Monday 11 April 2011

Special Needs education - what choice?

So it was almost a great start to the day. Sasha hadn't noticed that I'd allowed Tamsin to wear her school summer dress for the first time this year (after asking her not to make a song and dance about it so that Sasha didn't get jealous as she's not allowed one...). I slipped the polo shirt over Sasha's head quite quickly, no problems there, then Sasha decided she wanted to put her own tracksuit bottoms on (funny, Tamsin would still like me to get her dressed even now!). She managed very well, stood up to pull them up, then... d'oh. Mummy realised I hadn't yet changed her night-time nappy. So I had to take trousers back off again, not a popular move, get the clean nappy on, and then.... 'pyjamas please'. 'But pur-lease'. Cue lots of running off, upstairs, trying to hide in the bed etc. Had to grab her and put her in the car in just her nappy & polo shirt. Thankfully she didn't relish the thought of walking in from the car with no shoes or trousers, so I did manage to finish getting her dressed in the car at school. We'll see if she remembers and repeats tomorrow...

I'm kicking myself today after our local Lib Dem candidate came and rang our bell at the weekend. I didn't say very much to him, as I was in the middle of something with the girls, but now I dearly wish I'd questioned him a bit more about the educational offerings for Special Needs children in our county.

I've found out recently that a child Sasha's age will be starting at a special school for dyspraxia in September, where the class size is just 10 and there is a lot of support staff available. Sasha on the other hand, really only has 2 choices - either a mainstream school with no special unit attached or a MLD (moderate learning difficulties) special school. In my mind, Sasha really fits somewhere in between these 2 options, with neither offering her the best chance to develop her potential. I still really don't know what to think about it all. Is it fair? Dyspraxia is a disability which affects movement and co-ordination. It leads to problems with language, perception and thought. However Sasha's disability also affects her language, and her ability to learn on those days when she can't cope, and she certainly will need extra help at school. So why is there a special school suitable for one type of Special Needs child, but not another? It's not even as if autism is a rare condition - the stats say 1 in 100 children will have autism. I think it's a real possibility that Sasha will not 'fit' into mainstream as she grows up, and I know Mums of older children have turned to homeschooling at the secondary stage because of the lack of options. Although my own mum was a teacher, it's not something I ever thought I had the skills to do, and I can't imagine teaching Sasha at home would be the best option for her. Maybe we need to start campaigning and saving now to build our own secondary school for autistic children... someone help me win the lottery please!


  1. I'll be with you on that fundraiser. It's disgraceful that only a handful of special needs kids are catered for in our society; the majority of them have to "make do" with what's on offer. We're looking at a special school for Amy's secondary education even though she's been to mainstream since aged 4 (she's now 11). It will be difficult but doable.

    CJ xx

  2. We face the same issues on this side of the globe as well. One complication is that kids on the spectrum can really vary from one end to the other. When we were looking for a school for our son, we found a few schools that specialized in kids with autism, but seemed to more appropriate for kids on a different part of the spectrum than he is. Good luck with the lottery! :)

  3. Hi Steph - this is exactly the position we were in with our son. I was told my son was not suitable for MLD school but neither could he manage mainstream. And home schooling wasn't an option either as my son so compartmentalised his life into school and home that he couldn't or wouldn't do anything educational at home. There is no provision in my town for children like my son so we ended up finding an out of borough specialist ASD school (which is more towards the high functioning side but with learning difficulties) but it is starting to work out really well. If you are thinking about going down the ASD specialist school route the NAS have a list of UK schools and their different specialities on their website which we found quite helpful.

    PS I know what you mean about building our own secondary school for autistic children - felt the same myself.


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