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School gave up on autistic child - what to do?

(12 Posts)
gail1241 Sat 08-Feb-14 03:10:22

My son is autistic, he is 13 and goes to mainstream state school. Prior to age 11, we have been living in United States where he went to a mainstream class and did fine - yet he had great support such as a dedicated TA who pretty much taught him 1:1. He never had any academic gaps there and received mostly "B"s.

When we relocated to England at age 11, the school has tested him and apparently he did horribly - either the programs were different, or he did not know the exam format, or he just did not understand what they wanted. The school insisted that he get a statement. Then for 2.5 years I have been showing up at reviews and they were telling me "good progress", "making progress", "passed" etc.

Then, this January I ask during review: when will my son take GCSEs? And they tell me that he has never been on GCSE track since age 11!!! Also, they tell me that he is now in "Foundation Learning" class which means his curriculum is mid-primary school at most. I was absolutely horrified and requested his progress report since 2011 - and after opening it I saw he had attainment level 2 in English for 2.5 years straight with no progress! His Math is at 4b and they have discontinued teaching science. I looked at IEPs and they were pretty much blank from 2011 till 2013.

I almost had a heart attack and asked to attend the classes. To my horror, I realised that what they are currently teaching him is WAY below the level he had in United States at age 9! I have written a number of complaints to SEN team and requested that he is immediately transferred out from Foundation Learning class and that school creates a plan for him to catch-up on 2.5 years of doing nothing and pass GCSEs.

They have scheduled a meeting (and invited the social worker without telling me!) where they said my son "has no ability" and will probably take GCSEs at age 25 (!). When I told them that at age 9 he was solving quadratic equations and reading 15-page books several times a week they told me "There is no evidence of that".

Can you please advise what would be:
1. The best way to pressure the school to transfer him out of Foundation Learning class and make them catch-up on the 3-year academic gap
2. Transfer my son to a new school without this school sharing their view that my son is hopeless and uneducatable? If we do transfer, what are the chances he will be placed in the same "Foundation" class? We are trying to pass GCSEs and pass them well.

I have already hired private tutors and trying to catch-up on this horrible 3-year gap, yet I cannot afford to home-school him entirely - I want the school to share at least part of the burden. I am a single mum, work in a demanding job and cannot teach him myself.
I have contacted the council and informed them about the situation yet so far it did not lead to any results.

I would really appreciate any advice. Thanks!

missingmumxox Sat 08-Feb-14 04:46:09

You must have left the states at about the same time as us, US school transfer the records with the parent/carer on moving, we only had 3 months worth, so I never bothered to give to the UK School as they where in kindergarten only 2 1/2 hours a day for that time, but by 11 your son should have accumumilated a lot of records. Did you pick them
Up ?
Alternative thought is did your son go to private school in the US ? I know a lot of children who do, but even so you have to except ghat your son will have had 2 years less education than a UK child, which is why they leave at 18 and tend to go to college which is slightly higher than our A levels, hence that a US doctor has to do a degree before med school, unlike the UK.

US ed is brilliant much more relaxed which is why you son might be failing in the UK, too much pressure?

Also US Ed suited my ds who is currently being investigated for autism as it is very matter of fact, phonics sent him into a tail spin in the UK, but he reads and is brilliant at spelling,just took lots of me telling the teachers he doesn't do ah, bu, cu, it's ABC

missingmumxox Sat 08-Feb-14 04:50:05

Oh and leaving it near 3 years before telling you is negligent of the school

sparkleowl Sat 08-Feb-14 10:49:11

I am sorry to tell you this, but provision for the well being and education here in the UK for children with autism [or on the spectrum] is truly abysmal. You will need to fight tooth and nail to get anywhere, it's a national disgrace.If your son can cope with the other children in school, and you want to keep him there, do all you can to prove his ability. If you have the money, hire a private tutor to help him, if not, try and help him yourself [if possible.] You really have my sympathy.

bochead Sat 08-Feb-14 11:49:45

As a matter of urgency get the school named in his statement in part 4 changed. If the professionals don't think he can achieve you'll just be labelled crazy if you challenge them.

Are you in London or Suffolk?

There are two specialist indie schools that cover the US curriculum and lead to the american high school cert. They take children with an aspbergers diagnosis. The National Autistic society will be able to help you get their names and contact details.

OR how about online school?

You can access so many American online schools from here in the UK. The Stanford one has caught my eye as DS is turning into a bit of a science buff. Do check they are properly state accredited etc (you'll know more about checking US credentials than I will!).


DS is homeedded at the moment via Briteschool. He suffered more than I had realised from the utter paucity of aspiration when he was at school, and briteschool has turned this around totally. A key feature is the small class sizes, staff experienced at teaching kids on the spectrum and the fact they can be taught out of year. DS has kids in his literacy class (yr 5) aged from 8-12, noone is made to feel behind or too clever iyswim.

They do provide for 1:1 tuition if you need it. I thought we would, but I have to say the superb teaching (every lesson is well planned, no lazy DVD watching via this method!) has meant we haven't needed it. There are other online schools, Interhigh being the most popular (lots of threads on the home ed board) but I can only rec' in terms of ASD that which I have personally sampled iyswim.

There's no way DS would have been entered for GCSE's at a comp, but I have everyu hope he'll get the core subjects via Briteschool. Some will be done early to reflect the fact he has a typical ASD skills spike and one or two may be done a year late, but he'll get em!

Online school will NOT suit every child, as it is a unique way of learning, but for those it does the results can be life changing. You will have to provide lots of face to face social activities if you go down this route, but I'm finding local schools are pretty cool about DS joining their after school clubs etc.

The low aspirations for ASD kids in most of the UK state sector is a personal bug bear of mine so you do have my sympathy, but not my support if you simply accept it. It's hard, but it doesn't have to be this way for your child.

AgnesDiPesto Sat 08-Feb-14 17:15:30

There are some indep special schools which specialise in HFA / AS and do put children in for gcses and A levels. I too found out my school was underestimating my sons ability but he's only 7 so we have been able to turn it around. Might the problem be a lack of knowledge about how to motivate him to learn etc. look at IPSEA website for info on complaints and educational negligence.

tryingtokeepintune Tue 11-Feb-14 00:34:54

It might be useful to have an ed psych do an assessment on your son which will show what he should be capable of achieving. The report should also recommend what learning style and the kind of help your child should have. Based on the report, and the records that you have from the States, you might be able to make a case that the lack of progress in your ds and his current academic levels are due to the school underestimating him and the inappropriate education he has been receiving for the last few years.

ilikemysleep Wed 12-Feb-14 11:26:46

I would be worried that your son was taught 1:1 by a TA until the age of 9. Evidence is that children taught for lengthy periods by a TA rather than a teacher often appear to be doing well because the TA is very focused on 'task completion' - ie getting the worksheet filled in correctly, getting the sums done correctly - but not sufficiently focused on children's learning and understanding of what they are doing. So what your son could apparently achieve while being prompted, supported and talked through at every stage by a 1:1 TA might well be very different from what they could then achieve when tested on independent work with no support. Is it possible that this might explain some of the disparity?

I do think you should have had a clearer understanding of what the school was thinking. Did he not have a cognitive assessment as part of the statementing process? Assuming that a statement was issued without too much trouble I would assume that the school was able to make a case that your son had severe and persitent needs in at least one educational area - that could have been social interaction but those statements, as seen here on MNSN, tend to be hard to get and have to be fought for. Did an ed psych assess him as being of low ability? Frankly, you can't get a statement for just doing badly on one set of inschool exams at age 11 (or my son would have one!).

If he is genuinely attaining at level 2 in literacy at age 13 then you will have a hard time catching up to take GCSEs at 15/16, though he should be okay in maths. Do you believe that different teaching would have made the difference to put him up to level 5, which would be on track for his age? That is the difference between using some full stops and capital letters and writing in structured paragraphs with semi colons, speech marks etc.

First stop - look at EP report in his statementing papers and see what assessments they did. Second stop, ask for a cognitive assessment and EP involvement if this did not take place when he was statemented.

ilikemysleep Wed 12-Feb-14 11:27:30

Sorry, taught 1:1 by a TA till age 11, not age 9.

MariaNotChristmas Wed 12-Feb-14 14:59:11

The school insisted that he get a statement
They can't be a totally, utterly terrible school. That level of interest in a dc with ASD is sadly quite unusual in the UK. Normally, a mainstream school will only want to do a statement if the dc is seriously disrupting their non-ASD classmates' progress.

'IEP' in the states is the same as a 'statement' here. We supplement the statement with a termly or twice-a-year document with some specific, medium term targets and call that document the IEP.

When I told them that at age 9 he was solving quadratic equations and reading 15-page books several times a week they told me "There is no evidence of that" In fairness, and for all they know, you could be delusional. And as Ilike points out, here, it's not entirely unknown for TAs to fabricate work on the child's behalf. Some schools manage to teach a dc with ASD how to perform learning tasks by rote, but without understanding what they are doing, so if they are put into a new environment, they don't replicate it.

Don't argue it yourself. Contact the old educational authorities for proof. Get copies of his American IEP, his progress tracking, and his most recent psychology evaluation. I think in the US that's usually every 3 years. Here, the dc gets one educational psychology evaluation, on entry to the statementing system, and any ed psych input after that is often non existent discretionary.

The other thing is, teenagers with ASD often do plateau or even crash, on transfer to secondary school here. Changing systems is stressful, and for a dc with ASD, also in a new country, it would be even more so.

What boch says is probably true, though. From an academic educational viewpoint, mainstream school is unlikely to be giving much to a dc with ASD, especially if the language/communication issues are impairing their ability to take in the relevant instructions and information. If they are doing a good amount of work on life skills, social skills, communication, then it might be more important to him than the actual curriculum. On the other hand, he might be getting neither aspect...

MariaNotChristmas Wed 12-Feb-14 15:16:02

Contacting the council will do nothing. They don't want to admit the poorly resourced mainstreams can't meet needs, and anyway are all occupied managing the transition to education health and care plans, which are (probably) not going to improve matters for dc like your ds. Under no circumstances expect to get a well-trained, full time, specialist, named 1-1 to assist in curriculum access, like he had in the states. Unless you want a glorified babysitters employed to keep the SEN kids from causing a disturbance, and block their access to properly trained teachers.

Emailing the educational psychologist who provided advice for his UK statement might be worth a try though. If they understand that his genuine abilities appeared to plummet once stepping over the pond, and haven't recovered, they might be able to work out why, and how to improve that. Next they tell the school, and then you see if it works. Go cap in hand, to start with anyway. This is Britain, we're subjects, not citizens, and the system can't really deal with parents who know stuff.

The current school might be able to meet his needs once they properly understand them. If he was assessed shortly after jetting into the UK, without all the detailed past information, and has had 3 years input on that basis, it's no wonder the recent results weren't what you were expecting. You might well be able to get his next annual review brought forward so his statement could be re-written to take proper account of any new information you supply. For example, some schools employ a couple of recently qualified maths graduates as LSAs to help out dc with ASD in maths lessons, and give them extra homework tuition after school.

Otherwise you'll need a process called tribunal. Talk to an independent school, a special school, a free school, a local authority school across in the next county, whatever. If your ds's needs would be better understood there, come back to MNSN for a crash course in filing appeal documentation, education law, and representing yourself at a SEND hearing.

MariaNotChristmas Wed 12-Feb-14 15:20:58

Does he have other needs as well? Dyslexia, language disorder etc? If (for example) he was using a scribe overseas, but is expected to write for himself here, his literacy could 'appear' to have vanished.

I can't imagine coping with quadratic equations with unsupported dyslexia.

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