The choice is mine, apparently…

Blackboardwithchalktray

I went to look at a primary school yesterday. The first one I’ve been in, since I was a pupil of one! Oscar’s needs, moving forward are obviously going to be a bit different from your standard pupil (not that I actually believe there is such thing!). But either way, I need to look at school options and I need to start doing it now (or depending on who you speak to I should have been doing it ‘ages‘ ago). Anyway, in order to abate some of the panic that was rising, I made an appointment to go and see a school. Just to have a look. Just to start the process.

You see when I was a child you went to the nearest school. You didn’t have a choice. In fact I lived in a village and we really didn’t have a choice. You went to Balsall Primary or you went private, but that meant serious travelling. And no one really questioned that. The school was good. Hell I thought it was great, but the decision to go there was not really a decision at all. It just was. However today, even in a small town like Haslemere, there is a serious amount of choice, of both state and private schools. Add to that the possibility of specialist provision and I suddenly find myself on the end of what feels like an enormous decision. I know all parents today have more choice in primary schools than, for example, my parents did for me but the process of viewing and deliberating and worrying seems to come down to either what you can afford (if you plan to go private) or what you’re offered (if you’re not). Or am I over simplyfying? At the end of the day you can lust after a state school all you like, but if they don’t offer it to you, even after you appeal, you don’t get it. Your choice is taken into consideration, but really that’s all it is. A consideration.

When you have a child with Autism, the system is different. And I mean very different. We’ll park the weight of responsibility I feel to get this decision “right” for a minute and talk about the process. We have just started down the road towards possibly getting Oscar an EHCP or an Educational Health Care Plan, or what used to be called a Statement. This process in itself is mind boggling complicated and takes months and months of preparation, including assessments by Educational Psychologists and the involvement of many other agencies. The back and forth and back and forth again (and if the stories are to be believed, again and again…) should, if all goes well, result in a legally binding document that means as a parent I can send Oscar to ANY school I believe is best for him. It also means that school has to provide the support he is legally entitled to. I’ll have all sorts of advice, from various assessments and agencies, to listen to and the professionals tell you it’s important you heed the advice. But then experienced Autism parents tell you that, really no one knows your child like you do, so trust your instinct when it comes to choosing the school, mainstream or specialist. Panic rising again!

Anyway, back to the school I looked at. It was a mainstream school, out of my catchment area, but one that’s given me huge amounts of hope. Its also made me want to look at other mainstream schools to see if they are all this attuned to SEN needs or if this really is a stand out school. The head also gave me some really useful advice about dealing with the ‘county’ and what I should be doing right now in order to get his ducks in a row for next year. She didn’t sugar coat how difficult the next year might be in terms of bureaucracy, which I was actually incredibly grateful for.

So today, as per her encouragement, I made a raft of chasing calls and I kept a log of who I rang and what was said. I was dismayed to hear that he STILL hasn’t been assigned a speech and language therapist, despite being on the list for over a year and a promise six weeks ago that sessions would start in July, but not surprised. I had a good conversation with his Early Years Advisor and found out that his preschool notification has definitely been issued. That ball is well and truly rolling.

So I’m feeling slightly more focussed now. I need to make appointments to go a see other schools, including some specialist schools. At least we can’t afford private, so that narrows the field a tiny bit. Every cloud! Once I’ve looked around some more schools, I’m hoping it will mean I can listen to all the advice and trust my instinct. The panic has abated.

For now.

Sons, Sand & Sauvignon

Comments

  1. ourlittleescapades says:

    School is such a minefield! I knew from the get go I wanted Ethan to go to a SEN school. I did look a mainstream and we talked about all the options. There was one school that didn’t have a clue and it scared the life out of me. The only advise I can give you is go with your gut. You know your child best and you will make the right choices. Also be prepared to fight for what you want. We were initially awarded 22 hours, not enough for the school week, in mainstream. With a fight I got the school I wanted. Good luck.

    Thanks for linking up with Small Steps Amazing Achievements :0)
    x

    • mrssavageangel says:

      Thank you so much. I need to get out there and look at more schools, I know that. The one mainstream we’ve seen was amazing, but looking at others will give me a frame of reference. Hopefully then I can make the decision and start the fight to get him what he needs (oh if only it didnt have to come with a fight hey?) Thanks for hosting such a great link up!

  2. Lisa as a special needs mum and teacher too I would advice you to talk to each head and make your choice based on them and your gut! Having a good head who will support you and your child really is so Important especially if you come across 1 teacher who does not get it (like we did this year)! We also went for a local school so he would have the opportunity to integrate socially with kids in our neighbourhood. You are right though you are the best judge of what Oscar needs! DM me if you want to chat.

    • mrssavageangel says:

      That’s absolutely one of the reasons I’m keen to look at local mainstream schools first. I believe the social lessons he’s learnt at his Montessori nursery have underpinned all the progress he’s made in the last 6 months and we’re a very small community here. I want him to be part of it. Thank you so much for your advice and support. Same to you too! xx

  3. It’s a long process, but so worth it if it means that you can find the right school for your child. My daughter also has autism and she’ll be starting in September at a unit for autism within a mainstream school. Because she’s not talking yet, it came down to a choice between a school with a unit and a special school, but I’m pretty sure I made the right choice.

    Personally I found when I went to visit mainstream schools local to me, nearly all of them were all very welcoming and willing to talk about all the measures they can put in place, but when pressed the impression I got was that they probably wouldn’t be the right fit for her.

    • mrssavageangel says:

      Oscar’s speech is still limited but its increasing all the time. I’m so hopeful it’ll be much improved come next Sept, but who knows? I need to look at some schools with units, we have one not too far away I’ve been recommended to look at. It still feels like a massive undertaking though. I’m so glad you found somewhere you feel happy to send your beautiful little girl.

  4. I’m really not looking forward to everything school related. It seems like so much hassle, then once all that bit is over and done you’ve got the playground politics! Why can’t they be babies forever?!

    • mrssavageangel says:

      Ahh hon – its pretty daunting isn’t it! But I’m not planning to get involved with playground politics. Its just not worth my energy!

  5. As we were fairly new to the area, I didn’t really have much choice in which school Hayden went to, it needed to be in walking distance, I chose the school closest. Whilst he was at pre school I had major fears I’d not considered things properly, but since he started in September, the school have been amazing! Schools seem to be much better equipped these days for children with additional needs. Try not to stress too much, the EHCP is the biggest part of the deal, they awarded Hayden 21.5 hours of funding a week. It will all fall into place lovely! Thanks for linking up to #spectrumsunday I really can’t wait to read more from you 🙂 xx

    • mrssavageangel says:

      This give me hope! You hear such horror stories but really I think you’ve got to lean into the system and have faith. Thank you and glad to hear Hayden is so settled!

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