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Perfect Mainstream Primary school for children with ASD

(31 Posts)
glinda Sat 03-Oct-09 17:09:57

Well, what does it look like? I am asking for practical professional reasons. If I get this right so many children with ASD could benefit so I am asking as many parents of children with ASD as I possibly can. All ideas and opinions gratefully received!

bonkerz Sat 03-Oct-09 17:19:28

small class sizes (less than 10 pupils)
access to soft room to calm down
trained staff
desks arranged so they are facing wall and possible enclosed
Fully enclosed safe garden area with no way to escape!
opportunity to run about after every lesson
lessons kept short (20 mins)
visual timetables

sickofsocalledexperts Sat 03-Oct-09 17:43:55

Glinda - you sound great, are you a teacher yourself. Here's my views (my asd son has been at a great ms school for 2 years).

Ability for parents to help interview and select the right shadow, if the ASD child has a 1-to-1 . The shadow to me is absolutely key. Our school was enlightened enough to interview and then hire my son's home ABA tutors, who not only knew him well but could also provide a consistent approach from home to school. Too often I see the school close ranks, think that they know best, and refuse to take feedback on what will and work with the particular child. LSAs can often be quite lacklustre and uninterested - a bit of a underpaid, undervalued job imho. It is also crucial, even more crucial, that the kids have an LSA at playtime, even if it's a different one from during classtime.

I myself don't think they should alter the layout of the classroom for the ASD kid necessarily, and I hate visual timetables with a passion and have asked teachers to use words with my son, but I know others find them useful.

l also think having a room/area outside the classroom where the child can be taken to calm down, or even to work when they are not following the lessons is a good idea.

But a good teacher, like the fantastic one we had last year, will instinctively know the child and know how to adapt the curriculum so that the ASD child can at least get some value out of a topic (eg if they are studying shops, he can just do a simple exercise on pretending to buy something).

Understanding that a run around the playground is sometimes a need, not a want for the child to let off steam. Not mollycoddling the child though, I've told the teachers to tell my boy "no" just like they would other children, if his behaviour is unacceptable. He understands "no", so why should there be different rules for him? He is also not allowed to disrupt the learning of others, so is taken out if he gets noisy and I think that is right (hence need for other area though ).

A head who wants to communicate to staff, parents and kids about SEN rather than keep it under the carpet. Assemblies on sen, talks with kids on how everyone is different, articles in the parents' newsletter. Zero tolerance on bullying, particularly when SEN kids are involved, such that the little brutes involved are excluded and not just given a sweet little talk which will go right over their heads!

Small class sizes would be great, but I know it's a dream in urban areas. Larger classrooms so eveyrone isn't on top of each other would also be nice.

And yes, locked gates and no escape routes! Mind you, if they have an LSA at playtime who is paying attention rather than chatting to her mate, that shouldn't be a problem.

Thanks for asking! Am intrigued to know more about you!

glinda Sat 03-Oct-09 17:48:05

I can't disagree with much of that - but it also has to suit the NT children. This isn't a special school but a mainstream. I just want it to be a place that parents of children with ASD would choose.

asdx2 Sat 03-Oct-09 18:06:07

I don't think it's so much about the surroundings but the staff have to be right. Able to think on their feet, provide well adapted lessons, lots of doing and less talking. Calm and ordered classrooms, a place for everything and everything in it's place. Recognised routines, plenty of warning of change, lots and lots of liason between staff, parents and other professionals involved.Time built into the day for physical activity everyday, relaxation skills taught maybe through Tai chi, brain gym perhaps oh and teachers that smile are welcoming and want to make a difference and see every small positive and can't wait to share them with the parents.

glinda Sat 03-Oct-09 18:07:29

Sorry, last reply was to Bonkerz.
SOSCE Thanks so much for your thoughts. Yes I am a mainstream teacher but taking up a different role next year. I can't say too much about myself. Our current situation is, I believe, quite unique in the country (The pedants will hate that one!) I am determined to make it work for ALL the children involved.
Interesting idea about parents interviewing TAs. I am not sure about the legalities but I can see the common sense of it.
We have agreement to build a special room for SALT and social/interaction group work plus a quiet zone for calming down and chilling out and a private office for meeting parents etc. Any opinions on facilities and decor etc?

glinda Sat 03-Oct-09 18:13:46

asdx2 Thanks for that. Obviously I agree the staff have to be completely brilliant. Luckily I do have great faith in the current staff.
I do have concerns about EYFS. As you probably know this is currently very Free flow, child led and unstructured. Not sure that this philosophy works well for children with ASD.

TotalChaos Sat 03-Oct-09 18:19:46

good home/school communication

awareness of language problems that present quite subtly (e.g. that just because a child appears to speak fluently in sentences doesn't mean they understand everything said or sometimes even everything they are saying)

recognition that parents are the expert in their own child and their own child's behaviours/abilities

asdx2 Sat 03-Oct-09 18:24:18

Dd had a very successful EYFS but that was probably due to the teacher and LSA. For dd they had to provide structure, they had to move her on and they had to demonstrate because she didn't have the inbuilt curiosity of most NT children. What worked in her EYFS unit was for there to be a requirement for all children to experience 4 of the activities laid out each morning.Each activity lasted 20 minutes and then the buzzer indicated it was time for change. Dd's LSA warned of the change and prompted her to the next activity. Only the first activity was dd's free choice tbh because that was an activity that dd would perseverate on the other three were LSA led.Dd left foundation with a profile score of 105, pretty good for any child but amazing considering dd had a significant development delay on entry.

glinda Sat 03-Oct-09 18:34:31

Absolutely TC (Top cat?)We all need to acknowedge each others experience and work together. Teachers and parents all want what is best for the children but it is scarey how often progress is blocked by competitiveness between the two. Perhaps we should all quote the following tongue twister three times a day?
"Parental pride and professional pride persistently prevent progress.

sickofsocalledexperts Sat 03-Oct-09 19:32:26

Glinda - sorry, I wasn't clear, I never helped interview the LSAs (I'm sure most teachers would find that a nightmare") but I did put forward as recommendations the tutors who had been with my son at home. As one of them was herself a qualified teacher who had moved into ABA, they did the rest themselves and got hired!

Now I am even more intrigued. Can you tell us any more about your unique situation? Is it in London ?

I honestly think there is so much that the mainstream system could learn from ABA - not just for SEN kids either, as its brand of commonsense behavioural teaching (encourage the good, make the bad unrewarding) could be applied to all children.

I often bore on about this, but the main problem our state system has on autism at the moment is that we are using the - unproven, unresearched and imho ineffective - TEACCH system. ABA is actually the only educational system which has any real research behind it to prove its effectiveness in improving outcomes for ASD kids (see Univ of Southampton research). It's also the absolute standard for education in countries such as the US and even Ireland, which are streets ahead of us when it comes to ASD.

The TEACCH method expects little of either its teachers or its asd pupils, and as a result achieves zero but is easy and cheap to administer.

I beg you to look at the two methodologies if you are setting up something different.

Here's just one example of TEACCH versus ABA. When my son was 3 he was at a TEACCH-based special nursery. My son was going through a phase of playing with his willy constantly.

The TEACCH school suggestion:- put him in dungarees. That is, sidestep rather than tackle the problem head-on.

The ABA approach. Say a firm "no", remove his hand, and redirect him to another activity EVERY SINGLE TIME he did it for a long period - until the habit was "disturbed". That was a hard one for everyone to keep to, but we did it and he is now at mainstream school and NOT playing with his willy.

I have 100 examples like that, as I've seen both TEACCH and ABA in action (at great personal expense!). The same differences occurred when it came to stopping my boy being aggressive, making him walk nicely alongside an adult, teaching him to read, to talk, to write.

I think most LEAs privately know that ABA gets better results than TEACCH but of course ABA is way more costly, as it's often intensive and 1-to-1, so they turn a blind eye.

But there just has to be a way to bring it into the mainstream in a cost effective way. At the very least, the improvements in outcomes with ASD kids are going to save society a lot of money in the long term, as I believe TEACCH is churning out ASD kids who have not reached their potential and may need far more intensive care in later life, for instance if they remain violent as adults.

I know not everyone agrees, but the facts speak for themselves so would you think about taking a look at the research? Also look at the websites of schools like Treehouse, which are paving the way for excellent ABA-based education.

Thanks for reading this far!

MoonlightMcKenzie Sun 04-Oct-09 18:38:11

The school needs to fall over itself to demonstrate to parents that they understand that the parents and their strategies are absolutely KEY in getting through to the ASD child.

And:

1) Good home-school communication.
2) A month or so of settling in and observations before a team around the child meeting with all staff that come into a reasonable amount of contact with the child, which the parents are invited to attend and work with the staff to put together an IEP and give a good general solid base from which to begin the child's teaching and learning.
3) A good 'friendship' system i.e. circle of friends, so that ASD children are understood and 'buddyed up'.
4) A sparkling anti-bullying policy.
5) Opportunities for small group work, and practise at initiating, interacting and team work, to include peer-to-peer teaching etc.
6) A get out of jail card (or rather -'my anxiety levels are so high I'm gonna hit someone if I can't have a few minutes peace).
7) For team games to be carefully thought through so that the ASD child can practise participation without being humiliated
8) For changes to plans to be given with plenty of warning.
9) For asd children to be addressed directly somehow with each group instruction or request.

moondog Sun 04-Oct-09 19:12:25

Sicxk, you are so right ABOUT ABA being relevant to all children and methods of teaching. This is the thrust of my work and research at present.

As for the 'costly' aspect. Hmmmmm.
Like the current lamentable model where countless professionals are involved (none of whom generally work effectively together) protesting loudly about the 'intervention' and 'support' they offer (which often entails little more than writing 'reports' and holding 'meetings' in which they bleat about the 'intervention' and 'support' they offer) isn't ????

sickofsocalledexperts Sun 04-Oct-09 19:42:06

Couldn't agree more Moondog. I reckon if someone bothered to tot up every penny presently spent on autistic kids in this system, including all those interminable "interventions", and the endless appointments for diganosis, and the respite care, and the thousands of (ill-qualified) LSAs and the hundreds of special schools being paid for by LEAs, and the transport costs, and the tribunal costs, and the cost of care for adults who have got no-where in their education as it was shit, and the escorts for the transport, and the fucking millions of packs of visual bleeding timetables, and the burden on the NHS as us poor beleaguered mums come in with stress-related complaints, etc etc etc, we could open a thousand ABA units attached to mainstream schools, with integration when possible, and you and me could run them! x

debs40 Sun 04-Oct-09 19:42:56

I think there are so many great suggestions here, I would only add the importance of understanding that even seemingly bright children with ASD can have the most basic problems with communication e.g. understanding how basic classroom systems work, communicating worries and concerns.

I have to admit, I am new to this 'game' and know nothing about ABA. sickofsocalledexperts Is it of use across the spectrum? Do you have any links?

sickofsocalledexperts Sun 04-Oct-09 19:45:33

Debs - if you go back over some of the threads on here using the search button, and put in ABA or VB, you'll see a lot of talk and yes, I think it is useful across the spectrum (and for nf kids too). There are also loads of websites on ABA, many from the US where it is the primary form of education for autistic kids.

Phoenix4725 Sun 04-Oct-09 19:46:47

I think its a good idear but what about other children with sn or are you aiming more to children with ASd

sickofsocalledexperts Sun 04-Oct-09 19:50:11

I think ABA can teach all kids actually, but in my dream scenario the units would have 1-to-1 for each pupil, at least to start with, moving to 1-to-3 as they make progress.

Marne Sun 04-Oct-09 20:19:54

Dd1 (as) goes to main stream, its a very small school, they only take 10 children a year and have mixed classes, dd's class has 17 children, 2 TA's and one teacher. Dd1 seems to be doing really well there and likes the small classes. We are not sure if dd2 (ASD) will go there yet,it will all depend on if we can get her statemented and get her a 1:1.

I think class size is important as is undrestanding/well trained staff.

moondog Sun 04-Oct-09 20:34:41

Sick, I'd love it!

sickofsocalledexperts Sun 04-Oct-09 20:44:26

Oh and I forgot the whole godforsaken statementing process. Let's get rid of every last scrap of admin and bureaucracy related to that, and plough the money saved into our Moondog/Sick ABA units. You get a dignosis of SEN, you get into a unit with a 1-on-1 while you need it. Or you get into the mainstream class with a 1-to-1 if more suitable. If only David Cameron's Education Secretary were listening....

likeacuppa Sun 04-Oct-09 21:00:13

Just sidestepping the whole ABA thing for a minute.

The chill-out room at my ds's primary school has floor cushions, plain coloured walls (but glow stars on the ceiling), a stash of foam balls, a cd player, and a 'five minute box' containing a book and a few carefully chosen toys/objects. He is free to use it when he wants to, and can also be asked by teacher/TA to use it.

Another initiative this school hs used has been 'nurture groups' which intensively work on social skills for groups of up to eight children (with all kinds of needs) to two specially trained TAs. They spend the morning in the nurture group and the afternoon in class. The effects on my ds in terms of his social communication & imagination have been amazing.

The nurture group also had a 'private playtime' in which there were only 8 children and TAs in the playground, and they worked on how to play games together. I would like to see much more thought about playtimes for ASD children as the playground is a nightmare for them -- or can be.

Mumsyof1 Sun 04-Oct-09 23:27:22

Hi Glinda,

Here are a few things I would like to see:

- Teachers and TAs trained in ASD/SEN
- IEPs which are stuck to and proper reporting
- regular meeting with parents to discuss SEN
- support/supervision in the playground by someone who knows/understands the child
- Learning Mentors available to take small groups for social skills, motor skills, etc.
- anti-bullying policy taken seriously and not just during anti-bullying month

My ds has just finished at Ofsted outstanding ms primary, with quite mild ASD and I have found lack of all the above quite frustrating, even though brilliant school in many ways.

saintlydamemrsturnip Mon 05-Oct-09 11:55:43

There isn't a suitable mainstream school for my child with severe autism and severe learning disabilities. He can only learn independence in an environment that is secure for him. That means things like locked doors (so for example by the time he was 6 he was collecting the register from his school office and taking it back to class- that would not have been possible in his mainstream school - he'd have been out the door and in the street).

anonandlikeit Mon 05-Oct-09 19:23:31

Hi Glinda

My ds2 is at a great ms primary, don't know that its perfect but it works for us...

Small school - only 1 class per yr group & maximum of 18/19 children in each class.

Class teacher with regular TA in each class PLUS additional TA to work with statemented child, so if statement TA is off sick the class TA is familiar & knows the child.

Good, dedicated school senco,
Regular, welcomed in put from outside support, SALT, physio, OT, ASD Outreach.

Visual timetables & visual supports used as standard throughout the school.
Makaton used as standard throughout the school, all staff are basic Makaton trained, all children encouraged to use it.
All assemblies, songs, plays are signed too.

A quiet desk area in each class & a quiet area (the library) just in case someone is having a bad day & need a total break.

The most important thing though is the attitude of the school, completely open, all parents are welcome, all teachers are availbale at school pick up for a chat & vbefore school (if you get there early enough). Parents are encouraged to come in to the staff room & have a coffee.

Inclusion is more about attitude than equipment & resources.

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