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Mainstream school or Speech and language unit?

(77 Posts)
adrianna1 Fri 31-Jan-14 16:31:39

I have a four year old son who has a severe speech and language delay.... only saying 15 words! ( I know this is not a lot! but I'm happy with his progress smile), uses lots of babbling and vocialisations and made- up signs/ gestures to communicate.

All the professionals think he just has a speech delay, he has been tested for everything.. disorders, autism, etc etc. Though finding this quite hard to accept that it most probably is a speech delay.

My son is currently in a nursey, and soon to start a reception place. I was adament that he should go to a mainstream school, wait a year see how he gets on and then next year think about placing him into a speech unit.

Though, I have now had a change of heart and thinking of placing him to a speech unit this year.

But! I have doubts. When speaking to my SENCO and speech therapist that I'm thinking of putting my son into a speech unit. They pause... for quit a long time and then tell me to look into it. Though my speech therapist then admitted that my son would be fine in Mainstream. Has this happend to you too?

Are speech units good? As confused whether why SENCO and speech therapist always diver.

Do all speech units provide intensive speech therapy??

To parents- Was a speech unit no different to mainstream? ( in terms of health)

Also, did you see a massive improvement in your child/children?

I stupidly did not put a speech unit place down.... I have not used up my 5 school places though.

Plus, I have began the statement process but i realy doubt it would get done in time.


Jellyandjam Fri 31-Jan-14 17:05:45

Well each case is obviously different and you will probably get lots of people saying completely different things so it's really about your child and what will suit them best. My son has speech delay (no other issues) and started in mainstream school this sept. For us we had a lot of moving around in the year before he started school and stability was the most important thing for his well being. So for us being at the same school as his sister, at the school he had been familiar with since being a baby was the only option for us.
His speech has improved massively but I'm not sure how much if this is down to the school he's at, the fact that we have had a private SALT since sept or the fact that we work our socks off at home with it too. I would probably say it's been a combination of all of these things. One thing that we were told was good about being in mainstream was that they will be around other children who set a good example in terms of speech. In sept his speech was almost completely unintelligible to anyone unfamiliar with him and an articulation screening had him coming out at around 2 years in terms of his speech. A recent screening has put him at almost 4 years (he's now 5.2) so a vast improvement. And more importantly strangers can understand the majority of what he is saying.
I have no experience of a language unit but for us main stream was the right option.

zzzzz Fri 31-Jan-14 17:13:01

Speech unit, but the places are like hens teeth round here.

hazeyjane Fri 31-Jan-14 19:58:58

If there was a speech unit near to us, I would jump at the chance.

Ahhhcantthinkofagoodname Fri 31-Jan-14 22:22:02

Hi Adrianna

I've PMed you what we talked about before, sorry I forgot to do this before.

If you remember my DS has a similarly severe speech delay to your DS and is a bit younger. He has a verbal dyspraxia diagnosis.

We are desperately hoping he will get a place at a unit. the way I see it is his speech is very much holding him back and it is essential he gets as much help as possible so he catches up with his peers as soon as possible.

It may be the case your son would be ok / cope in mainstream but the reality he will not get as much help for his speech as he would in a unit and therefore will take longer to overcome his speech disorder.

We know our DS has VD which needs a lot of therapy so that makes the decision a bit easier for us. Possibly your DS would develop without so much input...

With the speech units, you generally don't apply for them through the standard admissions process for primary schools (so don't beat yourself up about that!). Round here you have to go through the statementing process and ask for a place at the one you want when you get the draft statement. Then the unit (if they have space) decides if they are suitable to meet your child's needs.

At the unit we want, kids get one on one therapy 2-3 times a week and also do speech work in small groups. In mainstream I've heard kids get very little direct contact with a speech therapist, a therapist comes and shows a TA what to do...

Where are you in the statementing process? It's meant to take 6 months so you may get a result by sept if all goes smoothly. We also applied to our local schools through the normal process but are hoping we won't need to take up the place if the statement ends p naming the school with the unit.

StarlightMcKingsThree Fri 31-Jan-14 22:25:40

Are you sure the pause wasn't more about the headache involved in getting IN to a unit. I.e statement, reports erc.

adrianna1 Sat 01-Feb-14 01:16:45

Hi Starlight

Ha! I'm not sure. That could be the reason as my speech therapist did not mention a statement…

@aahcantthink…… I can't believe you get one to one speech therapy for 2- 3 times a week! that's so good!

I'm on the letter stage, I have re-draft it so many times, sending it to SENCO to take a look.

Bryzoan Sat 01-Feb-14 02:02:56

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

hazeyjane Sat 01-Feb-14 07:03:56

bryzoan - that is interesting about the units near you, I think they are the ones mentioned for ds, but the distance put us off, but ds has to switch to juniors at yr3, and they were 2 of the options we had thought about. I'll pm you!

SallyBear Sat 01-Feb-14 07:14:22

The local ms primary has a speech therapy unit that kids are sent to. Hens teeth indeed. But having looked around it and questioned the Senco I was very disappointed as it was literally a curtained off room at the end of a class room. Not a good quiet place to practice and to receive therapy. For that reason alone I discounted it first for DD in 2003/4 and then for DS4 in 2011.

Draughts Sat 01-Feb-14 08:09:04

Hi, DS2 has verbal dyspraxia as well as a late diagnosis of a palate problem aged 4. He's also moderately deaf. He does have a chromosome abnormality (also diagnosed late) so does have other issues. He started school with a full statement in MS. It worked well for reception / year 1 & he definitely gained from being at our local primary.

However in year 2 the gap between him & his peers widened & we took a look around the S&L unit nearest to us. It is the other side of the county & involves a long journey but it is the best thing we've done for him.

He has very regular SLT, there are only 10 children in his class with 1 teacher & 1 TA. The teacher liaises with the speech therapist weekly & the she comes to parents evenings, IEP reviews etc. I finally feel that we are all coming at his education from the same angle.

The unit is attached to a MS school and that has also been fabulous as DS is extremely sociable so he gets some 'bustle' to his day and ironically joins them for French!

The improvement in his speech has been amazing, although as he was at the extreme end of the spectrum he will obviously always struggle.

I'm glad, however, that he did a couple of years at our village primary as he made some great friends who he still sees socially now (he's 10). Socialising with your mates after school is tricky when they are scattered all over the county.

Good luck whatever you decide. smile

StarlightMcKingsThree Sat 01-Feb-14 09:22:44

I find that whenever you show intent to pursue provision a professional hasn't recommended or shown support for, you'll get a pause.

Usually it means 'oh, you're THAT type of parent'.

SallyBear Sat 01-Feb-14 09:30:08

:D star!

hazeyjane Sat 01-Feb-14 09:40:23

Your post has made me feel better about sending ds to the special unit in a ms at the end of our road, Draughts! I worry about him having to transfer at juniors, but the unit, whilst not specifically speech orientated seemed the best fit at the moment.

My main worry with it is that they don't focus on signing as much as I'd like them too and ds has no other form of communication - he is completely non verbal, and at birth-5 month level with speech. His SALT wants it written into his statement that everyone has to go on current Makaton courses and is trained up in how to use AAC devices.

Bubble2bubble Sat 01-Feb-14 09:47:13

If he is lucky enough to be offered a place in a S&L unit then I would grab it with both hands as places are few and far between.
Thankfully dd1's speech therapist and ed psych both recommended it for her,but elsewhere I was met with plenty of "wouldn't she be better in mainstream" including from the mainstream school where she would eventually go. She would not.
She started school with virtually no speech, scored 0 on expressive language tests and did not make a single sound at preschool.
She had speech therapy every day at school for the first two years and in addition to this the learning is tailored to the needs of children with S&L difficulties - this part is much more important than I realised when dd was 4. ( btw she is now 8 and in mainstream with difficulties generally detectable only by me smile )

zzzzz Sat 01-Feb-14 10:54:30

If I had my time again I would fight tooth and nail for a place in a SLunit.
I was told it was "too late" to organise when ds was 3 FFS. Total lies.

I paid for Private SALT, and he was at the local private prep school with private 1:1, plus music therapy etc..... Enormously expensive but I felt we had no choice as the child couldn't talk and it was impossible to see how he would survive the statement process in ms without any support.

The people who did work with him worked hard, but he is severely language disordered, and needed specialist schooling to overcome his disability.

IF your child's issues are predominantly S&L I think you would be very misguided not to consider the unit. 3 years (ours runs yrR to yr2) intensive help could change outcomes. I was worried about transport. Worried about changing schools. Worried about him being so far from home. Worried about him being in different schools to his siblings. I should have been worried about him not getting that level of support he needs. sad. I should have staged a sit in till they gave him his place.

Draughts Sat 01-Feb-14 13:31:07

Hazey, DS moved with no issue at all really, in fact I would say he visibly relaxed within a short while. It sounds dramatic I know but it's true.

The whole classroom is geared for visual learning. There are cued articulation signs all over the classroom, the visual timetable is massive and they are able to tailor the curriculum for him.

I would say that DH & I struggled far, far more with him moving school than he did!

Out next battle is applying for secondary places. So it begins again......!

Bryzoan Sat 01-Feb-14 15:15:50

It sounds like your dd has made amazing progress bubble. This has been such an interesting conversation - fascinating to hear everyone's experiences. We've managed to delay dd's school start to 2015 so have more time in hand now. Given everyone's thoughts I think we'll have another look at our local units nearer the time - maybe we missed something.

adrianna1 Sun 02-Feb-14 00:25:18

Hi guys!

I'm amazed with all the relies!

@Brystone- it's a shame you did not find the speech unit good for your children. Though, I will definitely be looking at the units, support etc.

@Draughte- I was considering the reverse for my son, hopefully start speech unit first ( which would be two years as it only lasts for that long) then transfer him into a mainstream school ( I don't know if it's that simple).

The reason why I decided for him to go into a speech unit first ( if he gets in) was because a support worker for kids who have additional needs told me that early intervention is best…so starting at a speech unit first with the intensive speech therapy would be really good.

@ Starlight… This made me laugh! so do you mean they would think that I'm some sort of pushy parent?? I expected my speech therapist and SENCO to be really excited about it..but all I got was a long pause and a rehearsed statement of " Yes, speech units are good for kids who just have a speech delay/ issues.

@zzzz.. Hows your child doing now with speech? If I'm mistaken your child has not been placed at a speech unit?

@ hazyjane- Yes you have to do what you think is best for your son, I've heard that parent partnership is good with this sort of thing..special units etc etc. I should give them a call too. I'm actually thinking of taking a makaton course though this would cost me £75 pounds with all materials provided, I have time to save anyway as it's all the way in the summer. Have you thought about taking a Makaton….. I should hope that all the teacher at the speech units would have training in sign language/ makaton.

adrianna1 Sun 02-Feb-14 00:27:18

Also, how do you find out about which schools have speech units?????

As when I search it, it just states special needs schools as I prefer units.

Is there a site that tells you what mainstream schools have specific language impaired/ delayed units??

MariaNotChristmas Sun 02-Feb-14 00:48:52

Search for your council name, SEN and strategy. You'll get something like this. Failing that, mumsnet local or 'the other net mum site' may know

Some SEN departments at the council are quite helpful and will just send you a list. If they won't Parent Partnership usually will. Those only cover current units, and if there's a new one planned for (say) sept 2014 or 2015, it would be nice to know.

The best approach is a freedom of information act request to the council for 'all current and planned units, and all additionally resourced, modified or specialised school places'

If nothing else works, and you're a smallish county, google all the primary schools individually or read the ofsteds, cos they usually mention if there's an existing unit.

MariaNotChristmas Sun 02-Feb-14 00:51:49

For some ridiculous reason, staff aren't normally allowed to 'direct' you. So even if they know a particular unit would be perfect for your child, they are often told that suggesting it is unprofessional.

Some areas expect their staff to pretend to themselves that they have no preference or recommendation at all, and list all the options impartially.

adrianna1 Sun 02-Feb-14 01:29:38

@ Maria…- Thanks so much for your information!!! I would look into these options straight away.

adrianna1 Sun 02-Feb-14 01:31:38

@ Maria… Yes I've heard about professionals not allowing to state schools etc. Hmm..maybe as it's like advertising.

SallyBear Sun 02-Feb-14 07:08:46

My LA publish a booklet with all SN schools and MS with units - deaf units, Speech units, autism
Units etc. have you spoken to your SN dept at the LA to see if they publish a list?

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