Transition between primary and secondary school is stressful and emotional for any parent but especially us SEN parents. It can also trigger many emotions in our SEN children. So how do we decide which school is best? How do we choose between Special Needs School or Mainstream. Perhaps your thinking about a Mainstream School with a Special Support Centre? Maybe your considering home schooling?.
There are many questions we ask ourselves. Will my child fit in socially? Are there issues with bullying? How will my child cope academically? In some cases the question will be, can the school match my child’s academic ability? What therapy is available ? What is the schools procedure for dealing with behavioural difficulties? Do they teach life skills ? What about job connections? College options? So many questions!
If your anything like me, the pressure to get this choice right, is immense! It keeps you awake at night? It brings you out in a cold sweat? It almost feels like one of the most important decisions of your life (and your child’s!).
It’s best to follow your intuition. We looked at several schools and you just “know” which is the right setting.
I realise it’s not always possible to get the first choice.I know people that have struggled. I advise researching different schools and making an early application. If you decide on SEN provision ,they get over subscribed very quickly.
For primary my son attended mainstream school with a Special Support Centre and this was the making of him up until it was time to move on. That was a very sad day…lots of tears shed. We miss our Mr Butter and Mr Zebra.
For secondary we decided on SEN provision. The decision was the right one. My boy is thriving. Things can change, children can change, abilities change, but for now and i hope the foreseeable future, he is in the right setting.
So why did I chose a SEN school? Here is a list of reasons why. I hope it helps you to make a decision for your child’s next chapter.
ZERO TOLERANCE FOR BULLYING
I have put this at number one because this was my biggest worry for my son. Because of his condition he is a target for bullies. It shouldn’t be that way but unfortunately it is. I wanted to choose a school with children similar to my son, where he could find a suitable peer group. I am very lucky with E### because he is a social butterfly. He loves his friends and his friends love him. He is a very happy, smiley, kind hearted boy and he attracts friendships.
My boy, like a lot of SEN children, is generally very trusting and a little naive. He is vulnerable.
There have been occasions at the park where my boy has been playing with neurotypical children who have continuously made my son “the monster”during a game of hide and seek. My son innocently thinking nothing of this but to me it was apparent what was happening. When I strolled over like big mummy bear,they saw me coming and soon changed their game plan!.
I have heard of some awful stories of bullying at local main stream schools. I am not suggesting that all schools have bullies, but its a sad fact that our vulnerable SEN children are a target.
Even in SEN schools there will be incidents, but with the children all having similar needs and behaviours it must be easier to manage.
Only the other day my son was hit by another child who has some behaviour difficulties. The difference is she lashed out as she was emotionally triggered, she has not deliberately targeted my son. E### understands this and even empathised saying she couldn’t help it she was just sad.
We had a similar incident in his previous school where a little boy had been repeatedly pinching him daily, until one day the teacher told me E### had hit said little boy. My response was one of surprise and remorse but inside i was thinking “good for you son!” I know the teacher secretly agreed with me on this too.
All schools claim to have a zero tolerance on bullying but honestly i think some are better than others. What are your thoughts on this?. I realise this is a sensitive subject. We are all navigating these waters together. Lets help each other.
ACCESS TO RELEVANT THERAPY
Many SEN schools have onsite therapists. My son has access to regular Sensory Therapy through the use of Sensory Circuits, Sensory Resources, Sensory Room and the Hydro Pool. He also has his own Occupational and Speech Therapist.
I get regular contact with his Occupational Therapist. She regularly updates me on the activities that have been implemented and how he’s responded. She signposts me to helpful resources to trial at home.
I also find out what E### has been doing all day at school through an app that connects school with parents. I have access to what he’s learnt at school that day as well as communication directly with his teacher. This includes photos and voice messages from E###.
LIFE SKILLS ARE A CURRICULUM PRIORITY
My boy has cooking lessons. Each week he gives us a freshly cooked meal. This not only makes me proud but it gives E### confidence and a feeling of independence. He also tells me he loves cooking something for me and he always looks so pleased. I also help with these cooking lessons and they make so many nice dishes!.
Since starting cooking lessons, he has become more brave in the kitchen. One day he made me a lovely drink made up of milk, carrot juice and sugar…I was delighted and so proud of him. I went to bed very happy. I think i vomited in the night but i was happy.
One day after declaring he was hungry and me saying I would make him something in a minute, he decided he wouldn’t wait. “I’ll do it myself” was the response.
I found him in the kitchen spreading marmite onto dry bread with a fork! Well Rome wasn’t built in a day. And yes, we like Marmite!.
The class have little trips out to the shops where they learn how to buy things.They learn how and where to pay and the value of money. Although by the time he is old enough I doubt there will even be such a thing as cash?
The day he pointed at a bag of frozen peas and told me “Mummy, they cost 1 pound” is a day i will never forget.
Life skills are so important for our SEN kids.I think i value it as a higher priority than any academic skills. I got 9 GCSEs and 2 A Levels and what am I doing right now …Blah blah ing on here.
SMALLER CLASS SIZES
During my tour of the school I was told they always have to turn applicants away as they have too many and are always over subscribed. They only take so many children in each class. It is a very sought after school. I can understand why.
They have a very strict policy on not taking even one more than the intake threshold. If they do it for one they need to do it for another, so they always stick to the limit. This keeps class sizes small and that has obvious benefits for the kids. Each class has a teacher and two or three Teaching Assistants.
My son struggles with hand writing and this often takes away his focus. In this school a lot of learning is completed on their own iPads. This ensures that they can absorb what is actually being taught.They have separate lessons to focus specifically on hand writing. This works wonders for my son. He is able to absorb the information he is being taught.
This also makes a lot of sense as we are in the age of growing technology.
My E### knows his way around my phone better than me. He also has complete control over it. Sorry to anyone who is trying to contact me after school hours …good luck with that!.
CONNECTIONS TO LOCAL EMPLOYERS
Although obsessed with balloons (of course), my son is also currently into trains. Apparently he wants to work on the trains when he’s an adult.
One of his favourite activities is going on the train with me to the next local town. He will watch the ticket collectors on board and they will often stop and chat to him about the job. Only once he’s finished his chicken pasty from Greggs, that we must have.
The school has connections to local employers within the community and assigns work placements to the students. Many of the students have then gone onto to find employment with these companies. This is really encouraging and gives hope for the future.
Whatever school your considering for your little one, i am sure it will be the right one as we all know what’s best for our own children. It’s a personal choice. There are many options. For us a SEN school was the best option. I hope it continues to be the case. If your considering SEN provision, I hope my post has helped a little in the decision making.
Thank you for reading.
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