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Would you choose an academic school?

(12 Posts)
mochalight Wed 04-Jan-17 14:00:28

Hello everyone - I need to apply for a school for dd who will start reception next year. She has ASD and her main issue at the moment is significant speech and language disorder particularly on the expressive side, and attention difficulty.

There is a state mainstream I have been impressed with, and I like that they have smaller classes than others in my area. I don't know to what extent they are experienced in SN but I spoke to the SENCO and learnt they have a number of ASD children. However, the school has a reputation in the area to be rather academic and this slightly makes me worried whether she will be able to cope. The school says they will cater for individual needs but I am thinking of the school wide atmosphere and the teachers' attitude (I know it's impossible to tell until you are in). Thing is dd is so young and it's difficult to tell her potential; despite her language issues she's described by people and professionals working with her as bright and intelligent so part of me also want a setting that would give her demands and challenges.

Has anyone sent your kid with ASD to a rather academic school? I know every child is different but I would love to hear your experiences and advice. If you were me would you give it a try?

Thanks!

vjg13 Wed 04-Jan-17 15:03:34

My daughter (SLD) initially went to a very academic, high achieving, state mainstream primary school. Her reception class was only about 19 children.
It was a disaster, the senco wasn't really experienced in dealing with children with her level of need and was useless. The kids were really hot housed academically from the start and the majority did very well. There were also play ground mutterings about my daughter's presence being distracting for the class teacher and may hold back the other 4/5 year olds!

Usernamealreadyexists Wed 04-Jan-17 18:21:15

I echo vjg. My dc is in a small private school and they have bugger all knowledge of autism. He is incredibly articulate but struggles with social communication and i get the impression they wish he wasn't there. I though small classes would help him but having ignorant teachers is very detrimental. My dc is also bright but I underestimated the effect his ASD has on him accessing the curriculum - auditory processin, following instructions, receptive language are all issues for him. So, bright does not mean having the ability to access learning. Really look at what support is in place.

She's still so young and could transition to an academic school later. Having someone who genuinely cares and understands makes a huge difference.

zzzzz Wed 04-Jan-17 19:07:55

At 4 ALL schools will be teaching your child to read and count and then do basic arithmetic.
Ask the senco of ANY school you are considering is they have experience of teaching children with communication difficulties.

Nb ds has a severe language disorder and learnt to read ahead of making his own sentences verballly.

iPad was extremely helpful for us as was Montessori curriculums and kit.

OneInEight Wed 04-Jan-17 20:44:00

Extremely difficult to say & will depend on your child's profile.

Mine did better at primary when the school was run on more academic, formal lines and setting for maths and Literacy than when a new HT took over and changed it to an inspirational chaotic curriculum. Whilst an academic school may be more pressurised (which is a negative point) they may also be more routine based and quieter (which for my two is a bonus). I would be very wary to send a child to a school which has little or no experience of their SEN though.

(Mine have AS and are academic but have high anxiety leading to challenging behaviour)

tartanterror Wed 04-Jan-17 21:15:39

It's early so if I were you I would look for a school that is able to be flexible above all else. When the child can't be flexible, the school has to be able to flex - otherwise they simply label the child as 'naughty". My DS has worked consistently ahead of age levels and as he's articulate he sounds impressive. But he can't ask for help or advocate for himself. He simply refuses to do anything that he finds difficult - which basically means he will not write much. This inspires a lot of frustration and upset in his teachers - not many regular primary teachers can deal with an able child who also has invisible difficulties. They just think they are uncooperative. Now, in Y3, english is stepping up and inference/imagination topics are starting to come to the fore. His communication difficulties are becoming more and more obvious. He's been punished for refusing to do tasks linked to the core deficits of autism when the school think he "won't" rather than "can't". I can cope with advocating for him at Primary and he's settled/has some friends for now, so we will stay where we are, but we have to find him an autism-friendly secondary school. Thinking about school choice, we will aim to go to a school which has an ASD specialist unit (the sort where all the children are in lessons together but the ASD kids get extra provision/differentiated curriculum in the unit). Even if we don't have the EHCP to access the unit, the teachers in the school are used to ASD kids and their needs. I saw somewhere that it is a good idea to find out how many hours of SALT a school buy in each year and how many children get access. It may not be what your child requires but it is a good proxy for assessing the level of resources the school are prepared to put into SEN. Also I would ask all the schools on your list for their level of ASD training for staff and actual experience (numbers per year) of children with a "pen-profile" similar to your son. The AET have published a guide on how to choose a school which might be worth googling for. An academic school might be OK, but I wouldn't rate it above a school with experience of/good track record with ASD. It's unbelievably stressful if your child/school don't fit well so it's definitely worth spending time on comparing options! Well done for thinking about it!

Sausagepickle123 Wed 04-Jan-17 22:44:53

My son (ASD, speech and lang disorder, developmental delay) is in reception at a huge academic state school with EHCP and 1:1. So far it is going well, he is happy, is learning and has made some massive leaps forward. The school were a bit off before he started but now he is actually there they are trying hard with him. I looked at some specialist schools but decided this was the best for him at the moment (close to home, siblings attend). Fingers crossed it continues to go well but I think all we can hope for is that any point in time the child is happy!
Good luck - hope it all works out x

mochalight Thu 05-Jan-17 08:43:23

Thanks so much for all the replies. I know I'm asking a question that has no definite answer but I really appreciate the sharing of experiences and advice from all of you smile

Vjg and username I am sorry to hear the difficulties your children had. If you don't mind me asking when your children started at the said schools did they have EHCPs? I am wondering if this will make a difference. Dd hasn't got a plan yet but LA has agreed to assess so we are hopeful she will get one. And did your children move to a less academic school at the end?

And username you said what I think about being bright doesn't necessarily mean she is able to access the curriculum, especially as her language remains so delayed. That is why I feel a bit uncertain if I should send her to this school. Without actually seeing her the school is unable to tell me how she can be supported but the SENCO told me they have ASD children and has plenty of experienced staff in this.

zzzzz thanks for your advice. My dd is now at a private Montessori nursery and she is very well supported and I like the teaching approach as I think it suits her. She has progressed a lot. However I am conscious that it is a private setting so not sure about long term support and if I should keep her there ... I'm in such a dilemma.

Oneineight sometimes I do feel I'm a bad mum that I don't even know whether my dd is better in a routined environment or not. She likes to be told what's to happen next so I think she doesn't like unpredictability but she's very adaptable to changes. She learns her routine very quickly and is happy to follow instructions when she's in the mood. But she can be hyper at times too and it can be a chore to make her sit down.

tartan thanks much for telling me about AET - I haven't even heard of it. I have a look at the guidelines for choosing schools and see that there are so many questions I haven't asked or even considered. Now the application deadline is fast approaching I probably may not have enough time to ask the SENCOs again. The academic school said they have experience in teaching ASD children but I don't think they have a strong track record as I believe the number of SEN students there is low. There is one in the area with a stronger track record in SEN but it's farther away and has bigger classes. Also DH is very keen to try the academic one as he feels that it's difficult to speculate what support the school can offer until you get in, which I agree, and it's closer to home.

sausage it's lovely to hear about your ds' happy experience and I hope everything continues to go well for him. It's really important that our children are happy and I feel like choosing a school is like a gambleconfused do you think the EHCP helps in terms of assessing the right support in this academic school? And may I ask how many hours of 1:1 he's receiving? Thanks again!

Sausagepickle123 Thu 05-Jan-17 09:42:47

DS has full time 1:1 (32.5 hrs). EHCP came through last summer term just in time for him to start with full time - having the appropriate support has really helped him with the transition, settling in and understanding. School would have put help in place for him without EHCP but probably not at such a high level at least to start with. It all depends on what your child needs!

vjg13 Thu 05-Jan-17 11:56:44

My daughter is almost 19 now, she had a statement when she started school as that was the system in the olden days! She moved to another mainstream school with a resource unit which did meet her needs reasonably well for about 2 years. On reflection, she would have been better served if she had moved to a special school after the initial school. She attends a MLD special school now and is in her final year. She moved to that school at the end of Year 6.

The best advice I was given was to look at a lot of different schools, even in neighbouring LEAs to really get an idea of where your child will fit. Also start chasing the EHCP now. All the guidelines, in terms of number of weeks to complete, seem to be ignored by most LEAs and it can take a long time for it to be produced. Get any draft independently checked by Education Equality or SOS SEN to ensure it is meaningful. Education equality have a useful document on their website showing which are the important sections and what should be where.

Also be prepared that any school may work well for your child for a few years but they may need to move, especially if the gap with their peers widens. Good luck!

PolterGoose Thu 05-Jan-17 12:11:40

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

tartanterror Thu 05-Jan-17 21:23:05

Interesting about what you've found about bases Polter. It doesn't seem to be true of our local school - shame it can't be relied on everywhere

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