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Is private the only way for HF ASD?

(28 Posts)
deadparrot Mon 26-Jan-15 12:31:23

I never thought I would consider private education, but we're now at our state second primary school that can't seem to manage DS1's needs - HF autism - his social skills are improving and academically on target but behaviour is getting worse, and despite statement (20 hrs) they can't seem to cope with the discipline side. He's bright but has big motivational problems and I think he's learning that if he makes enough fuss, he can get out of doing what he doesn't want to do.

After endless meetings about this I just don't know if we can get anything more out of state ed with the class sizes, funding etc as they are. Our current school is supposed to be top choice locally for DS's needs and our private behavioural consultant goes in regularly to provide strategies for the 1:1, so I can't see what more we can do from our end... He does have some good days, but overall things seem pretty dire. I dread reading the home-school book at the end of each day, and he seems low, anxious and stroppy.

I don't want to move him again unless we can find somewhere that is really confident at setting boundaries and managing challenging behaviour. (He has been know to lash out at his 1:1 on occasion blush.) But does such a place even exist? I think he could settle in more calm and structured setting, which some private schools could offer, but it's a big gamble.

But we're well aware that private is not a magic bullet either. I'm not sure he could stay on task in class without his 1:1, which wouldn't be available in private. Plus any possible private schools in our area have extensive MN threads about problems with governance, bullying etc etc.

Basically, should we just resign ourselves to education being miserable for DS1 whatever we do, or is it worth exploring the private option?

streakybacon Mon 26-Jan-15 12:53:18

Could you home educate? You'd be able to tailor his provision to his needs, and focus on the behavioural/developmental aspects intensively, if that's what he needs most.

From my own enquiries, private isn't terribly supportive of additional needs, especially when behaviour is an issue.

deadparrot Mon 26-Jan-15 13:27:17

Thanks streakybacon, I have briefly considered it but I think a group setting is best in his case, as it offers constant opportunities for social interaction and interacting with authority figures (other than me! if that's what I am...).

Sorry I should have specified I am thinking of private schools aimed specifically at HF SN children. But I know even some of those don't take children who have meltdowns.

streakybacon Mon 26-Jan-15 14:08:12

My son has far more positive social interaction now than he ever had in school. HE enabled him to develop the skills he needed to access a range of groups in the community,to the extent that now most of the facilitators don't realise he has any SN at all. He couldn't handle social stuff at school, it was all too much for him and he blew up at the drop of a hat (bullying didn't help, tbh), but with HE he was able to develop at his own pace until he could manage better, then he was ready for more group activity of a sort that suited his needs.

I'm not saying it's what you should do, rather that it's an ideal way of supporting development in children with autism, because you can reduce pressure (including social) and help them at a pace that suits. Perhaps, instead of looking at another setting similar to where he is now (ie school), you might need to take a step or two back and give him a chance to regroup, and develop those social skills in a comfortable environment, so he'd be better able to handle school at a later date. Maybe consider HE as a possible option, find out more, see what's available in your area - you might be surprised at just how well it fits him. And if not, you've always got your current line of thought to consider as well.

Just a thought. My experience of schools was extremely negative, and as I said earlier enquiries to private schools wasn't very positive either. Plus, off-record, several professionals I used to know way back when ds was in schools, later admitted to me that mainstream school was no place for any child with autism. It has stuck with me ever since.

deadparrot Mon 26-Jan-15 14:35:22

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences, streakybacon - so pleased it's worked for you. As you say it's good to consider all options. How old is your son now - will you home educate through to 18 and beyond? I wonder if v small classes in a specialist school could do something similar to the benefits you describe of home educating. Does anyone have experience of this?

ouryve Mon 26-Jan-15 14:39:22

There's not many private schools that would tolerate his behavioural difficulties. They'd be more concerned about other parents pulling their kids out than supporting him - and he'd probably get minimal support, which you'd have to pay for. Even many private mainstream schools that are big on SN and take kids with statements don't do it particularly well, or change ethos at the drop of a hat, when they decide that the support they currently offer isn't sufficiently profit making for them or doesn't fit with the image that they want to project.

coppertop Mon 26-Jan-15 14:44:51

There are a few free schools dotted around the country which are state schools set up specifically for children with HFA/ASD.

As with so many other SN-related resources, it depends on where you live unfortunately.

ouryve Mon 26-Jan-15 14:50:16

And I should have read your second posts. DS1 is at one of those. Funded by the LA, through his statement.

He's in year 6. he's in a tiny class - 4, currently transitioning to 5. Teacher, TA and occasional extra TAs to help specific kids with specific activities. It's listed as an SEBD school, but takes kids whose behaviour is down to anxiety, without a track record of delinquency. In practice, this is kids who have ASD/AS/ADHD and, sometimes, dyslexia.

The emphasis is academic, with most pupils taking GCSE, but some opt for vocational subjects, as it suits their learning styles and they're less stressed by them. There's also an emphasis on building social skills and general fitness through an outdoor education program.

I don't think there's many schools in the country that cater for a similar profile. I think this is the only one in the North, for a start.

And it's hard to get in. Most of the pupils' parents took at least one tribunal to get their kids in there.

streakybacon Mon 26-Jan-15 14:52:46

He's 16 now, we've been home educating for six years. He has done some IGCSEs with good grades, a couple more in the summer then he's off to sixth form college.

He's grown enormously in that time. Because we're not tied to the school day, he's been able to do lots of work experience and volunteering, which has been a huge help developmentally, and 1-1 work with me, watching tv, board games, social development tools etc. Lots of talk and analysis. We've been able to pick and choose group activities that fitted with his interests, in order to gain positive experiences to build on. That wasn't possible in school, because so much of his time there was negative and resulted in frustration and meltdowns, often because sessions lasted longer than he was able to cope with. To begin with, we'd stay at social gatherings for no more than half an hour, and I would prep him beforehand and watch carefully during, ready to withdraw before things got too much for him. Then we'd have post-mortem afterwards and prepare for next time. This way he always had successful interactions with no meltdowns and rages. Gradually his confidence and coping ability grew until we were able to extend the time spent in each session, until eventually he could manage without my help.

He's now very independent, uses public transport or walks to various activities and groups he's involved in, and I'm told he interacts very well and (as I said earlier) few of the facilitators realise there are any SNs there at all. He helps out at a local special school and is highly valued there, and considered 'staff' wink.

My key strategy was to find his comfort zone and stay in it for 2-3 months, then start moving out of it gradually with the option of retreating if necessary. It's not possible to do that in a school setting, because there's always such a lot of stuff they have to do and I don't think autistic children ever find their comfort zone because anxiety is always so high. I think that's why so many of our children don't learn as well as they might at school - it's hard for ANYONE to learn when they're stressed, and children are no different. We all function better when we are calm, and it surprises me that we expect young children to be different.

I'm not evangelising, honest - I just know how much HE has benefited my son and hundreds like him, and I've seen how children with autism struggle and struggle in schools that provide inadequate support. I would hate that to happen to your son too. Give HE some thought. Trot over to the HE board and ask some questions. You'll find a very broad range of approaches and viewpoints, and you might just find a solution that fits you and your son perfectly.

zzzzz Mon 26-Jan-15 15:00:05

I'd be surprised if you can get him into private ms and I wouldn't recomend it. Your will probably end up paying fees plus TA, Salt/EP and they don't have the experience. We did it semi-successfully due to a truly amazing staff for early primary but still pulled out at 7. Ds1 is too severe and too clever for that set up.
Which part of the country are you in?
Could you move?

deadparrot Mon 26-Jan-15 15:04:56

Thanks coppertop, yes our county is a desert in those terms. Its hard isn't it, how far do you go to move your other kids out of school, change jobs etc etc to get to one that sounds good - only to find out that it was the wrong choice after all! Or a new head starts and it goes downhill etc etc.
Ouryve that does sound like the sort of thing I was thinking. (By the way, delinquency? Is that still a thing? Does my son have it? shock) And can you be a delinquent mathematician? If so, we may have found the career path for him. Excuse the gallows humour...

Georgethesecond Mon 26-Jan-15 15:05:54

You can have one to one in private. But you have to pay the full cost of it in addition to the fees.

SlicedAndDiced Mon 26-Jan-15 15:07:15

I'll be watching this with interest.

I had undiagnosed high functioning autism when I was at school. My first school was private and had small classes, I thrived.

My secondary school (very good reputation) was also private but with much bigger classes. I had huge difficulties settling in, would speak out of turn, told to shut up and then was given detentions for not joining in with class discussions hmm Two of my class mates were diagnosed with ADHD and given full support to continue in the school. Looking back at my reports there are all the very obvious signs of autism there but they just didn't pick it up.

Anyway after increasing episodes of self harm and isolation from the rest of the school I was expelled. Luckily I was then accepted in to a much smaller school, with ten people in the entire year and started to relax again (well as much as possible) but am still very scarred from my experience at the first secondary school.

Now for the bit that's terrified me. My daughters nursery have recently been in touch to say they feel dd should be observed re:signs of autism. She is too young for diagnosis yet (23 months) but has many of the classic signs that I also had as a child. She has also been a whizz with numbers since she was one, and obsesses over them.

I am absolutely terrified of what mainstream school may mean for her. I know I would never have coped. I'm quite happy to get myself in huge debt if I can find a small private school with experience of hf autism. I must admit I hadn't considered home ed before this thread. But as DH will be stay at home dad eventually that could be an option.

But after the brilliant case being made for he in this case I think I'm definitely going to have to research it. Do you think that may make her social difficulties worse in the long run though?

streakybacon Mon 26-Jan-15 15:18:20

Do you think that may make her social difficulties worse in the long run though?

I can only speak from my own experience, but I'd say that HE enables social skills to be developed better than schools, because of the stress element being removed and the child being able to progress at a pace that suits them.

When my ds was first diagnosed, I was part of a support group involving several parents of same-aged children. I still hear from some of them and they all have significant difficulties with social skills, are very dependent, few friendships, struggling in school too because their SENs are hampering progress academically. Yes, I know that all children are different and no-one can say how they might have done if they'd been home educated, but I'm aware that these children are always under stress and that holds back their progress. it also depends on the extent of the individual's SEN/disability to begin with - we can only help them to develop so far, within the context of their capabilities, so it's probably not fair to compare.

HE varies a lot regionally too - some places there's a thriving, huge HE community, other places next to nothing. It's worth investigating what's around in your area, see what fits your needs - you might find that HE in your locality won't provide what your child needs. But I'd say it IS worth investigating, as it's another option to consider, and you never know what's right till you find it.

SlicedAndDiced Mon 26-Jan-15 15:25:46

Thanks streaky.

After a quick look it looks like my area may be a barren wasteland for he. sad

Any recommendations for good areas? Not asking for addresses just are there any that stand out?

Sorry to hi-jack thread op! grin

It looks like that statistic I saw about quite a few people relocating to find the best education for their hf asd children was about right then.

streakybacon Mon 26-Jan-15 15:32:03

A lot of HE activity is under the radar, so you'd probably need more than a quick look to find it wink.

Often people meet in privately arranged groups, rather than huge planned activities - you'd have to be in the know to be part of such events. Most people join a discussion group on FB (search for Home Education or HE and your town - if there's a group it will come up, but you may have to be approved before you're allowed to join), make contact that way, go to social meets and establish some links with other like-minded parents. It sounds complicated but it really doesn't take long to set up your own network of families to engage with.

You might also want to look at Ed Yourself, a home education consultancy run by Fiona Nicholson. There's nothing Fiona doesn't know about HE, and she's a great source of information. You'll find links to local HE groups on her page here

SlicedAndDiced Mon 26-Jan-15 15:36:39

Ah ok sneaky he groups. I'll see if I can sleuth them out.

Must talk to dp first though,he would have to do the social greets! I break out in a cold sweat at the 's' word.

I guess that's why I feel so strongly about getting it right with dd. I don't want her to end up like me.

deadparrot Mon 26-Jan-15 15:37:29

SlicedAndDiced so sorry to hear your awful experiences. What I would say is that despite the poor provision things have moved on a lot, there's broader awareness of sensory issues etc and also she has an aware parent (you) who can read up on all the learning that there's been in the last couple of decades. So whatever happens, she will not go through what you went through. If that helps...

zzzzz thanks and don't worry I wasn't even considering mainstream private! Don't think they'd want us...

Re moving, I guess I don't want to create upheaval for everyone if it's just going to end up being not brilliant anywhere. DS2 gets a rough ride playing second fiddle to DS1 all the time and I have to consider his needs along with everyone else's. Socially DS1 is coming along well in school, despite being in mainstream, so it's not all bad news - it's the behaviour though. The school are always caving in because they say he 'refuses' to do things. At home he's more compliant because we expect him to be. I'm sure he'd have the odd meltdown but I think a lot of the behaviour is caused by inconsistency, mainly due to resources

streakybacon Mon 26-Jan-15 15:42:38

dead Consistency is key, and some schools (like ouryve's ds) are excellent at giving proper, practical and realistic support. But you do need to be careful when making enquiries because ALL schools think they are good at what they do, and will promise great support. In many cases you only find out how good (or bad) that support is once your child gets in to the school and problems surface - how well or otherwise they are dealt with. It's a very tricky business, finding a school that does what it says on the tin confused.

streakybacon Mon 26-Jan-15 15:54:20

Sliced Ha! Not sneaky as such, but people do prefer spending time in like-minded groups, so there are bound to be spin-offs within the community. That's not to say there aren't 'all welcome' events organised, but not everything is that way. For example, after organising some theatre trips that were a nightmare because some people took ages to pay or couldn't look up parking arrangements for themselves or were otherwise 'difficult', I started being more particular about who I was prepared to book for. It might sound a bit selfish, but when you're home educating your time is precious, and you don't want to be spending it running round after other people, and you don't need to. Really, it's no different to the sort of friendship groups that form when your child is at school.

ouryve Mon 26-Jan-15 16:02:32

We reckon that DS1's either going to end up being a hacker or a creative accountant, parrot wink

streakybacon Mon 26-Jan-15 16:03:43

Or both! That could be interesting ...

ouryve Mon 26-Jan-15 16:07:07

He could end up (in)famous.

streakybacon Mon 26-Jan-15 16:09:30

If he isn't already wink.

ouryve Mon 26-Jan-15 16:17:59

We can't go anywhere without one of them being recognised.

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