She’ll be fine by August?

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I enrolled this girl at my local school today. For the second time. And for the second time I felt sick. 

This time last year I had to enrol both children. And I came home in tears. Is the school that bad you ask? Actually it is a fabulous little school with a good reputation. The staff were friendly and the building pretty modern. But I knew without question last year that neither of my children would be going. The emotions of having to enrol your baby for school are high for all parents but for parents of special children having to hear the other parents excitably chatting about how thier children will embark on this new adventure together and have such fun is shere torture. You don’t want reminded how different your child is to others thier age. You really don’t need it to be ‘in your face’ that your child does not fit in.

The school were geared up for the children last year giving them stickers and having them talk to staff. It was the same again this year. Wonderful for the children going. Heartbreaking for the families bound by law to enrol a child the school will never ever meet. I enrolled my son at that school last year. But he never made it through the gates. And probably never will. The children would never hear thier lessons if he did because he would scream so loud the janitor would be tempted to call the police. For all it is a wonderful school it is just not the right environment for Isaac. And 12 months later I am still not entirely convinced it is the right place for Naomi. But the law said I had to go down there yet again. Sometimes I really don’t like the law. 

But this time I thought I would call ahead. Maybe the Head might be sympathetic? Maybe this time I would be convinced this was the best place for my baby girl. After all we had deferred her from starting for a year so surely that has to have made a difference?

So off I went armed with all the necessary paperwork, including her diagnosis. The school were welcoming and allowed me to speak to the Head Teacher. As I was about to explain my concerns about wether mainstream education was right for my daughter the head began:

“Ok, can she count?” 

“Yes”

“Does she know any of her letters?”

“Yes”

“Can she write her name?”

“Well, yes she can.”

“Is she in mainstream nursery?”

“Yes she is.”

“Well, what are you worried about? School is almost 8 months away. She will be fine by August!”

And away she went…

But…But…But..

‘So what do I do about the fact she is still in full-time nappies? She has bladder and bowel issues and sensory and anxiety problems which is making toilet training a very real challenge. Will you change her? What about the fact she will not initiate any contact with her peers or members of staff so she could be in pain, not understand the work or be unable to do something and you will never know? What about the fact she will take everything you say literally? What about the fact she is coming to your school with a co-ordinated support plan in place (a legally binding support document detailing what support she requires and how often) and a long list of professionals who work with her? What about her inability to dress herself due to poor balance and co-ordination issues? What about the fact she can not climb, or run, or jump or catch a ball. How will you help her overcome her fear of other children? How will you support her autism? What about…’

It didn’t matter of course, because she had left.

They did agree to ‘enhanced transition’ and they did say they would attend any meeting before August to help with preparing her. 

But is mainstream the right place for a child with Naomi’s needs?

Her Educational Pychologist says she has no learning disability. Based mostly on the fact she drew this picture of herself:

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So clearly her social and communication difficulties don’t count. Her gross motor delay does not count. Her anxiety does not count. And the fact she is still in nappies?

She can talk (at home at least), she can write her name and count, and she drew a picture of herself.

So mainstream education is right?

She will be fine by August?

And here was me thinking autism was a lifelong condition? 

Why do I sense another fight on my hands yet again for my child’s education?

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Don’t you worry baby girl. Mummy will sort this out.

It will be fine by August…

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33 thoughts on “She’ll be fine by August?

    • Thanks tric. I should not have to fight for her basic needs. But I will do whatever it takes to get her the right place and the right support.
      Thanks again for reading and commenting. Much appreciated x

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  1. I feel I am back 8 years although my son had no formal diagnosis of anything at that point – we tried to defer him – but as he was a June birth there had to be another meeting and yes he passed their tests with flying colours cos it was a one to one – we sent him to school and it was meltdown after meltdown, the fact that she has other issues – ie the toileting – I am really not sure is mainstream would be the best place for your daughter – it must be heartbreaking for you though and can totallu empathise. I would go back to the school and ask to speak to the head outwith any enrolments etc – that was what I did.

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  2. A special school would do soon much for her but we all know the probs of getting children into a good school even with a diagnosis. Fight it all the way. She will reap the rewards. Don’t put her in mainstream class of 30 plus kids to be ignored ?

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  3. I understand your worries, and I can empathise as a parent, but as a former primary and nursery practitioner I would say try not to underestimate the “mainstream” school. The inclusion policies and support staff in education have never been as informed and prepared as they are today. Naomis Csp is a clear proof of that. Each need she has will be considered, and each practitioner is required to treat her with dignity and respect. They are trained to work closely with you and all other agencies involved in her life.
    There is always the homeschooling option too. With your qualification there isn’t anyone more equipped than you 😉

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  4. Miriam I can’t begin to say whether this is the right school or not BUT YOU certainly need more input about what they can provide before you decide.
    As I’m sure you are aware they can’t not accept her because of not being dry/clean. She may need a personal care plan as well as an IEP (individual EDUCATIONAL plan) and possibly a IBP (individual BEHAVIOURAL plan). She would almost certainly need a 1:1 SLA initially and maybe for years. They would have to produce a Risk Awareness ‘book’ that looked at all the extra she needs including things like lack of friends and possibly feeling lonely. Her poor co-ordination/unable to dress herself would be mentioned in her as well as in her Care plan. They will have work hard to get this all in place by August and you should be involved every step of the way.

    Having a special child is hard word but when it goes right it is fantastic. 🙂

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    • Thanks alythmum.
      We have more meetings to come so will be asking about these at future meetings. Certainly things have to be in place before she goes and not after! Thanks for the advice and thanks for reading!

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  5. Sorry should have added that I have had weekly Risk (re-) assessments done by the school and each one was up to 24 pages long! Can make interesting bedtime reading. 😉

    You will make the right decision for her because you are the one who knows her best. xxx

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  6. I understand, but continue your fight!!! MUM KNOWS BEST! We have special needs schools they are trying to close here in the states. My son is the same.. His sensory issues prevent him from functioning in a mainstream school. I am so afraid of what is going to happen!

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  7. The person at school you need to contact is the SENCO. Have Early Years Support and Nursery started to applying for an Eductional Statement yet? If not, speak to them, but you can always apply yourself (I did and my son started off with 25 hours support, though now it’s full time).
    In fairness you’ll have more to do with the Senco than the head.
    In my experience you do have to be proactive (hard at times when you feel like you’re running on empty), primary has been (mostly) a success for my boy, I’m looking in to secondary schools now, and feel exactly the same as you at the moment.
    Good luck.

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    • Thank you Jane.
      Naomi has an asp in place already but this will end when she starts school. We don’t have senco or statements in Scotland so was hoping the Head Teacher would be one to contact, though enrolment week was probably not the best time to speak to her.
      We have lots of meeting coming up so will keep folk posted on how things go.
      Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.

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  8. As a mum I can understand your concern, but as a former Nursery and primary education practitioner I can reassure you that the environment has never been more inclusive, supportive and informed about individual needs than it is now. There are many transitional policies in place and you should contact the school and request a meeting yourself, that way you can be honest and voice your concerns. Your feelings are just as important as Naomis at this point as she’ll sense your apprehension.
    If you’re not reassured by them then there is always homeschooling. You’re perfectly qualified professionally and as her parent xxx

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    • Thank you iwishiwasaunicorn.
      Homeschooling is definitely something I will consider although I know Naomi could benefit from learning social skills from her peers. It is so difficult to let go of your child and send them to school but when you have extra grounds for concern it does complicate things further.
      Thanks for reading and your comments are of great interest to me as I know you have my child’s interests at heart.

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  9. Breaks your heart doesnt it :-(. They keep telling me my boy will be fine in mainstream but I see a child that hides under a chair when anything is different and who shuts down if pushed to join in with others. Im pretending enrollment isnt happening and not doing it. I find out at the end of the month if enhanced provision is going to be provided or whether Im home schooling as there is no way Im flinging my boy in when I know he will sink rather than swim 😦

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  10. I have been reading your blog – it’s very interesting and thought provoking, You have a real way with words. Has the Ed Psych mentioned an autism unit attached to mainstream ? There is intense competition for places in these units so the Ed Psych may want you to try out mainstream first. Sadly it is such a deficit driven system that it’s important to stress that the school and the staff will not cope with the child rather than looking at the child’s needs. Also CSPs are usually couched in vague terms and no one has any specific responsibility to ensure compliance anyway. So don’t fall for that one.

    Jane – there are no SENCOs or statements in Scotland – the law is still in its infancy here and most of special needs provision is tightly controlled by local authorities,

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    • Hi cyberseraphim,
      I think an autism unit would be perfect for Naomi but without the Educational Psychologist putting her name forward for a place fort he council to decide there is no way I can get her in one. I went through the whole process last year with her twin brother (see post ‘special child denied special school’ and even with severe and complex needs he was only offered a unit. I fought and he is now in a fab special needs school which is meeting all his needs.
      I know what you are saying about a csp but I found out recently that when Naomi starts school her current asp from nursery gets scrapped and it is up to the school wether they put any plans in place. So I applied for a csp to make the school aware of her needs. It is not perfect but I had limited choices.
      Without a senco or statement the only person I could approach within the school was the Head, although I appreciate enrolment week was not the best day for this.
      There just doesn’t seem to be much choice for education for children like Naomi.
      Thank you for reading and commenting. Greatly appreciated.

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  11. You are being realistic – parental choice is really choose what you are allocated in Scotland. It’s tricky with the units as even if you made a placing request to the actual school, they can still refuse to put the child in the the unit. Is there a suitable unit near to you and has the Ed Psych clearly ruled it out in no uncertain terms or if you keep the pressure on, could there be a chance ?

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  12. Hi Miriam, who is the named professional on Naomi’s CSP? You should be able to “encourage” them to call a meeting to address every one of the worries you have about the school, and frankly I’d be very worried with a HT that walked off dismissing you like that!

    I’m sure you know that the CSP is legally binding *ahem* so as long as you can get it updated to include all the relevant care and social aspects you put in your post, then it should be a matter of the education authority running around to ensure these are put into place, whether in the school you visited or another one.

    Of course, I know it can be hard nailing the relevant professionals down to a time and a place, but luckily now we have email on our side. I have found from bitter experience that the squeaky wheel is always the one that gets the grease, so as I’m also sure you know, you will have your work cut out for you between now and August.

    Also being in Scotland, and having 2 children with a CSP, if I can ever help you out then please do get in touch. And best of luck. I love reading your blog, your children are a credit to you x

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  13. Miriam I can’t believe that Naomi’s csp is to be ‘scrapped’ when she leaves nursery as surely her needs/issues will not disappear just because she changed to a ‘school child’. Please check with Govan Law Centre were they specialise in SEN and education law whether this is legal. (http://www.edlaw.org.uk/)
    Around here – Perth & Kinross – the Autistic units that are attached to primary school are allocated their pupils by education services. Just because you apply to go to that mainstream school will not allow your child easy access to the unit. Ed psychs are part of the team that decide who is eligible. I assume Naomi has been assessed by an ed pych as far as how she is managing at Nursery and where they feel might be an appropriate placement for her.
    Good Luck. Louise aka Alyth_mum xx

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    • her csp process is ongoing (into week 6 of the process as I write) but her asp will be scapped when she starts school as this was written by the nursery and up to school to write any asp or iep as they feel she needs.
      Educational Pychologist has assessed Naomi as suitable for mainstream so making it very very difficult to secure her a place in an autism unit.

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  14. CSPs – It depends what you mean by legally enforceable, you can appeal to a Tribunal if Education Services do not provide what is stated ( though often this is nailing jelly to the wall to start with) but this is more akin to a peer review system like the BMA regulating the medical profession so they accept (at face value) more than you would like them to from Local Authority Education Services. Even if you win, the Local Authority can use public money to appeal to the Court of Session to have your win overturned. Conversely if they win, it will cost you vast amounts of money to even start an appeal so all difficult and ultimately not very productive for your child’s education.If there is an autism unit near you petition the Ed Psych for a place, you have nothing to lose by trying. It can really pay to emphasise how much the mainstream school will struggle with your child, i,e the child may well have a whale of a time running the teachers ragged and provoking complaints from other parents but the school will not…. I realise this picture may not ressemble Naomi in the slightest but that’s not relevant

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    • As Naomi’s Educational Pychologist has assessed her as ‘suitable for mainstream’ I need to prove our local mainstream is not able to meet her needs and then apply for a base place for her myself. This is proving difficult as the school want to wait unitl August to see how things are with Naomi then. Very frustrating!

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  15. Just to boost your hope here, my girl started mainstream after “no problems” in nursery, although the aftershocks at home were horrendous, and within a short time it was very plain that she struggled enormously, both with the social and sensory sides of school in particular. In the end she bolted without staff realising she had gone – lucky for them I happened to be in the school at the time and prevented her leaving – but it did force their hand into calling a big meeting with all the professionals and subsequently 1 to 1 support.

    My lass wasn’t diagnosed in nursery either, so we came late to getting the awareness, but it can be done well in mainstream if you have the backing of the relevant professionals, including the head teacher as a starting point. I realise I am probably not telling you anything you don’t know but I want to give you a good outcome story.

    And her CSP is tied up very tightly – so it can be done.

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  16. You just summed up every fear I have about Cooper starting preschool in the fall. And to add to that, Cooper is nonverbal. I am so scared. I am sending you strength mama. I love your blogs and your honesty. I can’t tell you how much they mean to me.

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    • Thank you findingcoopersvoice. I had so many concerns about Naomi’s twin brother starting school too. He was and still is non verbal but the major difference was he started at a specialist school. He travels over 35 minutes each way and All I ever get to know about his day is what is written in his diary. It is so hard to trust others with the most precious gift we have. I pray Cooper is well looked after, stimulated and happy in his preschool. Please let me know how he gets on.
      Thank you for reading the blog. Blessings x

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