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significant disability in Mainstream Secondary?

(55 Posts)
zzzzz Fri 20-May-16 16:23:13

I wonder if any of you would be willing to share your experiences of dc who have braved mainstream despite being years behind academically, socially, emotionally or physically?
What did their school day look like and what did they gain from being in MS for secondary?
Would you do it again or would you opt for a more specialist setting?

Most of you know me and can probably guess why I am asking, but we have hit a hurdle and I am wondering if mainstream IS an option and what that would look like?

Youarenotkiddingme Fri 20-May-16 17:08:43

Ime it depends very much on the school.

if yiu get a school who look at it from "this what we do and this is how your DC fits into this" I don't think the outcomes are are great as a school who will adapt the timetable for each child.

For example my DS school insist he goes to every lesson, except PE, on the basis they are an inclusive school. (Yes, I know that's bollocks!) and he can access student services if and when he needs to however the secondary my friends DD goes to (very similar profile to DS) allows students to use student services as a base and attend subjects they can manage and increase their tolerance and ability to access school.

have you visited MS and asked what set up they have and how they would accommodate your DS into it - both to support him socially and differentiating lessons to meet his needs and level of working?

All I know from my experience is my DS is working between a 2b and 6b (in old money!) across the curriculum dependent on subject and yet due to cognitive ability is in second set across the curriculum out of 5 sets. Therefore he's struggling - hence my EHCP application - because I believe with language support he'd acheive more and understand more.

So it's not so much he can't manage secondary just they don't understand how to manage him yet. Socially he had a great pastoral worker who really does take his side and understand how to listen to him.

PandasRock Fri 20-May-16 17:51:45

I haven't gone near mainstream at all for dd1. Well, she went to MS preschool for a bit.

I couldn't see her in MS now - she's in year 7 (is that right? First year of secondary), and can read (fairly fluently, can read early chapter books) and write (although typing is more productive), and is doing well with functional maths (time, money, etc).

She would just be lost in MS. And I can't see that many of her peers would have the time or patience to have the same conversations endlessly. She wouldn't understand the social stuff at all (by that I mean trends and fashions/cliques rather than actual sociability - she's very social and interested in people around her, but has no notion of 'in' trends at all!)

And there's so much of the curriculum which would be completely irreverent for her - having to learn about history, for eg, or RE, so a lot would depend on the attitude of the school, as Youarenot said.

We will be facing MS secondary with dd2, and likely with ds too at some point. They will both be behind socially and emotionally, but not cognitively (at least not significantly, or across the board), so a different kettle of fish entirely.

Toffeelatteplease Fri 20-May-16 18:18:07

Yes me me me. Although still primary.

DS was failing miserably in special (they hadn't noticed because he was still "ahead of his peers"). Many Ed psych, Physio, ot, SLT assessments and one educational tribunal later, he was allowed to go to his local primary. He entered (year 3) just about able to read, barely able to write and at least two years behind on everything. His confidence was zero and he barely talked in a school environment.

Two years later reading is low end of normal, he is writing. everything else is still behind but the gap is slowly closing. He is willing to talk and offer opinions in the class room. I saw him playing piggy in the middle with friends at play time. The improvement in his confidence has been worth it even if he made no other progress.

But you do have to be very realistic about needs and difficulties. DS tests a bright little boy with a wide range of not insignificant difficulties. BUT he has less social difficulties and more physical dyspraxia style and fatigue issues. Honestly I think physical issues are easier to accommodate than sensory overload or serious social. I knew the mainstream school very well and knew that the attitude of SLT and the school gave DS the best chance of success. He also came with an extensive therapy package of supportive experts.

All about the child, the child's difficulties and the package of support. I think either way can work.

zzzzz Fri 20-May-16 18:23:48

Thank you both flowersflowers really helpful just to hear other people's thoughts and experiences.
I have seen both. Ds will struggle in both settings, but in ms will get 1:1 which is the only way he has ever learnt. The SS are rigid and dislike parent input, the ms are friendly open and inclusive, but ARE ms, and ds is years behind and emotionally/socially more like a reception aged child.

Niklepic Fri 20-May-16 18:25:35

Watching this with interest as DS is just about to transition to high school. He's done okay is ms primary and hes got a place at our local comp. He has primarily physical disabilities but does have some learning difficulties and sensory issues. He's also very immature which worries me.

PandasRock Fri 20-May-16 18:55:48

Is it just the two schools you have as options? Nothing else at all?

That is a tough choice.

I wouldn't go anywhere near a school which discourages parental input (especially with a more vulnerable child!) and have experience of SN school rigidity which dos dd1 no favours at all (and we are still unpicking some of the issues they created, some 7 years later!)

So for that side of it, the MS sounds better (to me, a complete stranger with no actual knowledge, just going on your description). But then you come up against the secondary stuff - armies of teenagers (secondaries tend to be big), lots more movement around the site, a much busier environment (can be a pro and a con). Plus the curriculum stuff, and what may well be an ever-widening gap, which could take its toll (and would with dd1 - she notices when she can't do the same stuff as everyone else; she is bothered that her siblings outstrip her, and so I like that she is one-of-many at her school, rather than getting the same feelings of inadequacy if she were comparing herself to MS peers).

BUT, dd1 is at a brilliant SN school. She has full time 1:1, a completely individually tailored curriculum, and many opportunities to experience some of what she would get at a MS secondary. Eg she takes part in a mini-enterprise to make and sell sandwiches to staff members (takes orders, cooks as necessary, makes up sandwiches, sells sandwiches at lunchtime this meeting maths and money targets too), and she will be going on an overnight residential trip after half term (happily to the same centre that dd2 is going to this year, so for once they will be doing the same thing grin). She also accesses a scouts group via school, which is an all-SN group, so again, a MS opportunity but without her feeling as though she doesn't measure up (dd1 is very aware and sensitive of her differences)

zzzzz Fri 20-May-16 19:18:57

That's it really (the others, such as they are, won't work). Ds needs his own curriculum for everything anyway because of the severity of his language disorder. he has normal IQ but functions at early primary.

Youarenotkiddingme Fri 20-May-16 20:25:30

From my experience I'd say steer clear of ss if they don't value parental input. That's been the biggest issue for DS in his MS. Their disregard for me, my knowledge of him and my opinions.

Interesting about RE and history - they are 2 subjects DS just doesn't 'get'!

Ds is socially and emotionally like a year 3/4 child. His biggest social issue seems to be other children picking on him - he's not that interested in socialising with peers who don't share interests - they seek him out as an easy target though.

zzzzz Fri 20-May-16 20:33:45

youare I wouldn't imagine he could manage without 1:1. He would get lost smile. Are there any other children with a similar level of difficulty at your school?

Youarenotkiddingme Fri 20-May-16 20:54:21

I don't really know much about other students at DS school. I do know there's a lad with ASD on 20 hrs. Plus it has a HI unit so plenty of children with language difficulties.

I'd say 1:1 in ms is totally valid and with an. EHCP the la are legally responsible for making it work for your DS. Sometimes they just need reminding of this.

And it doesn't have to be forever. You can re evaluate anytime.

zzzzz Fri 20-May-16 21:09:42

The LA will give me either. I was really set on SS for him but I am finding them so impenetrable and uninterested in understanding ds's needs that I don't understand how he or they will manage. It represents a HUGE commitment for us as he would need to be dropped and picked up and it is 3 hours a day in the car for me and ds2 and dd3 both doing after school/breakfast clubs. Not a problem if it is good for him but for a struggle????

mummytime Fri 20-May-16 21:14:29

My DCs comp has a visually impaired unit, but has also had students through with a wide range of needs (other than the "normal" ASD, dyslexia etc.).
I know they had one girl who had severe sight and physical disabilities (wheelchair and worse). They accommodated her by creating a special timetable and moving classes to be accessible. She had friends, but another boy with Downs was lost until his parents moved him (he's a lovely you man now).
It's probably worth trying, and then if it doesn't work then searching and finding an alternativ.

AntiquityOverShares Sat 21-May-16 08:29:53

Back in the 90's I was full time support in year 9 (first year of upper school in a middle school system) for a child who in that time and place would more usually have gone to special school. When I left my mum was full time support for her and still sees her now and then.

I would say with the right support it can work. Things were less defined back then but I differentiated the work, helped with social aspects, was fierce protection from kids being crappy to her. But she enjoyed it, her parents were happy she experienced regular school. She's a happy adult living in supported housing, has a partner.

Obviously as a former LSA I know they are not all created equal and I know that sometimes there can be dependence issues, but it can also really work as a healthy relationship and the child can grow in confidence in themselves and their abilities (I worked in the middle school she went to though not with her and tbh she was poorly supported and had behaviour problems because of it).

This is quite possibly a pointless post! I couldn't say what level she was working at. She did get one GCSE at a grade E which was an amazing achievement. Socially she was closer to about 7 than 14. There were no extra SEN groups or nurture groups or time outs for specific work back then in that school.

I'm not in such a position but I think I would try mainstream school before somewhere rigid and uninterested in parents. I think mainstream schools these days can be very flexible. Especially if you think he's been happy in his primary?

AntiquityOverShares Sat 21-May-16 08:36:09

(she did have a low iq/learning difficulties in case that didn't come across)

AntiquityOverShares Sat 21-May-16 08:36:51

(as in its different from your child)

zzzzz Sat 21-May-16 08:48:57

smile thank you antiquity most people including teachers assume ds has a low IQ as he can't really access or demonstrate it. They assume any flashes of understanding are just fluke. The truth is he is simultaneously staggeringly clever and yet can't communicate it or really understand what is required. Both schools would have to differentiate for him.
He loves his Primary but they are particularly fantastic in every way.

AgnesDiPesto Sat 21-May-16 12:30:27

I have the same dilemma (i think our boys are v similar). we have 2 years to go yet.

My gut feeling is MS secondary is academically unsuitable for any child working below level 3, they won't be able to access the curriculum without it being individualised - which isn't likely to happen when you have a different teacher every hour for every subject.

There are 2 local MS secondaries which do take children at level 2 - I intend to visit both. I think the children are effectively taught separately in a unit - the schools pool the money from EHCPs etc. I think the kids leave with a lot of certificates in food hygiene, ASDAN etc etc and from the pictures on the wall I sense most of them get shunted towards college courses for animal care, hairdressing etc - the colleges collect the fees for a few years provide little more than babysitting and dump them out onto the world with a load more certificates but no job prospects.

The reason I am even willing to consider these is because I think with the right funding and support they could be made better - we have always had ABA support in primary and if we could get that in secondary with a school with a forward looking attitude it might be possible to achieve something. The benefits of these schools over MLD SS (also the only local alt) is they have great vocational facilities & teachers. Our AbA provider is a US led company and his consultant tells me that if DS was in USA this is the route the kids go down where they learn 'shop' as he calls it - woodwork, metalwork, DT etc or IT. one of the local MS secondaries has a 3d printer. At the moment I have no idea if that would appeal to DS but he is going to have to go the vocational route and you don't get 3d printers and good workshops / teachers in MLD SS. At best you get to do cooking or gardening.

another possibility is for DS to go to SS 11-14 then move at 14. With the leaving age rising to 18 for everyone colleges are now allowed to run courses for 14-18. Again locally none of the colleges are seizing this opportunity - but to me it seems like a great opportunity for our kids with the right provider and right attitude.

I heard on the radio someone talking about the shortage of bricklayers. apparently they can earn £100+ per day which made me think why isn't anyone teaching kids with autism to lay bricks? Why train them in hairdressing or animal care when they have little chance of getting a job at all and if it is it will be minimum wage - when they could be laying bricks, or plastering, mechanics, IT etc etc

Our next LA has 2 MS schools with autism units apparently so i am going to look at those as well

My hunch is I will find all MS schools don't offer the right support - but my experience of ABA is that with the right school, right funding and right attitude sometimes you can make things work even if it doesn't look like it will on paper.

I know if DS goes to MS secondary it will probably require us to fill gaps at home / poss buy in tutors etc, find work placements, us to be on their back pushing them to do things better and differently, him maybe to go PT and do ABA out of school still etc. It would be having to design something around DS (& persuading the LA to fund more than they usually do for MS). But it might not turn out more expensive than SS+transport

We do have a small chance of a new ABA free school 20 miles away - which looks great and hopefully will get a link going with a mainstream school. But there is still a bit of me that will be sad at taking DS out of mainstream. I feel like he should have the chance to try lots of vocational subjects and see if we can find something that he likes. What I need is him to show an interest in something which we could turn into a job - then figure out what skills he needs to do that job and work backwards from there getting him those skills. Its not a case of doing 12 subjects and then picking one at the end. We need to approach it totally differently.

I do hear that peers get a lot more mean at secondary - so while peers have been fab at MS primary - I am worried about MS secondary - although at the moment DS wouldn't be left to wander around school without support anyway.

I actually wish DS could just stay longer at primary with ABA - it would still be academically and socially appropriate for many more years.

The only other options are EBD schools - but DS is too vulnerable for those & he needs more social / language focus.

PandasRock Sat 21-May-16 13:09:00

I actually wish DS could just stay longer at primary with ABA - it would still be academically and socially appropriate for many more years.

Oh yes. A properly flexible education system would be fab. Dd1 couldn't access primary when she was 5, so we chose SS, which has been great and worked well (ABA school). Now she is 11, and she could really get a lot out of eg years 1 and 2 (and then maybe onwards, there is no reason why not). It's just we have these ridiculous hangups about rigid age based year groups.

I would say that level 3 is a bit low for secondary. My dsd went through MS secondary, and needed far more support than she got. At 12/13 she was working at level 3, and certainly felt very behind and apart from others. Technically it was an ok level for her to be there, but the differentiation needed was quite high, and she definitely got picked on because of it.

If there were better (ie wider, more flexible) options, I'm not sure dd1 would stay where she is. She does need more, but there is nowhere else that is as suitable as where is she, so there she stays.

zzzzz Sat 21-May-16 13:53:56

thank you all for thinking about this with me, it is really very helpful. flowers

Yes. ds really is still a primary school child, but while I do know of one child who has stayed on for an extra year at primary, I don't think it would work for us. Wherever he goes ds will be working at his own pace. His language disorder is HUGE and while he can now talk/understand/communicate he has only really been doing that for a year or so and he has much to catch up on. That doesn't worry me and to a certain extent assuming I can trust the TAs to be observant I am not that worried about bullying etc. Ds need close 1:1 all the time so he shouldn't be in a position to be experiencing that. He also is very personable (for want of a better descriptor) and quickly forges connections with people who generally want to make him smile.

Like Agnes I am waiting for ds to show enough interest in something marketable, though even then I would be happy with a hobby.

What he needs to be happy is people to adapt to his needs (breaks, close supervision, language removed from tasks) and friends. They don't have to be what you or I would consider a friend because ds only communicates well enough with family to share his thoughts, but someone to play catch with or smile at.

I was very set on the ss, to the point where I am finding it very hard to readjust to even the possibility of ms, but they seem to imagine he can just do so many things he just can't. shock They are also quite adamant that they know what they are doing and won't be changing for us. shock sad

Youarenotkiddingme Sat 21-May-16 15:08:40

They are also quite adamant that they know what they are doing and won't be changing for us.

zzzzz this is the attitude I get from DS current school. And you know the heartache and struggles I've had with them and the insults they've hurled at me for asking simple questions.

I often think people don't realise the struggles these children have underneath looking at them from the outside. I've given up telling people just because DS is smiling it means nothing. Even Camhs have highlighted this but people chose to opt for the easy - it means he's happy.

Yet DS was grinning ear to ear the other day whilst explaining his plot to blow up the school and take down all the bullies with it. It was clearly anger not happiness he felt.

I seriously from my experience would say go with the school you feel would work with you and for DS the most.
I'm a great believer in a child will acheive what they can - everyone has their limits - but it's the environment which will have an effect on what that acheivement does for a child.

StarlightMcKenzee Sun 22-May-16 17:08:58

'I wouldn't go anywhere near a school which discourages parental input (especially with a more vulnerable child!)'

This ^. Though be warned, almost all schools SAY that they care about parent partnership, many mean the outreach model, where THEY are the experts who tell YOU what to do, but only if they want to.

Questions I have asked of schools to get a true feel before son starts:

1) Can I come in and meet with you next week?
2) Can I have your email address?
3) If he comes here will I have the email address of his other teachers?
4) How will I know what he is working on or what homework is set?
5) Can he leave early on Fridays to attend a very important after school activity that I consider will help with a particular non-medical aspect of his SEN (this was fictional, but willingness to find a solution to this is key)
6) Will you come and visit him in his current setting?

zzzzz Sun 22-May-16 17:40:46

smile I've missed you star
1) answer yes but appointment took longer
2) only communicate through home school book we don't have time to deal with endless emails
3) as 2
4) everything will be in the home school book and we will help him fill it out (so beyond ds they will do it or it won't happen)
5) didn't think of that, I may try next week
6)we have 20 children starting we can't visit all of them shock (dds grammar school had over a hundred in a 50 mile radius and they managed)

zzzzz Sun 22-May-16 17:42:21

I'm 80:20 ms:SS since talking to the SS again, but I want to make sure I'm not being silly so we are going to try again next week.

StarlightMcKenzee Sun 22-May-16 17:43:06

What would the mainstream say?

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