Sat 07-Nov-15 08:08:20

Sirzy I agree- the right school is not a sector question.

I can't find the link to the other thread, sorry.

I think you need to ask questions along the lines of 'how will you deal with it if DS refuses to do what the rest of the class are doing/ go where the rest of the class are going' etc and listen very carefully to the answers. If they start talking about sanctions and missing playtime then it is probably not the right school.

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