Need some advice about ds 3.5 with autism with regard to mainstream school next September....(25 Posts)
Would be very grateful for any advice.
We are currently in the report gathering stage for an ehcp for ds (not been approved yet, that's the next stage!) An educational psychologist is due to get in touch with us to observe ds to make a report.
Dh and I are having great difficulty with regard to whether we should go for mainstream for ds or whether we should battle it out for a place at special school, keeping him at home for another year if necessary while the ehcp is finalised (assuming they agree to it).
Some of the specialists involved with ds say special school would be best and we have looked at several and have our heart set on two, either would be great. But I know the salt ds sees doesn't agree and feels he should be in mainstream- I'm not sure how much weight her report would carry anyway but ...
Does anyone know if we do put ds into mainstream how much support would be usual for young child with fairly severe autism? Lots of different answers all over the place I know but what happens at your school? Thank you.
All SS are not equal, and neither are all Mainstreams, despite what the LA might tell you.
Don't think SS or M/S. Go visit, visit, visit and visit some more all types of placements. Ask the most pita detailed questions you can. You'll know which one is right by the willingness or otherwise to answer the questions.
Thank you for the reply. We have visited lots of each type of school and to be honest the two that we really liked and felt ds would be happiest at were special schools but I am concerned that because his speech is good on the surface that we are not going to get a place at any special school so we are having to explore mainstream too. The mainstreams we've looked round seem nice enough (I also have a non special needs older dd who is now nearly 13 and she attended local schools and was very happy) but none of them seem to be able to give me any concrete examples of the type of support they can offer except to say ds would have support ....! I guess I was just wondering if there was a standard amount of hours / level of teaching assistant he would get? My biggest worry is he would just be given a few hours each day with someone they've hired in the local newspaper (ie someone who doesn't have any specialist training in asd etc). I don't want to send him off to someone who knows less about him and asd than I do!
A lot will depend on what the terms of the EHCP are. It may detail what type of and how much support is required. The days of hiring TAs through the local newspaper are gone ime - many have training, although not necessarily specific to your ds's needs. If the EHCP says that specialist support is required- for S< for example, then that should be provided. The phrase used is 'best endeavours.'
The key thing is for your ds to be placed in a school that best meets his needs and you will need to be able to show evidence why you feel that as would be best for him.
Do you feel that your DS will be able to access the curriculum? What are you anticipating might be his difficulties in a mainstream school?
Remember it's not all or nothing, at our school we often have children with various needs, some very severe, join us for EYFS/Reception/KS1 and then transition to a specialist provision as the gap in learning becomes larger. Equally I taught a child with last year with quite severe ASD (I teach y6) , language was good but learning very poor, struggled with social situations etc, and he got a lot from being with other children who had a rich vocabulary. In terms of provision, he had 1:1 TA support with a TA trained for that role, and had a personalised curriculum in which he accessed day to day lessons as much as possible, differentiated to his ability, and then also had social story activities, SALT programme and life skills programme to follow.
I absolutely adored having him in my class, he is honeatly a child I will always look back on with great warmth. He was absolutely fab and definitely benefited from mainstream provision.
However, we are a school with quite a high proportion of SEN pupils so are accustomed to providing support. We have several children with 1:1 support and at least one child with ASD in every year group. I would look carefully at the schools - only you know your child best. For some children special schools offer such amazing support and they make huge progress due to the facilities and specialised provision.
I've worked in mainstream early years, resource provision and now a special school.
We had a number of students in ms with quite complex ASC and they did cope with a differentiated curriculum, support around play skills and enthusiastic staff but often found the transistion to ks1 much more difficult, in my current school many of the students have begun running into problems in their previous setting at the eys-ks1 transition point.
In terms of support I would be wanting to know what experience a school had of children with ASC, looking at facilities for sensory breaks if this is likely to be a problem and wether the structure of the day would suit him (too much whole group work, too little structure) I'd also be wary of 1-1 support provided by the same LSA everyday. I've had students transfer from schools who have had the same 1-1 support every day for several years and this can cause real problems.
Every LEA is different but in ms I never came accross a child with full time 1-1 support unless their was a significant medical need (even though some students needed much higher levels of support as they needed an entirely individual curriculum)
Thank you very much for the replies. It's been really interesting to read your experiences.
I'm not sure if I'm particularly concerned about him having a particular 1 to 1, it's more the general level of support and awareness of what he's up to! I'm worried that without a substantial level of input he's just going to be very cut off from everyone and not really get anything out of it all. I also have some safety concerns as he's not very good on steps and stairs (very distracted by everything generally) and if he's running about we need to keep reminding him to look where he's going or he's likely to walk straight into something (he still can't walk up and down stairs alone at home).
He's very distressed by loud noises or lots of background noise and especially music (at the special needs nursery he goes to they have to take him into another room if they do music at all) but he won't wear ear protectors that all the mainstream schools have said to me...! He doesn't like anything touching his head. For these reasons I felt the very small class sizes and individual attention of a special school would be good for him and that's why I'm so worried about mainstream.
Another issue is that he is not toilet trained at all and one of his meltdown triggers is public toilets and hand dryers - to the point I can't even go to the toilet myself with him if we go out somewhere (I literally don't go out for too long on my own) and I'm worried about how this would be coped with in mainstream school, the special schools we spoke to said they would help him with his sensory issues such as this. Mainstream obviously want him toilet trained and were generally less sympathetic and understanding.
I am just worried as I know there's so much competition for places at special school and I'm worried they will see others as higher need and he won't get a place.
I'm constantly stressed about it all I'm also worried I've left the ehcp too late - I didn't realise how long it all takes .
Fairy lea our children are at the same stage
and are both afraid of hand dryers apparently although my little man adores hair dryers explain that to me
I have decided to start with the mainstream option and see where we go from there. I hope our little man will get into a specialist unit in the mainstream school to transition him into the school and we can take it from there. but actually I don't really know as he must have a diagnosis for that and it might not be completed by then. TT is a nightmare in our house too. DS gets all the mechanics but it has not clicked yet. They are tough decisions. I find myself a bit at sea with it all although I watch Temple Grandins TED talk yesterday and I am starting to feel a bit better about it all thanks to her
I will say as a reception teacher if you send him to mainstream then be prepared for him to be on a part time time table for a while. It might be that's not the case but this is what we've had to do with our lad who is on the as and our lad with server global delay.
The reason being that although both had 1:1 support at their mainstream nurseries (and would be ok in mainstream with 1:1) the funding loop hole between nursery and school means that we do not have the staff numbers to cope or provide a good educational environment for either.
I have fought tooth and nail all bloody term to get them funding and the process is just getting started. Our school/la is being monumentally shit about it and if they were my kids I'd be livid (I'm livid as simply their teacher)
I say this so if you do decide mainstream would be best look carefully and ask some hard questions about support provided from the start for your ds.
After rtft I would say fight for specialist setting, especially if he is in a specialist nursery.
As a mainstream we would be able to 'cope' with your ds but I doubt he would do as well as he could if he was in a specialist setting geared up to support his sensory issues etc. Tbh the toiletting wouldn't be that much of an issue at my school but the sensory sound issues would make his time in my reception class uncomfortable for him.
That's exactly how I am feeling about the general environment and noise - is that enough of a reason to help argue that mainstream won't be suitable? I'm certainly going to use that (along with the whole load of other issues ds has).
Oh the toilet training is so hard isn't it Anothernumber !
I don't mind if ds has to go part time at first if they feel that would help, I'm lucky in that I don't work and so have no pressures in that way. Just generally concerned about the whole thing - lunchtimes and play time as well as others have pointed out particularly worry me.
Thank you for the replies and allowing me to talk it through
Sorry also meant to add the special needs nursery he goes to is more of an opportunity group / pre school group for children with additional needs so he has not needed an ehcp to attend and there is no attached school. They have written a report for his ehcp saying they believe he needs to be in a specialist school. This will go along with two paediatrician reports agreeing with this but I suspect a salt report saying the complete opposite (salt therapist is scaring the life out of me at the moment and keeps saying ds is very able - she said she would fight me if I tried to get him into special school !!)
Is there a Resource Base in your LA that you could angle for. It sounds like it could be the half-way house you need.
They are all different but in mine we deliver the mainstream curriculum (sometimes well above age related expectations where the pupils are very able) yet we have the small numbers, specialist staff and low-arousal environment you would hope for from SS.
I was told that DS1 'had' to go to mainstream by an ed psych & not knowing any better followed her recommendation. He had full time 1:1 support (including break times). It was a disaster. They just had no experience or knowledge of how to teach him. He did 2 hours a day for the whole of reception, then, when they had to take him full time in year 1 it all fell apart. He was isolated. He also hated hand dryers but wasn't allowed to use the disabled toilet because it was adults only (so constantly wet himself).
Luckily after 1 term of year 1 he moved to special school & began to thrive.
It takes expertise to teach kids with ASD & not many mainstream schools have that.
Ds1's special school has an outreach site at the mainstream school opposite - for the more socially able kids - is there anything like that near you? It works well as students can move between the classes there & the special school site as appropriste.
I am not going to advise either way but I will say two things I picked up
my son with ASD has never had any SALT input as its not been needed, in fact he had language early. Conversation is his issue but on the surface he would appear to have no verbal communication issues. He's currently at special school - I am not convinced that the SALT opinion that is the reason he should be in mainstream is a deal breaker....
And two... Follow your instincts, every time and don't be concerned about places, etc... Just make the right decision for him in the here and now. It's not a prison sentence and transfer to mainstream is always an option.
Oh and by the way the SALT is acting WAY out of her boundaries... When I had to make the decision NONE of the professionals would support me either way. It was 'my choice'.... He is very borderline...
Ignore the SALT. There is no fight to be had with her and her opinion on type of school will bear no weight unless it supports your choice.
My son was in mainstream nursery, then an Independent Special school (as mainstream were denying need and resources) and now is in a m/s unit that teaches (rather than the Haven model) with 60% mainstream integration and increasing.
Don't think the decision is final though capable children may need a bit of academic top up to move back to m/s after a little to long living it up in sensory rooms IMO.
Ds2 has just started p1 in Scotland at the school my older 3 went to. I had to fight loud, long and hard to get support in place and although I have a lot of input into the school the provision they could access on his behalf is very limited. His is a small rural school where I had to weigh up whether it was better to start in a setting he was familiar with or apply and travel quite a distance to where was funded for ASD.
Currently he is coping with the work and very happy to be in school everyday. Most of my sons problems are around language although he has sensory issues too. Ditto hand dryers, I am going on all his school trips at the moment to support him in the more unpredictable situations. SALTs viewpoint was that children in mainstream develop better from modelling peers, I think that has to be weighed up with his happiness and meaningful peer relationship as. He is looked after and babied by the older children at the moment but how that will play out as he grows I'm not sure.
I think I'm just trying to give him the best chance in mainstream with the possibility of moving to SS if he doesn't cope or thrive.
I think the modelling thing is quite individual. I was told the same but ds1 couldn't actually imitate anything at all until he was 7 years old. So the chance of him learning from those around him was somewhere around zero - until he could imitate everything had to be taught hand over hand. I think he'd get far more from being around typically developing kids now (he's a teen) than when he was much younger, but the opportunities are pretty limited now.
Thank you all very much for your comments, especially saying that the salt is being unprofessional etc and speech isn't so much of the issue anyway.
I think I will have to wait for the educational psychologist to come and observe ds and I will really make my case that I want him in special school. We are in Norfolk and there aren't any (good) resource bases near us but most of the special schools are excellent.
It sounds like an ASD base in a mainstream school may be what you need? It allows some time in a specialist base and some time in mainstream, dependant on need. Are there any available in your area?
Agree with Starlight. Grill those schools and fight for what you think will suit your DS best, not what somebody else thinks unless they know him REALLY well.
Issues to consider for mainstream:
- If he's doing ok and no major behavioural issues AT SCHOOL, it can be SO hard to get him adequate support or into special school even if he is really struggling, highly anxious, and taking out all his frustrations at home. Easier to transition from special to mainstream in many cases.
- Quality of one to one support is so variable if you as a parent don't have any control over the type of training they have, e.g. ABA trained.
- OT input for sensory issues can be very poor to non-existent.
Issues to consider for special:
- If he's happy and cooperative, he may not actually be taught anything. Obviously this is quite extreme and highly dependent on child and school.
- Possibly very low levels of one to one work and SALT input, e.g. 5 mins per fortnight. Again dependent on school and what is specified in EHCP.
- Academic expectations can be very low in some special provision - again this is not the general rule but be on the look out for poor practice.
-Similarly, if he is very verbal and, for example, highly numerate other crucial skills can be overlooked and his academic achievement lauded instead. Social communication skills should be prioritised especially in early years and reception. No use being able to count to 1000 if you are not being taught social and functional skills imo.
Disclaimer: All the above simply from our experience, and much does not apply to other children, schools or areas - no offence meant at all to teachers/schools etc.
I'm a year on from you with my DD (4) and my Autistic DS (12) started secondary this September.
I've had lots of good advice from various professional and experienced parents and something that stuck with me that one of DS's psychologists said was think carefully about outcomes you want to achieve when you choose each path.
When DS started primary as a querky child (no handryers, toilet training issues, noise issues, smell issues, bright light issues, being touched issues, fiercly independant in thought and actions) I was told he had behavioural difficulties. I was then told he needed special school, which i fought and I found and moved him too a small rural school class size of six and he had full time 1-1. We then got his diagnosis. In mainstream he had masses of support but educationally he stalled, he manipulated things so he didn't have to try. We then ended up fighting and getting him into a special unit within a mainstream school in a different area and moved areas to facillitate this. (Nothing available rurally). Two years in the provision and his levels went from 1's and 2's to 4's and 5's. We then have stood our ground to get him into a provision within a mainstream secondary. This time he's doing a selection of core mainstream lessons with other mainstream pupils, some with no extra support. He leaves lessons just before the bell, has break in a quiet room, does homework with additional support in timetabled provision times. He's wobbled a bit, been very fragile at home, but he's coping and the outcome I want is for him to have as higher degree of independance in work and home as possible as an adult. We had the opportunity to push for a special school which would have made our lives easier but academically would have been quite limiting and i fear that socially it would have been too protective/ tollerant of querks and for his variation of Autism would have allowed him into the not quite functioning in society side of the line. Every autistic person is just as individual as every non autistic person so I do appreciate my experience is just that of one child. You know your child best and are best placed to judge if theres any relevance in what i'm saying.
DD struggled with nursery. Shes very small for her age and manipulative beyond belief. She always managed to get a keyworker to herself and structure activities so it was just her and an adult or two. She had very delayed walking, delayed toilet training, sensory issues. Having been through things with DS I was able to tap into support and she had a six week block with a salt. Whilst her language is very good, speech clear and good comprehension the SALT did pick up poor eye contact, sensory processing in some of the activities, issues with repeating language and very litteral language understanding. The Child psychologist then got us in nursery support who worked with us on a transitional plan. This was very valuable. The child play specialist who did the transitional plan liaised with the local main stream school my middle son is at. DD's teacher is a parent of an ASD child (so has a realistic expertise and practical everyday understanding of potential issues). She prepared a book about school for DD showing her peg, pictures of activities, talking about the school day and routine. She arranged extra sessions for DD to first visit the classroom empty, then with classroom assistants, then with a small number of pupils, a gradual exposure. DD did short introductory sessions going into class five minutes before the rush, coming out first. Beyond any expectations I had DD loves school. Shes 'disgusted' ( her words) with the childrens shocking behaviour. They run and shout! I should add this is at breaktime. She's had the option not to go out to break but to use the fenced quieter nursery yard with another child but has over time chosen to go into the playground. She does find elements quite overwhelming and talks through her day in a blow by blow her view account. She can't process various things and finds it challenging but she is coping, i'm shocked that its without dedicated support. When she's year 2 theres the option to consider making a case for a designated provision but with such significant initial differentiation and careful management, a fantastic experienced teacher her transition into mainstream school has been remarkably smooth. I'll take it one term at a time though.
Now thats an essay of an outline of my experience. As so many who are able to put things so much better say you know your child best. You need to arm yourself with information and go with what feels most right for now and accept you can reassess as time passes and your child develops.
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