Mainstream or Special School?

Posted on: February 8, 2012

A will be starting school in September & to say that’s a worry for me would be an understatement. Everyone shares the same worries when any of their children start school…

Will they make friends? Will they enjoy it? Will they be ok without me?

For a parent of an Autistic child you can times your regular worries by about a million and your nearly at the same point…

With A only being diagnosed last July, its all been a mega rush with so much to take in and schooling wasn’t something I took into consideration, I was more concerned about getting him support for the nursery setting he’s currently at, which we did – full time.

To send your child to a Special School you need what is called a statement of special education,

What is a statement?

This allows them to be accepted into a special school – without this Mainstream is the only option, apart from Home Schooling.

A, isn’t statemented. With school options having to be decided and submitted by January and the statement process taking a staggering 26 weeks to complete with no guarantees we where forced to choose mainstream in the short time that we had.

Now we have a whole different set of questions…

Will A, cope?
Will A, be accepted?

We have just finished filling out our provision agreement which along with other forms nursery have had to fill in will allow the Local Education Authority to decide how many hours A, is eligible for with regards to support.

My view is simple, he either gets full time support, which I firmly believe he deserves and NEEDS or he just doesn’t get sent to school, its as clear cut as that.

We will make our views clear at the review meeting in a few months that we will be pushing for statement once A, is in school and we hope for the schools backing.

There is nothing in the world at this present moment that I want more than for A, to succeed & settle into mainstream school life and to be honest I am glad he doesn’t yet have a statement as I think we wouldve never given mainstream a second thought and so in years to come we wouldve been faced with the question, “what if?”

A statement will secure A’s future & should he not cope at mainstream he will be able to attend a special school.

The future is so unpredictable, but I am hopeful….I suppose you have to be.

L x


8 Responses to "Mainstream or Special School?"

I have been there, in the end I removed my son from mainstream school, taught him at home while looking for the right special school. After the first week at his special boarding school, he said that for once he felt like he was a normal pupil not the odd one out. Going through getting his ‘record of special needs’ landed me in hospital at one point but it was worth it.

L, in our experience, this is the hardest time to deal with. Lewis was in mainstream nursery, around the time of his diagnosis. The staff were nice enough, but couldn’t deal with him. He didn’t speak at all, and wouldn’t mix with the other kids. Noise scared him, and he often locked himself in the toilet, or we would get the phone call at 10am ‘Lewis is screaming under the table, can you come and get him please’.

This school was ‘technically’ funded to provide for children with additional needs. We saw no evidence of this at all. The solution – move house!! It cost us thousands, but was the only solution to get within the catchment of a better school.

The next problem was that the new school, for all its reputation, didn’t know Lewis. He started p1 without knowing anyone, and it was very quickly a disaster. They reacted well, and moved him into the SLB (support for learning base). There he was taken under the wing of a teacher who has changed his and our lives. She devotes everything to the progression, wellbeing and happiness of the children she looks after. Many of the kids have very poor home lives (junkie/alcoholic parents), and she goes as far as making sure they are clothed and fed at times, from her own pocket.

Every child she looks after has differing needs. Some have no awareness of the world at all, through to Lewis who has problems with routine and social skills, but is as clever as they come. She has the skill to know what each child needs.

I am currently trying to put some support together to nominate her for an MBE. She is that amazing.

She was due to retirelast year, but committed to staing on for 2 more years to ensure that Lewis was ready for the Academy. Amazing. Lewis is in p6 now, in mainstream class 95% of the. He has a confidence i never thought possible, and is unbelievably popular with the other kids. It is all down to this teacher.

Stepping back 5 years again, he had no speech. His speech and language therapist was a professional, straight talking type. Lewis hated her. He cried at appointments, refused to cooperate at all. She told us to use PEC cards teach him about language. It was useless. I’m sure PEC cards are great for some kids, but it was never for Lewis. When we moved, he was assigned to a different speech and language therapist. The difference was like night and day. He loved her, laughed and played at appointments, and began to speak almost immediately. By 7 he spoke like a 4/5 year old, and now, as a 10 year old, you could hardly tell he had any difficulties.

Really, what I am saying is that reports, lists of needs, diagnosis etc. etc. are important, but it is people who can change the lives of autistic children and their families. Speak to teachers at prosepctive schools, go with your gut instincts, take A with you to meet them. Autistic children very often make up their minds about people within 5 minutes, and it is very hard to change that initial opinion. Schools are just buildings with tables and chairs. It is teachers who make the difference.

I know the edcation system is different in England from in Scotland, and that procedures may be different, but stick up for yourself, me assertive, and TELL then what A needs. If they listen, they might be the right people. If they don’t listen, i.e. they already know better than you, beware.

I hope this helps. It’s an important time, but don’t be afraid to pull the plug if it doesn’t work out. My youngest is, we think, ‘gifted’ (she’s in p1, and reads p6 books already). We are comfortable that she won’t begin to get bored and in need of extra support until p3. p1 and p2 are fun. Set p3 as a goal for A being comfortable and happy, and that takes some of the pressure off trying to get the decisions right first time.

All the best, to you and A. xx

Thank you so much for your comment, its great for others to see different peoples perspectives and experiences.
Your right about how certain people can change your childs life, my son is also in a mainstream nursery since before diagnosis and the staff are brilliant with him, but lack true understanding of Autism and how to deal with him correctly. Now he has support from a one to one its been fantastic and although its been a short time we are seeing the differences.
Your sons teacher sounds absolutely amazing, you made a lot of sacrifices and its been a long journey but seems it was all worthwhile. I really hope we get as much success as you have, I’d be over the moon.
Thanks so much for commenting 🙂

L x

K goes to a special high school specifically for children with SN. He was always in a DD class in a regular school before then. We use what’s called an IEP (Individualised Education Plan) which is very similar to your special ed statement. B is also on one at his school, even though he is in a mainstream school, for his ADHD. Be patient with the process. It can get frustrating I know but the payoffs are worth it.

I have 3 children with different levels of ASD, they all coped differently. One started in a special school but is now in mainstream (statemented at 3yrs old) another started in mainstream but did not go into a special school until she went into high school because it was only then, it really got too much. a statement can be done at anytime, you can even get it sortedyourself like I did with my daughter. It’s not easy I will tell you that but if at anytime you feel things are getting too much in mainstream, don’t be afraid to change direction.
My son’s statement was done for me really so when I came to do my daughters it was so different. I got help from the local autistic group who were great! the statement was completed within a year in which time I home educated but we got there!
Every child with ASD is different, if the school feels the child needs extra help, they may go ahead and apply for the statement themselves..which to be honest if often the easiest way. I do think a statement helps a child with ASD a lot but it can be sorted like I said after he starts school.
schools constantly asses children and if it’s a good school they will help you get the help your child needs.
We were told to start in a small village school which was good advice, not such a shock as going into a large busy school and easier to cope with but also easier to speak to the teachers and keep in touch!

You never know without trying, your child might be perfectly fine in mainstream, Good luck and I really home all goes well for you but rememeber , you can always change your mind should things not work out, you just need to stand your ground xx

Hi L,

We were in the position that R was attending a playgroup 2 days a week at our insistence to help him develop relationships with other children. During this period, it was clear that something wasn’t quite right and he was referred to a consultant paediatrician for help. In the meantime we discussed his issues with the playgroup and they were more than happy to accommodate R and his additional needs, all without any additional support or funding. We are fortunate that we live in a small and rural community where everyone pulls together.

When it came to R’s pre-school year, we had a diagnosis of ASD confirmed and started working with the relevant departments / groups in preparing for R starting primary school. It was always our intention to send R to a mainstream school as he is a very bright boy but would need full time support in a classroom environment. This was supported by his Statement that took 6 months to come through, but this was all done before the start of Term.

In my view the biggest single thing that helped prepare R for school was the dedication and support from his pre-school nursery. They helped him integrate with other children, learn some social skills like playing and taking turns etc.

The decision you face is what is in the best interests of A and where will he best get the opportunity to develop?

Hi its Wythallgirl from twitter, Max’s Mom. Go for the Statement Max was statemented in Nursery which meant he started Reception with all his support in place 27.5 hours 1:1, its a tough process but its a legally binding document that school hv to stick to. Jo l

We’ve had so many problems regarding statemtenting. School first noticed problems, back up my hunches, when C was in nursery there. In recaption it was like just a follow on from nursery so was ok, but year one was a huge shock to the system, i wont go into huge detail, but it was hell. One minute the school were calling us in for crisis talks, the next they were denying any problems whatsoever and refusing to give him extra support. Then all of a sudden year 2- theyve pulled their finger out and got him an LSA, though only for half the day. they’re still having major problems with him but we’re going down the statementing route now and i do wonder if once that is through he might be better off in a special school. What im saying is, though you might have a great experience with the school, hold onto your hat and get ready to fight if you need to! xx

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