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How to choose a school if we don't know what we're dealing with?(12 Posts)
Bit of a back story - DS was diagnosed 5 months ago with ASD. His main issues are communication (non-verbal) and interaction. Also, a couple of very mild sensory issues but no other issues or behaviour problems.
We went to see Paediatrician this week to discuss how things are going. We don't have any problems currently so there wasn't much to discuss but we did talk about schools for next year. We told her we were considering a nearby primary school with a unit for asd and similar difficulties. She looked horrified and said that was absolutely not suitable for him - that the unit was for children with learning difficulties and he was too bright.
DH and I have come away confused about what to do. The main issue is that we don't know where on the spectrum DS sits and really how he learns. Everyone else seems to know where their child is on the spectrum and if they are high functioning or low functioning and we haven't a clue. This doesn't help when we don't know what schools we should be considering. We are in the early stages of EHCP and don't know what kind of school we should be looking at?
I suppose that we just assumed an asd unit would be best for him as the support there would be better.
In the paediatrician's defence, she was excellent at giving advice and seemed very knowledgeable and keen when it came to autism. From my point of view she seemed concerned that by putting him in a unit it would limit his educational opportunities and said he would be better suited to MS with a 1-1. I really felt she just wants us to find the best setting for DS and even gave us her email address to stay in touch and if we had any questions. I certainly never felt she meant it in a negative way.
We live in a suburban area where all schools are oversuscribed, hence looking at the smaller units. Really can't imagine him in a class of 30+ as he currently attends a lovely pre-school in a class of 10.
Not all Resource Bases are the same. Mine is for high functioning pupils and many of them are real academic high fliers.
The SEN Casework team never visit and seem very unclear about what we do, the Health team definitely wouldn't. So I would go and look for yourself and talk to the lead teacher.
What is he good at? What does he enjoy?
Meir He is very visual, so he like puzzles, matching, sorting, books, loves numbers and letters. Loves funny things and thrives with 1-1 interaction.
He's only 3 though, so it is very difficult for me to imagine him sat at a table learning anything.
I also don't know how people know where on the spectrum their child sits. What would be classed as mild/moderate/severe and high functioning and low functioning?
I have no idea where my dd aged 5 sits on the spectrum. She is currently in year 1 with 1:1 support at a small village primary school, her brothers also went to the same school and we know it well.
Our nearest school with an ASD unit is 16 miles away, it may well be fantastic but for the time being she's really happy where she is and is thriving there, although academically she is significantly behind her peers. However, if we lived closer I might have considered it though.
My dd speech therapist suggested she may well be better suited at this school, but I chose to go with my gut feeling rather than that of the opinion of someone who doesn't know her as well as the school and doesn't see her much. For us the fact it's not just around the corner is a huge issue for us.
I would have a good look at MS and a more specialised school if I were you and see how you feel after looking round. It might help you to make the right decision for you son.
Deciding between "unit" and "mainstream" in principle tends to be pretty meaningless.
What matters is the specifics- is this particular unit/mainstream/special/whatever school a good fit for this particular child during this certain time of their educational life? Taking into account their SEN, their aptitudes, their likes /dislikes etc. Then balance that with the journey, the needs of the rest of the family and how much hassle it'll be to get in and/or ensure the necessary support is provided.
The paediatrician might know the particular unit really well- or not at all. For example, one local special school has the community paediatrician visiting because it's an easier way to get child, parent, school therapists and the NHS together efficiently. Better than sending out letters for all the kids to be dragged up to hospital annually for a multidisciplinary epilepsy/ cerebral palsy review clinic.
Dont worry too much about where he sits on the spectrum because that will fluctuate with age, stress, his needs being met, his interests and loads of other variables!
Find the school that is the best fit for him now and go from there! Schools can be changed damage to mental health could potentially be forever.
Our local unit advertises itself for children with high functioning autism. I've never worked out how when it isn't even an official diagnosis!
There are plenty of blurred lines now in what children are placed in units vs their intentional use. So worthwhile looking around and finding the best fit. Plus once you have EHCP you'll have a clearer idea of what strengths DS has, what things he needs to learn and how best for him to access these things.
My local ASD unit attached to MS secondary DS currently attends is for pupils with HFA who can access ms school with some support from an LSA. In reality it doesn't offer that (or rather has pupils who are severe in nature) but another ASD unit further afield does offer that kind of education.
And as wise zzzzz has said many a time. You aren't committing yourself to being at a school you choose forever - you have options if it doesn't work for DS.
Thanks all for your advice. We've got some open days booked into the calendar so will take it from there I suppose.
I know where you're coming from when you say a choice of school doesn't have to be forever but as DS has a twin brother then for us and them it would be unsettling to have to separate them. It does definitely make the decision tougher as I feel it has to be right first time for everyone's sake.