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Mainstream or special?

(36 Posts)
lou031205 Fri 04-Sep-09 19:16:27

DD1 has a brain malformation, which is most likely to blame for her GDD. She starts school in 2010, & I need to get my head around what I need to be fighting for (I am taking the need to fight for something as a given wink).

She:
-Has very little/no sense of danger.
-Has a degree of ataxia, so stumbles, falls & trips easily.
-Walks slower than peers.
-Quite weak hands.
-Is toilet trained, although has an obsession with the toilet/hand washing, so will say she needs to go as a 'fun' thing to do.
-Has S&L delay/disorder, I reckon she's about about 2.6 level, she is 3.9.
-Has fine motor delay - can draw a rough circle but nothing else.
-Can't cope with structured elements of preschool sessions.
-Struggles with transitions.
-Doesn't seem to learn spontaneously.
-Needs 1:1 support to engage in activities meaningfully.
-Doesn't eat well at preschool, needs supervision.
-Gets overwhelmed with group activities & withdraws.

-Can count to around 17/18.
-Knows shapes/colours.
-Has a good memory.
-Good problem solving skills (couldn't pour water from jug, so dipped cup in).

Given the nature of mainstream schools, there is no doubt in my mind that if she was to go there, she would need full 1:1 support inc. lunch/breaks. Preschool agree.

But I am wondering if a SS would be better for her. She is always going to be chasing the MS kids, trying to catch them up. She learns by repitition, finds it hard to generalise learning, etc.

I spoke to the Area Inclusion Officer, and her gut reaction was that DD1 was 'too bright' for Shepherds Down School (our local SS) and that she would 'run rings around them'). My gut feeling is that being bright doesn't mean much if you can't access the knowledge, and you can't learn much if you are dead (all local primaries are on roads, DD1 escapes/runs - blue badge partly for this).

What are your thoughts?

Marne Fri 04-Sep-09 19:39:43

We have the same choice to make here. Dd2 has ASD and is very similar to your Dd.

Has no sense of danger
poor communication
poor speech
Struggles with transitions
Gets overwhelmed with group activities & withdraws.
Is not yet toilet trained (working on this)
Does not always respond when asked to do something.
Only understands 1-3 words at a time.

Is great with numbers (can count to 20)
Knows the alphabet.
Loves solving puzzles.
Has a good memory.

We are waiting to see the ed pychiatrist (sp), some people(portage, nursery leader) have said she will be fine at MS with help from a 1:1, others just say 'wait and see closer to the time'. I'm worried that she will struggle in a MS setting although she does well at MS nursery. I worry that she will get bullied and taken advantage of.
Its so hard to know what to do for the best, in a way it would be ideal if dd2 could stay in nursery for an extra year and join school in class 1 (i'm not sure if that would ever be possible). I think if dd2 had another year to catch up then she would find MS easier (she's over a year behind with speech).

I am very tempted to put her into SN school for a year and then see if they think she could cope with MS.

We are very lucky to have a sn school near by which specializes in Autism and simiar conditions.

Dd1 has Aspergers and attends MS at our local village school and has settled in really well but then she has a lot more understanding than dd2.

daisy5678 Fri 04-Sep-09 19:59:38

It depends on the special school. J is on the mainstream/ special school borderline in that he is quite extreme behaviourally and the HT has tried numerous times to get him moved to special school. Ed. psych agreed but so far I've been successful in keeping him in mainstream. However, if there was an appropriate special school (for high-functioning/ Aspergers/ academically able children), I would put him there to reduce his stress. He keeps up academically but fitting into a class of 28 kids is hard for him and socially, he struggles at times. That gap will continue to widen.

There are no appropriate special schools here. There's one for EBD children (not appropriate), a couple for children with moderate to severe learning difficulties and one for children with more severe autism with little speech. J is very verbal, academically fine and not really EBD (and I think he'd actually be very scared there as he likes everyone else to follow the rules!). So no special school here works for him.

On the other hand, J is going to grow up in society, where he'll be faced with a mixture of people, mostly not SN. So I do like the idea of mainstream, for that reason. He generally copes and is often quite happy. He thrives on the trips and extra-curricular stuff. He accesses the work. He's often indistinguishable from the other children and has a real sense of belonging.

I don't really know what's best. But I do know that it's an individual decision based on the child and, most importantly, the qualities of the mainstream and special schools that you're choosing between.

Good luck choosing. FWIW, we had the battle with the school about the roads because J is also a runner, and eventually won - the LEA paid for locks and keypads and stuff. The 1:1 is doable and if she has that, the curriculum is negotioable. J did virtually none of what the other kids did for the first year, until he learned to cope with bits of the curriculum. Everything had to be differentiated; he worked outside or in a small room with his TA and gradually worked up to full (mostly!) inclusion in lessons.

It's a bloody hard choice and probably you'll always wonder what would have happened if you'd gone the other way, but you have to make a decision based on what you know at the time. I think both have pros and cons.

lou031205 Fri 04-Sep-09 20:14:00

Marne, it's so hard isn't it? I have just asked for her stat. assessment. She has 1:1 now, but will drown if they send her to school without.

givememoresleep, thank you. That is so helpful. I think I am still struggling to accept her 'differentness' and feel so sad for her.

lou031205 Fri 04-Sep-09 20:17:41

Schools around here seem to be a mix of MLD/SLD with some ASD thrown in. DD1 is in the awkward position of having some ASD traits, and now 'social communication difficulties', but not so far satisfying ASD criteria, so wouldn't fit that either. She does have behavioural issues, but not enough by any means for EBD.

TheDMshouldbeRivened Fri 04-Sep-09 20:23:03

Only you can tell. dd started at SN school - she has severe cerebral palsy, epilepsy and is partially sighted. Cant speak or move.
The SN school was crap and totally unstimulating. Turned out dd had 'normal' intelligence.
She's now moved to a mainstream with 1 to 1 provision (and a resource base and expertise in SN).
Its great. But she would struggle in a MS without the expertise this school has in severelt impaired children.

5inthebed Fri 04-Sep-09 20:24:25

DS2 went to a SN nursery from last September, and came along lovely. Learnt to speak, as he had almost daily SALT, learnt to hold a pencil, and his social skills are slightly better. He started attending a MS nursery in January and stayed in the SN as well. After severel meetings with EP, SALT and teachers from both schools, they thought DS might benefit from a MS setting.

He is starting MS school with full time 1:1, and I am absolutely dreading it. I was fine with it at first, but now that his first day there is slowly getting nearer and nearer, I can feel myself getting more and more tense. I am not entirely sure we have made the right decision sad

mumwhereareyou Fri 04-Sep-09 21:03:36

My Ds is in yr2 of MS but will be changing to Sn school in yr3, he has fulltime 1-1 at moment.

He has GDD of approx 2yrs behind,speech disorder, ADHD and mild ASD,he is miles behind the others can only just write his name and even that isn't very clear,can count to 20 and no more and is just about reading in a fashion.

He is very happy at school, and school work very hard with him,but admit that he will be totally out of depth in yr3. I am sad but understand the reason for it,now just trying to find the right school for him.

I wanted to him to go SN in receptionbut LEA turned us down, in retrospect that was the right decision, as he has benefited from MS and they (the School) have learnt so much from him.

It is so hard to make that decision and always worrying if it is the right one.

Good luck with it.

Macforme Fri 04-Sep-09 23:58:11

A lot depends on your county and what is available.
Usually , unless the delay is severe or there are severe physical disabilities, most LEAs will try mainstream first.. partly because it's cheaper and there are fewer places in special schools..but also sometimes because it's hard to really predict how a child will develop when they are 4 or 5.

I'm both a parent to a child in special school, and I work in special ed so I kind of see it from both sides.

Your little one sounds quite bright to go into a special school..to be able to count etc at that age would be very unusual indeed..however having said that..does the special school have an assessment nursery at all?? That's a great way to find out how her learning is in a school setting and a foot in the door if special ed is likely to be better.
My son started at a mainstream nursery at 3 with a 1:1 ..non verbal and in nappies..and when we were offered a place at the local special school integrated nursery we took it. he has been in sp school ever since..at 12 he is about 5 years behind his peers academically but can read now and write a bit and we have been very happy. He has moderate LDs and ASD but went from being non verbal at 4 to non stop at 12!!

A lot of children manage mainstream for the first few years and then move to special school at about 7 or 8 when the academic pace becomes too fast for their learning abilities or coping skills.. it's never an all or nothing decision I don't think

Is your daughter Statemented yet? If not... get going on that as it's VITAL especially for a sp school place!
Hugs.. hard to know what's going to be best!

madwomanintheattic Sat 05-Sep-09 00:02:08

i would say ms with 1-1, but only my opinion - dd2 has v similar motor issues and is thriving in ms. (she has athetoid cp and ataxia).

remember, whatever you decide, nothing is set in stone - it can be tricky to change, but not impossible.

visit and see where you think she fits in - and don't be afraid to ask for exactly the support she will need.

vjg13 Sat 05-Sep-09 10:13:09

Have a look at all your local m/s and special schools and even in the next LEAs. You should then get a real idea of where your daughter will fit and may see older versions of her.

My daughter went to a m/s school for about one year, it was a very high achieving school and this was one of many reasons why it didn't work. She moved to a resourced unit in another mainstream school and this worked ok for the first couple of years until the gap with her peers widened too much and she still had to spend 50% of her time in m/s where any inclusion was purely locational. She is now at a MLD school (she has SLD).

We visited about 10 schools to find the one we considered appropriate and it was time well spent. We blindly followed what the LEA suggested for her first two schools and that was a huge mistake.

Most special schools have a real mixture of children with very different abilities.

Good luck, it's important to remember that you will be the only one with your child's best interests at heart.

HairyMaclary Sat 05-Sep-09 10:45:43

Hi, Haven't read whole thread but my DS sounds a bit similar to yours, he has CP and walks with sticks or a frame but otherwise may aspects are the same. DS started at a unit attached to a mainstream school on Thursday, it has been brilliant so far and I thin he will thrive. He will spend the first 6 weeks solely in the unit so they can get to know him and he them, then he will spend increasing amounts of time in the mainstream reception class. This will be based on how he copes and in what areas he would benefit from being in mainstream and when he needs to be with the unit.

For me this is the best of both worlds as DS would probably drown in MS even with full time 1:1, but would be bored at SN school as is cognitively and in speech at normal or above (some emotional issues though). At his school he gets those with experience to help his access the curriculum, along with SALT. OT and physio on site twice a week, but he also gets to mix, socialise and learn with his peers.

Is there anything like this near you?

Sidge Sat 05-Sep-09 11:29:05

My DD2 has some similar difficulties to your DD but has less 'ability' in many ways - she has a severe expressive speech delay, moderate delay in receptive language, isn't toilet trained, can only 'count' to 5, has some challenging behaviours (OCD and VERY stubborn) as well as loads of social and developmental stuff.

However we chose a mainstream school for her - we thought we'd at least give it a go for primary as she certainly won't be able to go to mainstream secondary. She is thriving and has come on in leaps and bounds. She has full time 1-1 and the school are brilliant, very nuturing and supportive. It's a really caring school and lots of parents that have children with SN send their children there from miles around, as it has a ton of experience and a positive attitude, as well as an integrated language unit.

I think the choice isn't always whether you should choose mainstream or special school, it's more about which schools are most suited to your child. If you have a great MS school and feel confident that they can give your child the right support then it's worth looking at.

Pixel Sat 05-Sep-09 12:04:15

It's so difficult isn't it? We looked at several schools for ds but when we first visited the SN school ds now attends, the head said "remember nothing is set in stone". Children move to his school from mainstream often if the aren't coping and some pupils get on so well as special that they are soon ready for mainstream. In our area they may even move between special schools is a different one will suit their abilities better. But you do have to start somewhere!
All I can say is what others have said, visit the schools yourself and talk to the staff. You will come away with a much better idea of what feels right.

daisy5678 Sat 05-Sep-09 12:12:36

Ooh, yes, a mainstream school with a unit would be my ideal, tbh.

AngryWasp Sat 05-Sep-09 13:05:16

Funny, - I've been looking at the mainstream schools with a unit for autism and am quite definate they would be innappropriate. The assumptions made in their brochures about what children with autism need are (atm at least) way out wrt my ds. Also they can employ economies of scale and the overall provision per child might be less iyswim.

I'm thinking of a mainstream WITHOUT an autism base so they have to work harder to meet HIS needs without all the waffly cr*p about them being the experts/experienced etc and making gross assumptions as we have already experienced with their insistance with PECS for example.

Don't want to add to the choice pool because I know that it is a hard enough decision, so sorry, but I do think this perspective is worth a consideration.

daisy5678 Sat 05-Sep-09 16:55:57

Schools with units have much more staff training and much more general goodwill towards SN children than those without. I know many mainstreams where teachers have had very little SN training and don't think that "those children" should be in their schools. Of course, they're not all like that, not at all, but a school with a unit is very unlikely to be like that, iyswim, because their function includes that.

lou031205 Sat 05-Sep-09 17:13:46

My worry is that in a mainstream school, they will have to spend large amounts of time controlling her to keep her in the class room, stop her putting herself in danger, etc. How can she learn if she is able to escape the very open plan classroom setting? And how will she cope with the social side of things?

I worry that in mainstream, as long as she is kept in check, they will think she is doing OK, and that they won't be trying to get her best.

In a special school they are set up for it?

AngryWasp Sat 05-Sep-09 18:18:30

giveme I'm thinking of a school with a SALT base rather than an autism base. It is very early days yet though but it just feels more right and I DO NOT like the autism base brochure one bit. It is patronising and full of assumptions and routines that are totally inappropriate for ds imo and they appear to have very low expectations.

But then, there is a country-wide problem with provision for bright children with autism. I don't think there are very many (if any) special schools that cater for them at all.

Not that ds is bright. No-one seems to be able to assess him until he can talk apparently.

Lou I don't think it is as simple as special/mainstream tbh. I think that some mainstream schools with a LOT of 1:1 support can be better than some Special schools and vice versa, and it doesn't just depend on the school, but on your child too iyswim and I don't think there is a simple formula you can apply to see what your dd's outcome/attainment will be if she goes to oneor the other. It's really hard I know.

mumwhereareyou Sat 05-Sep-09 20:47:07

I would love a mainstream school with unit attached that would be brillant, but as far as i know there aren't any in South Lincs or if so,they are hidden away.

jubee Sun 06-Sep-09 21:33:10

Hi. You need to look at all the options. I was adamant my son would go into mainstream. But when we went to look at the schools we just new he wouldnt cope. he has GDD, speech problems, behaviour problems etc. We went to see a special school and just knew it was right. You will have a gut feeling when you go and look. You need to maybe sit in a class just to see how things happen in the school situation. If you choose mainstream, talk to any other parents of SN kids that go to that school, the parents would be the best people to get an honest view. If you get a good mainstream one then you a very lucky. Make sure the statement covers EVERYTHING if you go to mainstream, your local education dept will not give you much help. If you go special school route, be prepared for a fight, stand your ground. Good luck.

HairyMaclary Tue 08-Sep-09 08:52:02

I would agree with going to look at all sorts - being a neurotic mother I racked up over 20 schools that I visited blush.

There was one mainstream that I think DS would have been happy in and that I felt could probably meet his needs, 2 others that may have been ok at a push but I would have needed to do lots and lots of work and pushing with them. I looked at the 2 local special schools and knew immediately that they would not be right for Ds. I looked at 4 schools with units, one with a SLT unit, ok but not great as DS does not really have a language issue and that was their focus, one with a unit for hearing impaired pupils, again similar to the SLT school, their focus was not what DS needed. The 2 other schools with units combined physical disabilities (what DS has) with autism. The combination of the 2 seemed to work really well and in both I felt Ds would thrive, we eventually applied to the one that I felt most comfortable with and the one that had the therapists that he already knew attached to it. 4 days in it is a great sucess and already I can see DS growing in confidence. He hasn't yet spent any time in his mainstream class, that will come later and I will be keen to see how that goes as DS needs that social interaction.

Sorry it's turned into a bit of an essay!

misscutandstick Thu 10-Sep-09 10:29:48

I visited our local SN school yesterday, it has fantastic resources, really low class sizes (ave.4). however we were told that they only accept children with learning difficulties (mod/sev) and NOT development delays.

In our case its difficult at the mo to tell if DS5 has learning diffs as well as GDD as hes soooo young (hes 3.3y delayed by around 2yrs).

It is definately worth visiting ALL the schools you are considering.

disneystar1 Thu 10-Sep-09 10:36:51

tough one here my 9 yr old has had numerous brain ops and is very behind
speech age 3 etc....
walking just about
not properly toilet trained
suffers benign tumours all over his body and his face and head are covered
wears body bandages day and night cos of cross infection
double heart bypass as left him weak
hes on anti cancer drugs now oh i could go on and on

i had him a SS for 1 year and we had a talk and basically hes a bright young man and i chose for him to come out and go into MS

why because hes going to be surrounded by all sorts of people for the rest of him life and he has to see ok hes a bit different but hes got to have good coping skills
he has 1-2-1 and through lunch etc....toilet help everything
he loves it hes doing great wheelchair and all.
his happiness is my happiness

agree with above look arouund find a school that would love to have your child
who can accomodate your needs, will make you feel comfortable
as many we looked at i felt terribly uncomfortable and if im not happy he wont be.
i wish you luck an what you choose,
sorry i wasnt much help here.

PheasantPlucker Thu 10-Sep-09 12:55:53

My 8 year ols dd started full time in a special school on Monday. She has CP, epilepsy, VI, hydrocephalus, learning difficulties and was formally diagnosed with ADHD just last week.

She previously spent 3 days per week in MS and 2 in Special School. (a different one to the one she is now at full time)

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