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Stay or go in secondary - child with high functioning Aspergers

(45 Posts)
shelbys Mon 08-Apr-19 14:04:18

Hi my first post. My son is in year 8 at a small private school. when he was 5 he was 'diagnosed' with aspergers which presents itself as him being social awkward, quite shy, and lacking in social skills..sometimes blurting out random things...and his voice is a little slow. His primary were no help & he has now gone to small private boys school. We thought there would be geeks there and he might find his people. Turns out tho that it's very sporty...and boys fall into sporty or full on geeks and neither group quite fit him (he enjoys sport but not brilliant) Is academic...lovely with us and very resilient...despite being very isolated... School is not helping and cannot see that there is a problem. I don't know what to do. Should we try and change him for year 9 to a more academic less sporty school....should we try and get back into our much bigger state school.... should we get private help...can social skills really be improved after age 13? Help please, as feeling quite exhausted with trying to find the right thing to do.... sad

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Mary19 Mon 08-Apr-19 14:20:26

Is he happy there? Is he doing well academically? Sometimes it’s us as parents who want their children to find there tribe. The kids are quite happy as they are especially if the feel accepted.
Obviously if he unhappy it’s a different story.

LIZS Mon 08-Apr-19 14:23:45

Is his current school supporting him and willing to continue to do so? Tbh you have left it quite late to consider alternatives for September now.

Punxsutawney Mon 08-Apr-19 14:26:55

I'm not sure how much I can advise you but our Ds is similar. He is year 10 and currently undergoing assessment for autism. Ds seemed to cope at primary so we didn't go down the diagnosis route. Unfortunately he has not coped as well at secondary.

Ds attends an all boys state grammar. He is bright and was not tutored to get in. I also thought he would find his 'people'. Unfortunately it has not been a good fit for him at all. The behaviour can be quite poor and the school does not seem to value academics as much as I thought they would and has very little pastoral care. Ds finds the whole place overwhelming not so much the academic/school work more the culture of the school. I have tried since year 7 to get him to move schools but he says he couldn't cope with doing that.

I too worry about social skills, Ds doesn't have a diagnosis yet so school are not particularly supportive . Sorry, I'm not much help but I would say if you are going to move him do it soon. It's too late to move our Ds now. I would definitely look for a school with good pastoral care.

kerkyra Mon 08-Apr-19 14:34:03

Hi OP, not sure if this will help but sometimes when you have so many choices,it all gets so confusing and you don't know what to do for the best. Does he seem content?
My son is 11 and has asd,high functioning. He is going to the local comprehensive in September which is large compared to his 70 pupil primary. I'm a single mother so short of money but I have calmed down and feeling quite positive about it now. I spoke to the senco at the new school (who has loads of children with special needs) and he seems to know what he's doing?!
Chat to your son,he maybe quite oblivious to any concerns you have and maybe happy.

Penguinpandarabbit Mon 08-Apr-19 14:37:14

Have a child in y7 who is undiagnosed ASD and similar. We are at state and tbh he is on the limit of what they can cope with and no funding for any support. Advantage is its free. If you could say get into a state school that gets good results and has specialist autism provision that would be considering but its very rare.

If he's happy and you can afford it would stay put. Not sure a more academic school would help. If its just friends you want for him we found David Lloyd helped him meet other kids and get to not hate PE.

Maybe look round schools.

shelbys Mon 08-Apr-19 16:02:22

Hello - sorry if I get this wrong as it's me attempting my first reply ;) Thank you so much for all your advice. He is happy with the work at school - it's very structured. It is late to leave it for year 9 I know - but I feel like it's my last chance before we get into GCSE's. I think he is content academically and with the general flow of the school. He won't talk about other boys and says he doesn't know how to make small talk. So I don't know - does that mean he's content or if I am pushing him into doing stuff he doesn't want to do. The School will listen, but he isn't formally diagnosed so they say they think he's happy and not to worry. I guess my thought is that should we maximise him academically by moving school...given that the staying with friends thing doesn't make much difference or is it more important for someone like him to have stability and stay in the same school. I wouldn't mind him returning to state as as you say - they have large resources.

If I give an example maybe it will make it clearer - a boy from school is over today. It's been orchestrated by me /the other parents who are very nice. Boy comes over and looks pretty confused about being at our son tries but just can't seem to get to making conversation - so they go onto the X box. The whole thing is quite strained and tbh everyone feels awkward...

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IfNotNowThenWhy Mon 08-Apr-19 16:09:47

Well..I'd feel awkward if I was 12/13 and my parents orchestrated a "friend" for me to come round! Maybe you should relax a bit and let him find his own way for a while?

shelbys Mon 08-Apr-19 17:25:10

Hi all true. But if I don't do it he will pretty much be on own for the honestly I don't know what the answer is as he doesn't have friends that he would call upon.

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Punxsutawney Mon 08-Apr-19 17:25:40

I think we are going down the formal diagnosis route as it got to a point with our Ds that things were becoming more and more difficult, especially the social/communication aspect and the isolation he feels.

I guess if your Ds is reasonably happy at school then maybe he should stay there. State schools may have more resources but budgets are often tight and many can't afford to offer much support. Of course there are some state schools that are good and have great pastoral care. But others like my son's school are not and are large overwhelming places that are not good for those children with ASD or possible issues.

My Ds is awkward in pretty much every social situation. He is also rigid in is thinking and has sensory issues. He would not like it if I tried to arrange another child coming round to see him. It is not easy but I guess you can't force a child to be social. I worry terribly about my Ds and it is heartbreaking to see him so isolated but I'm learning that I can't change him it's the way his brain works. I just need to help support him through these difficult times and hopefully one day he really will find his people. I guess that's really the only advice I can give.

TheBlessedCheesemaker Mon 08-Apr-19 17:31:09

I don’t see why you are thinking of changing schools? Changing is always disruptive for ASD and a larger state school Could be too loud/rowdy and more boys in a class means less supportive for your son. And there’s no guarantee that he’ll find a group of nerds to hang out with and suddenly develop A big friendship group with. If school will get him the academic results then maybe better the devil you know?

shelbys Mon 08-Apr-19 17:37:25

@punxsutawney Thank you. Poor you and your Ds. My Ds is amazingly compliant in all situations, and my gut feel is he would like people over and around, he just doesn't know how to get them there? I have learnt over the years though, that I cannot change anything but I just want him to see how to get friendships but am not going to force anything that he says no to. Seeing a child isolated or unable to mention even one friend from school is heartbreaking. However maybe as you say - the only thing we can do is try and support.

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shelbys Mon 08-Apr-19 17:41:55

@theblessedcheesemaker. Honestly I don't know - that's why am asking. I can't figure out if bigger school then more chance of variety of children. I guess thinking of changing for all reasons above and feel like year 9 is always a natural change in some schools so he wouldn't feel like it was out of the norm. Socially no, it's not working out. Academically yes it is.

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Penguinpandarabbit Mon 08-Apr-19 17:53:11

My DS is 12 and probably ASD and he also can't cope with playdates - he changed areas for secondary this year and he is only just settling and only one good friend.

He will sometimes do cinema / bowling and waffles / ice cream with friends but its only about twice a year and he won't invite new friend still just his old 3 best friends.

Think a new school would unsettle him and socially he will probably always struggle. Maybe you could ask him if he can think of any activities he would like to do with a friend - my DS is better if its all planned with set times for everything - he suggested bowling, cinema, "cocktails" (obviously mocktails) and cake. Quite normal for that aged boys just to go on x-box, we don't have one but DS reckons we cant have a sleepover here as he hasn't got one. Or does he like football, some boys are happy kicking a ball around in garden. Its hard though gave up on playdates as DS would ignore other child and watch TV and DD would end up playing with them.

Haggisfish Mon 08-Apr-19 17:57:05

However, a bigger school does mean a much larger pool of potential friends and possibly much better provision. My bog standard comp provides social skills tUtoring, a quiet inclusive space to have lunch and other provision. Maybe give him a week trial at the local school to see how he gets on? Or encourage him to join clubs-loads of coding and computing, maths, duke of ed etc?

shelbys Mon 08-Apr-19 18:42:00

Hi @haggis and @penguin (am now regretting such a boring name for myself!) all good suggestions - we do a lot of scouts, and clubs and yes - it always works better when it's an activity than just hanging around. I am going to talk to the local school - and also just consider that maybe it is a case of staying on...I guess the holidays are always a time for reflection and when I feel panicked as there is only so much entertaining I can do, and trying to be the parent and the friendship circle for him is hard work. He's so lovely and I can't quite see why other kids can't see that.

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Haggisfish Mon 08-Apr-19 18:42:54

They will as they get older.

Punxsutawney Mon 08-Apr-19 19:03:36

It maybe that he would struggle socially anywhere but I agree if you're going to move him then it has to be sooner rather than later. Maybe explore all your options and ask Ds what he thinks. I had hoped my Ds's school might be able to come up with some solutions to help him but they are useless!

I definitely can understand how you are feeling and you not alone in worrying about this. I hope you find the best way to support your Ds.

shelbys Mon 08-Apr-19 19:26:10

I have no idea how to work any of the emojis but yes thank you, it's so good to discuss, get suggestions and your experiences. smile

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Guiloak Tue 09-Apr-19 07:31:53

Large comprehensive where the kids have known each other for 2 years would be madness IMO. Another private school with a big year 9 entry a possibility. However, there are few private schools where sport is not important, some but not many.

But I would think all change would be very disruptive. He is too old for prearranged play dates, if he is happy at home on his own then so be it. I think you need to rethink the holidays you are putting too much pressure on yourself. Playing on the Xbox and exchanging a few words is normal when friends come round. I've a DS that struggles socially. It can be heartbreaking. Have a DD that is super popular but even then in the hols she only goes out a few times with friends.

EvaHarknessRose Tue 09-Apr-19 07:48:19

If he likes the structure of lessons etc I would stay there. Work with him on social skills basics to use at school and clubs but think of it like rules he needs to apply, don’t expect him to ‘get it’.

And you don’t need to see friends outside school and clubs, there’s family for that.

itsallsoobviousnow Tue 09-Apr-19 08:13:59

Sympathies op, it is awful to think of dc being isolated in school. I don't think there's an obviously 'right' solution here. Joining a secondary school in yr 9 as one of a very few new joiners could be very difficult I agree - all but the most socially alpha child can struggle in that situation! although on the other hand you might 'luck out' and land with the one other student who clicks with your ds.

What does your ds say about it? If he is reasonably happy at the current school, I think I'd say that without an obviously better alternative, sticking with it may be the best of not very attractive options. I'd only consider moving if he wants to, or is desperately unhappy (you can get the awful combination of a dc who is very unhappy at school but doesn't want to move because it could be even worse - in that situation it may be worth considering insisting on a move, but only after a lot of thought.)

What are his interests? If you live somewhere with lots of outside clubs would it be worth looking into it some activities - a pp mentioned coding club, or maybe if he likes a bit of sport a martial arts club? The advantage is that you may meet people with similar interests - although clubs don't necessarily lead to proper friendships they do provide a bit of a 'social life'.

Your description of the playdate made me laugh (nicely, I mean - you obviously haven't lost your sense of wry humour!). Playing on the x box silently is fine, I think - lots of dc do that. It's true that parent-led friendships don't often take off - but on the other hand when a dc has no other friends you feel you have to try!

Holidayshopping Tue 09-Apr-19 08:20:59

I’m confused by the ‘’? Does he have a diagnosis? Who ‘diagnosed’ him?

Is doesn’t sound like the school is a good fit for him-what are your alternatives locally? I would go and visit some of them.

itsallsoobviousnow Tue 09-Apr-19 08:55:40

Yes, I agree with visiting the alternatives - even if ds doesn't want to move school, a look round on the basis of 'no pressure on you ds, we just thought you might like to have a look' could be worth it. It can be hard when you're in that position to think about alternatives in the abstract.

Your question 'can social skills be improved after 13?' - I'd say yes they can, though it depends a lot on the individual case. It is hard though I think. It isn't enough to say 'this is what you say as small talk, and remember to make eye contact' - though that helps! Because a lot of it depends on tone, tempo, when to interject, and 'physical positioning' in a conversation. Those are much harder to mimic than eye contact and knowing what to say. It's also exhausting for the person trying to do it if it doesn't come naturally!

shelbys Tue 09-Apr-19 17:36:14

@itsalltooobviousnow - he says he is happy, sometimes bemoans that he is not good enough for sports teams and so not included in that gang or that there is not enough other stuff. Unfortunately 'I'm fine, no problems' - in primary - there was a whole bullying situation that he was too embarrassed to tell us about. When I have seen him at school with other boys - he attempts to speak, or I see them blank him or he is total embarrassed in their presence. So that's his version of 'it's all fine' and that's why I appear to be trying to manage a 13 year old's life ;) or trying to get to the bottom of what is ok and what's not?

You are absolutely right - he keeps busy and social through clubs He does scouts, about to start air cadets, plays tennis, in STEM club, football...none of it has led to friendships but it is a place to be 'social'.

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