Here are some suggested organisations that offer expert advice on special needs.
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Blossom House Christopher Place(10 Posts)
Hello, I started a thread previously on this board about our daughter's VB programme back in October last year and got some really helpful advice. Since the start of this year, she's had ABA-trained shadows at her (fairly small, Montessori) preschool, 5 mornings a week, and a few hours of 1:1 VB sessions at home in the afternoons. (In hindsight, we should probably have gone for fewer hours at preschool and more time doing 1:1 stuff...)
She's made some progress - with imitation, making requests, parallel play, sitting still for group activities, etc - but in the last term or so, it became obvious that she finds the environment a bit frustrating and that lots of the stuff is over her head in terms of ability to concentrate and comprehend. We think she needs somewhere with a small number of children in the classroom at any time and lots of structure to the morning.
None of the state or private mainstream nursery/preschool options nearby seems like the right setting. So we looked around BH Christopher Place, went through the assessments and were recently offered a place. We are leaning strongly towards accepting it. Thoughts (in no particular order)...
On the positive side:
- I like the feel of the classrooms (bright, airy, not too cluttered visually) and structure of the nursery day (lots of adult-led activities, movement breaks mid-morning and group OT)
- I can see my daughter responding well to the teaching style I saw there (teachers modelling simple, clear sentences; repetition of key concepts)
- I really like the fact that it is group learning, without 1:1s (albeit v small and high ratio!). Learning "how to learn" in a group is such an important skill and I think my daughter will need a lot of support to get it.
- The staff were all friendly and Juliette (who heads Christopher Place) seemed lovely: very approachable and down-to-each.
On the minus side:
- Bit of a "rabbit warren" feel to the premises and not a lot of outdoor space.
- Having said that limited numbers are what our daughter needs to be able to learn, I worry about the very small peer group - fewer than 10 other children in nursery. Maybe not ideal for practising social skills...?
- Oddly, for a school that has a pretty high % of pupils on the spectrum and employs what look (well, to my untrained eyes!) like behavioural learning-based approaches, BH does not seem that clued up about ABA/VB. We'd like to carry on the afternoon ABA sessions and I'm concerned about the need for consistency of approaches. (And selfishly, I was hoping that the work of making sure that all the professionals are doing something sensible, each knows what he/she is supposed to be doing, each knows what the others are doing - which largely falls on me - would be lower with a specialist nursery. Maybe a pipe dream!)
- I have a niggling doubt about whether, at this stage, a move to BH is compromising academics too much in the interests of the SEN/therapy side. I know that the therapy is the most acute need but I am ambitious for my daughter and would like to transition over the course of primary school into a mainstream setting. I want her to be challenged, not just to sit at the middle/upper end of the group ability range.
Sorry, this is all turning into rather a long ramble! Does anyone have recent-ish experience of Blossom House for nursery (either the new Christopher Place site or the main one near Wimbledon)? Any thoughts on their provision for children with speech & language issues who are also at the high/moderate end of the spectrum? Any suggestions for other places?
Thank you very much!
Bump...anyone? Sorry for the long read!
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
Hi zzzzz, thanks for your responses!
Re your second post on whether she'd be challenged, sorry, my OP was unclear. I don't feel she's more likely to sit on the sidelines in this school than in MS and don't think she isn't going to be challenged at all - in fact, one of the things I like about BH is that I'm confident she won't be allowed just to "drift". I was more thinking how it compares to some other specialist schools (in particular, a fantastic one I saw called Abingdon House, which only takes children from Y1), which seemed a bit stronger on the academics.
Re your first post on 1:1, that's a good question! I don't think she can learn without 1:1 support in MS, even in a smallish group. I think she probably can in the environment at BH (group of 4 to 7 kids, teacher + SALT + at least one assistant, so basically 1:1.5ish) - and presumably they also think so, or they wouldn't have offered the place.
I don't think being able to learn without 1:1 support is necessary, or even a priority, at 3.5yrs. But I think being able to participate by herself in a group, even for a short time, would be a good thing that would make lots of other things more easily accessible - birthday parties, swimming lessons... Also, even with 1:1 support, she'll need at least some basics: sitting in a circle, listening to the teacher, etc. I think it'll be easier to pick those up at BH than at her current setting.
I don't know, maybe I am being over-negative about mainstream with 1:1. But then, I just can't see it working that well in any of nurseries that would be realistic options for us this coming September...
No need to apologise at all! It's good to have the big questions highlighted when I'm overthinking everything and writing rambling essays.
I think we're going to go for it with BH. You're right, there are hardly any specialist places that are well set up even for just language issues in young kids, let alone with ASD thrown in; I can't see why she wouldn't be happy there; and all this worrying about academics, size of peer group, etc, is secondary as we can supplement in the afternoons.
Thank you! I hope your transition to secondary goes well. Sorry, I may have overlooked where you said this on another thread but are you going to ms or SS?
Ooh, good luck! It sounds fantastic. And sorry to hear about the palaver - it will all be worth it in the end (something I say to myself often )...