17 Jan 2010

School options - SLD

I spoke with an educational psychologist on Friday about school options for Duncan. She thought one of the schools for children with severe learning difficulties (SLD) would be best for him so he would get the highest level of support. These schools are not autism-specific but contain pupils with any condition, physical, sensory, emotional or neurological that impedes the child's ability to learn. I admit I was surprised for a minute or two since Duncan is well able to learn but on reflection I agree that if he was to go to a school, he would need a high adult to child ratio with well trained and experienced teaching staff. She said that although he is able in many ways he is "very autistic" and that his behavioural problems would make it difficult for him to "access the curriculum." She knows other autistic children who are like Duncan in many ways, who have the same problems with impulse control but who are bright and curious and who have done well at one of these schools. Duncan has done well at home having had a lot of individual attention and when we go out he has virtually one-to-one attention from me so to give him the best chance of succeeding in a school, the transition needs to be as easy as possible with the highest levels of care and support that would only be available in a SLD school.

I will go and visit the schools and speaks to the principals and teachers. I need to find out how the approach problem behaviour, check they don't use restraints and discover as much as I can about how they operate and whether I would be happy enough for my son to go there.


Anonymous said...

But surely he has the right to whatever level of support he needs, regardless of whether it's already in place in an SLD school?

I know that entitlement and reality are usually totally dofferent without a major fight, but it sounds to me Sharon, that you're being fobbed of with "the best they can do" without the "professionals" looking more specifically at what Duncan needs and how to provide it in an environment he needs.

How well do you know & respect this ed psyche? Will she give you contact details of any of the parents of the other autistic children like Ducan who have done well in these schools? and, what to they consider as "doing well"?

If ne needs one to one, he should get that wherever he's educated.

I hope you find the right school. I know it's a difficult time cos I've been through it.

Stay strong

Jean said...

Wow....big decision time. i agonised over appropriate schooling for my little man too. It can be hard to shut out everyone else's (well meaning)opinions and find what is right for your dude.
Thankfully my son's placement is working out really well (he does to outreach at a local primary school). How do you feel about him being away from you? It'sso hard to trust someone else to meet your child's need, but often it works out great. Best of luck XXX

farmwifetwo said...

My barely verbal, autistic disorder (8 yr old) youngest is in a regular classroom, in a regular school with 1:1 support. I refuse to move him out to the high behavioural situation in those classrooms. B/c, although a constant echolalic, finger wringing, singing child... he's low behavioural. He has opinions, and now that he's talking more he'll even voice them... but he accepts "NO" as an outcome so it's a non-issue. His education program was finally changed from accommodated to modified a couple of weeks ago... it's going well... it's had it's moments (I was very upset before Xmas - the VP dealt with it)... but right now, today, it's going well....

Robert said...

My son went to SLD schools up to age 14 (he's 29 now) because he wasn't diagnosed as autistic then (you wouldn't believe how bad the education system was, 15+ years ago). While he was happy at his schools, he wasn't stretched academically and his specific needs were never totally addressed. I closed my business, sold up and moved the whole family to England when I found out that he was able to get much more assistance there - not just for schools but on an ongoing basis in adulthood. I have never regretted that decision.

However, I had to fight my son's corner all the way. I worked out exactly what his requirements were and accepted nothing less. It took a fight, but I always got what was needed. I insisted on a formal review of the situation every 6 months (just changed this year - with my aquiescence - to 12 months) not only to assess how well things were going but also to make sure that the changes in his needs were being addressed too.

Only you truly know your son's needs and the authorities know this. That is why, if you insist enough, you will get what you need.

Heike Fabig said...

Hmm, tricky one. My gut feeling is to go with mainstream with extra support. But i do "get" that the special school option might be better suited for some kids.
It all (as always) comes down to you. You need to follow your instinct. If it tells you he's at the right place in the special school, don't let anyone change your mind. But if you think he would be better of in a mainstreal school with extra help (which is his human right to get) then same, don't let any "expert" talk you out of it. There are nutters on both side of the debate, trying to tell you to go for inclusion or special school. You do what you need to do.
And in any case, it's not forever. If you chose one option and it doens't work, well, then you change.
Why does education always seem to be the hardest issue?

Sharon McDaid said...

Thanks for all the comments. They've given me things to think about. I had not really considered his entitlement to extra help in any setting. I know one of the main reasons I have home educated for years is to use my time and energy in helping my son directly instead of the frustrating effort of fighting for his rights with an unyielding system and people desperate to protect their budgets. I will still go visit the SLD schools to get a better idea of what they are like but also see the moderate LD schools which might be better when combined with more individualised support.
Thanks Janine for all your helpful points.

Jean, I'm glad to hear your son's schooling is working well for you all. FW2, good to know that it's going well for now at least and that the staff are willing to listen and act when you complain. Duncan can be hard work and does need very understanding and careful support. He'd find mainstream far too difficult.

Robert, I hope we don't have to move again. I'd rather stay here and home educate for good than move away. I will insist on what is best for him and if that means continuing as we are that is what we will do. I know that since I have raised the possibility of his returning to school as an option to the board staff, they might now hound us to try to force him to go somewhere I'm not happy about but I won't lie down and allow that. Duncan will get what he needs.

Good for you in always being able to do the best by your son.

Heike, thanks for your thoughts. You're so right about the extreme views on each side! It's that way for so many things we choose for our children. I'll just have to figure it out when I know a bit more about the options. Right now I'm rather ignorant.

Unknown said...

Hi Sharon
Hope you dont mind me chipping in. I work for my LA as a Parent Partnership caseworker. Do you have a PP service in NI to help you through this process? You could also ask them about the schools. They will often have had lots of feedback, both from parents and their own dealings with them. (And should generally be more honest than some agencies within the council, who may have to follow the party line, so to speak, including the Ed Psych dept)

It sounds like Duncan meets both SLD and MLD entry criteria, which can often be the most difficult to place because they are all so different.

I have helped children who need the much more highly structured SLD class setting, even if they are one of the highest ability. Sometimes their anxieties can override any cognitive need. On the flip side, I have helped children who attend MLD schools, with extra support in place, who thrive because of the extra input from the higher ability children they are around.

We have a SLD school and an MLD school. The SLD school has a specific ASD provision, and the MLD has a more general setup, with lots of differing diagnosees.

I know children who attend the SLD school, but who then access certain lessons at the MLD school because they have a higher ability in that area. Is this something that your LA would consider?

The best advice I can give you is to visit each school, meet the Head and senco, get a feel for the place, (inclduing how happy the kids seem), discuss Duncan's very specific needs and ask how they would meet those needs, including 1:1 and how the school would implement this. I have found that 1:1 can sometimes not mean that in maintained schools, because of high staff absence rates and general lack of funding/abuse by the LA. This is something you will need to keep on top of in my experience.

Obv the transition process will be huge, but any school worth their salt will be able to deal with this, and will have a clear understanding about the impact this can have on young people. And, if you are still unsure, the school should have no problem with a return visit or two, maybe with Duncan if he would cope with it.

We produce 2 specific booklets dealing with Transition to secondary school. One was written by Yr 7's with statements in mainstream, from a pupil's point of view, the other was written by our service for parents, so it shouldn't really be affected by differing legislation in LA's. I can send you a copy of these via adobe if you want, see if there are any tips that you can use. Let me know and I will send you my hotmail addy.

Hope this helps. Sorry if I have waffled on. Please dont think I am trying to be totally negative, schools get a lot of crap dealt them from the powers that be, but generally will work their socks off to make it work for the children.

Kind regards

PS I love your blog its refreshing!

Sharon McDaid said...

Nic, thanks so much for your detailed and helpful comment. You have pointed out many things I either didn't know about or had forgotten. It's been so long since I was in the know about working out schooling options. Your advice to look into the possibility of PP help is a great one. I know you are right that 1:1 help in mainstream often falls short. I will visit the schools when we return from our holiday. I would appreciate it if you could send me the books you mention- my email address is on the sidebar.

Thanks for the compliment about the blog. It's been "resting" for a while but hopefully this is resurrection time.