Sam was diagnosed with ASD last month. He turns 3 in June, but will be staying in his private nursery until September 2015 – when he will start his Reception class.
We have been hoping for Sam to attend mainstream school (with lots of support), which will require him to get a statement. This in itself is a 6 month process. Today, while at his Speech Therapy appointment, the speech therapist asked what our school plans were for Sam. When I told her, she looked a bit uneasy.
I asked her what she would recommend, and she said a few things which have made me reassess our plans. The first thing she pointed out was that Sam would not have full support in mainstream school – he would be supported in the classroom, but not necessarily on the playground, in the dining room or the bathroom. I hadn’t really thought about this before.
She also said that Mainstream teachers don’t receive any formal training on working with children with special needs, so the teacher may struggle to relate to Sam and support him. She said that a good teacher can bring a child on massively, but a less than good teacher can hold a child back too.
She also explained that in Salford, we only have two special needs bases. We have Springwood – the Special Needs school, which caters for children aged 2-11 who have varying special educational needs. The 2nd option is an ASD unit attached to Moorfield Community Primary School – this is a mainstream primary school. The unit has 1 teacher who teaches all the 4-11 year olds who attend the unit. (There are currently 15 children attending the unit). No mention is made of Teaching Assistants, but I assume there are some of these as well.
I am now feeling a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing – like there isn’t really a “right” place for Sam. I know he loves nursery and has come on so much by being around “normal” children, so I don’t want to take that away from him. At the same time, I don’t want to put him in a position where he will be open to bullying, at risk when he is left to his own devices during break and mealtimes, and risking him being left behind in class, if the teacher fails to relate to him and nurture his abilities. (Which – let’s be honest is probably impossible when she has 30+ other children to deal with/plan for at the same time).
The entire thing is frazzling my brain. I feel like Sam’s entire future rests on this one decision, and my making the right one. I need to start making lists, viewing schools (mainstream and SEN), I need to look at options outside of Salford too. The pressure is crazy, and it’s still 17 months until he is even due to start school! (I do need to put his name down by January though, so that’s only 8 months away – EEK)!
I would love advice or tips from teachers/ other ASD parents who have been in my shoes. What should or shouldn’t I be looking for?