Did I choose the right school? 24

“One other thing I want to touch on during our meeting today is, have you ever considered any specialised schools for Hayden?”

I have been asked this question before by different professionals in the school setting, but more as a side comment. Before we actually ever had any evidence on whether main stream school was the right place for him to be. I didn’t expect it today though. It took me by surprise and I wasn’t sure how to answer. Whether to scream, cry, agree or just say I’d think about it. I went with think about it but in all honesty, I don’t want to think about it at all. Is this just another huge hurdle in the acceptance journey?

We were in a progress meeting at school. We go to one every term to discuss how things are going with Hayden at school and at home. What progress he has made, what else we need to try and what else we can put in place to help him reach his full potential. The meeting had been pretty positive with regards to the progression Hayden has made this term, but that didn’t mean things are still not hard on a daily basis. The school are doing what they can with the resources they have. But I’m not convinced those resources are as forthcoming as they could be. Who’s fault that is I’m not sure. But somebody is failing my child. Is it me?

Did I choose the right school?


When we moved to the area and started looking at schools for Hayden, there was only ever really one option. Not because it had the best scores and statistics, not because it was renowned for being amazing with SEN children, but, because it was convenient for us. I don’t drive so wherever we chose had to be within walking distance for the days James was working. We had two options, but never went to see the second option after hearing a fair few negative comments about their SEN provisions. We had no issue signing up to the pre school attached to it, so it just made sense he would remain there until he finished year 2. After that he would go to the junior school adjacent. Decision made.

Before we got Hayden’s diagnosis in November, getting help was always an uphill battle for both the school and I. Our speech and language therapist was not really supporting us very well, and because of that Hayden’s 1:1 at the time struggled to find ways to get Hayden to follow her agenda. The school then employed Ashleigh who had, had experience in a specialised school. She managed to work some magic on Hayden and he would do most things she asked of him. She had her bad days with him of course, and there were times I just wanted to give her a big hug because of how tough she was finding being his 1:1. I could relate to everything she told me, but still I never questioned my decision on where he would receive his education.

Nobody else questioned our decision either. Until that moment. The moment that hit me like a ten tonne weight.

I have made no secret of the fact, I have struggled with accepting Hayden has autism. I still get angry with him daily because of certain things he does, but when I sit and reflect I realise he can’t help many of his behaviours, and with my inexperience of both parenting a 5 year old and autism, I don’t always know how best to deal with a situation. I don’t always get it right, and I am at peace with that. I am human after all. But every now and again something shows itself, and I question everything. Why have I never considered a specialised school for him? Because of my needs to keep his life as ‘normal’ as possible? Subconsciously in the hope being surrounded by ‘normal’ will help him learn that, that is how he should behave?

I am now forced to consider this. It isn’t going to go away. It will be asked at every meeting from here on in. Whilst I have accepted Hayden has autism, I haven’t yet considered how many different decisions I will have to make outside of ‘normal’ throughout his life. At a meeting a year ago, I asked the question, would putting Hayden in a specialised school help him now but then maybe allow him to return to mainstream school in the future? The response I was given was that not many children go from specialised to mainstream, it is more often the other way around. But allowing Hayden positive role models at this stage will allow him something to aspire to. I won’t say who gave me that advice as I will get into trouble but at the time it is what I wanted to hear. Now, looking back it is awful advice. Yet another reason for my brain to try and pigeon hole Hayden into ‘normal’. That person confirmed my thoughts were okay. Not challenge why I, as Hayden’s mum wasn’t just considering the best thing for him.

Whilst both James and I, think the school are being a bit too quick to suggest mainstream school isn’t the best place for him with his current needs. We think as speech comes so will a better understanding for both Hayden and the adults in his life. A more settled and calm atmosphere which will allow Hayden to learn more and follow adult agenda better. But we aren’t experts. Speech is coming, but how long will it take? and in the mean time are we hindering that progression by putting him in an education setting that cannot support his needs to the fullest? Should I be more open to this suggestion and be spending my time researching local specialised schools.

Whatever the outcome may be, Hayden needs to be at the forefront of our minds with this decision. Him remaining in mainstream school would be my ideal, but actually maybe a specialised school is what he needs. Maybe he will progress quicker and more effectively if he is receiving the right support. Hayden is only in reception, so a lot of their learning is done through play. Right now that works. But what happens next year when their class activities take a more structured route? Will he become more disruptive? Whilst all the staff love him at school will their love for him lessen because he is becoming more difficult to manage? Is the 1:1 able to teach him the same way a teacher can in their SEN room.

The more I think about it, the more I realise I should maybe start doing some research. Hayden is doing well at school, but they are in fact struggling to give Hayden the best provisions he needs. It has took us around 6 months to gain an appointment with a specialised teacher to help advise the school on how to manage him. Our speech and language therapist is non existent, and the 1:1’s the school provide definitely aren’t experienced enough to handle his needs effectively. Whilst they are doing their best, I’m no longer sure their best is enough. Maybe a specialised school is exactly what he needs.







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24 thoughts on “Did I choose the right school?

  • Keith K. Moffitt

    What a lovely post.For many individuals, the decision is really tough. Perhaps you have not visited many of the schools on your list, maybe you and your parents disagree about what is best for your future, or perhaps you just can’t seem to figure out what you want. As for everybody special schools are not right but our knowledge has been an extremely positive one and for him it is the right setting up.

    All the best 🙂 You can simply do what you think is best and I’m not sure there’s always a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ response with these stuffs.I wish that you find the right place.
    Keith K. Moffitt

  • Lindsay At Newcastle Family Life

    We have progress meeting for my little girl every month at nursery too. We need think about proper nursery school / school soon and I have no idea what we will do. Having worked in social care with people with autism myself I say go check out some of your local special schools. Some you might hate and some you might like as they are all so different, at least then you will have an idea of what your local ones are like just in case you decided to change his school someday xx

  • Lady Nym

    What a really hard decision. I considered homeschooling Tyger for a while but he’s desperate to fit in and be ‘normal’ so I think main stream schooling will be our best option right now. However, it looks like we’re going to move soon so I’m going to have to figure out which school to apply to all over again and hope they have places left.

    Good luck. You can only do what you think is best and I’m not sure there’s always a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer with these things.


  • Rach

    Hugs! Toby goes to a special school and it’s one of the best decisions we’ve made for him. Special Schools aren’t right for everyone but our experience has been an incredibly positive one and it’s the right provision for him. Hope that you find the right place for Hayden.

  • Mrs Taylor

    I agree with the other comments, definitely do what you can to research all the options. we are 18 months post diagnosis and still feel like its always learning and changing. we are all here to listen when you need us #asdaware #spectrumsunday xx

  • Sarah HP

    Oh this is such a hard decision to wrestle with. I really feel for you it’s so hard to know what to do for the best. There are so many different ways to look at it and pros and cons of whatever decision you take. Do you have contact with other mums of children with similar needs as Hayden that could maybe share their different experiences with you?

  • BloggerMummyLauren

    It’s definitely worth doing some research on the matter. It can’t hurt to look in to local specialised schools, to set up meetings and see what they can do for your son’s needs. It is so hard to know what is best for them, isn’t it? My son is in his third year of mainstream school, sometimes he copes alright, and sometimes he doesn’t. Specialist school isn’t really an option here because the only ones local will only take in children with severe learning disabilities.
    My advice is to just go for it, do your research, talk to the schools and your current school, and ultimately go with your instincts x

  • mummy/nannan

    You need to research this. It is a possibility that main stream school is not enough. Who knows with out research. You have done what you felt was right at the time which is all you can do. And a great job you have done so far. Parenting is a learning curve for every parent so please don’t beat yourself up over this. I am positive that you will make the right decision for all of you. Xxxxxx

  • Anne

    Speaking from experience I do think that a younger child should be given the chance in mainstream school if it’s right for them. By that I mean, right for the child not the school. If the school is having problems then another mainstream school might be the right move. It does of cause depend on the child’s needs. Through the first few years at school a lot of children have difficulties settling in and coping with the work, so it’s harder to tell if the problems will resolve themselves for a child with autism. I have two autistic children, my eldest has Aspergers and he managed to get through the whole of primary school with very little difficulty. The problems didn’t really start until secondary school. My younger daughter has different problems though and we have had a lot of hassle with the school she is attending. Yet, before we moved to a different area, she was getting on fine at school. Finding the right school, and indeed, the right road to take, special or mainstream, is a very testing time indeed. xx

  • Stephs Two Girls

    Ah, I feel for you, and I can honestly say we’ve been through exactly the same thoughts – and now in Year 4 of mainstream, the thoughts still go round in circles. The truth is, you are unlikely to ever get a definitive answer and you have no crystal ball, so no-one will ever be able to prove that what you are doing now is the right or the wrong thing. The best you can do, is your best. Follow your instinct AND your head – so that means yes, you should research special schools, as it will depend very much on what feel you get from the ones available in your area (and whether you have the means to go through a court battle for one not in your area, if that’s what you choose). But don’t for a second think you are failing him – you are doing your best by researching all options and even thinking about this. And also, don’t let anyone else lead you to a decision that you’re not happy with – you know him better than anyone. Excuse the sermon

  • Someone's Mum

    Although we are just starting to look at schools, I really relate to this. Especially the idea that mainstream school would be the ultimate goal, because I can’t shake the feeling that the better he is able to cope with all the things a neurotypical child can, the less I should worry about his future and ability to live and cope in the adult world. I would have reacted just the same as you to the suggestion. I can feel my anxiety building just thinking about the time when we will have to make these decisions.

    In reality, a specialist school doesn’t mean he is any less likely to have a fulfilling life. People who have even been insitutuionalised at some points have ended up doing all sorts of wonderful things. But I can’t shake that feeling, that desperate feeling, that him going to school like all the other boys and girls, like the other children we know, is somehow ‘best’. And then there is the guilt that this feeling is about me, rather than him. But it isn’t. You shouldn’t be so hard on yourself too.

    Specialist schools are hard to accept because I think they mean accepting all over again that our children are different. That is bound to be hard – all those feelings resurface. But I don’t doubt for a second that you will do what is best for your son – you know you will. It is just hard. Hard to let go of expectations, hard to accept some feelings. That’s ok. It’s ok for you to have those feelings. Ultimately when you have time to look at things objectively, you know you will always do what’s best for him, as far as you can know.

    Big hugs. xx

    PS, I nominated you for a MAD award for writing 🙂

    • Sons, Sand & Sauvignon Post author

      Oh bless you lovely! Thank you so much. Funnily enough I nominated you for best new blog! You have put into words the exact way I feel. It is so difficult. When you think you’re ok with everything something else comes up to remind you that you will keep facing these tough decisions all through life xx

  • Rainbowsaretoobeautiful (@rainbowsaretoo)

    It’s all so difficult. A couple of things to consider though. If Hayden’s needs can’t be met at this mainstream school they may be met at another and if it’s too far away then the borough can look into providing transport for him. Secondly, I think the pattern of mainstream kids going specialist could be because of the overall preference for Sen kids to be educated within a mainstream setting if possible. When it turns out it’s not right for them they transfer to specialist units. I disagree that it can’t go they other way around. Two of our autism units are co located with mainstream schools and the children slowly learn to integrate by visiting the mainstream teaching. I’ve a couple of posts on choosing schools for kids with SEN under my schools section based on experiences of both types if you’d like to look.

    You are doing a good job, you are thinking about what’s best for Hayden, no one can do more than that. Xxx

    • Sons, Sand & Sauvignon Post author

      Thank you lovely. I will definitely have a look at your posts. I agree with you about the specialist to mainstream comment and how brilliant of the schools to do that. I don’t think we have anything like that here but haven’t done much research yet xx

  • Mummy Lala (Laura)

    I’m so glad you put this post together.

    My mum is actually an SEN Teaching Assistant and works in a full on SEN School and she’s currently works in a class with a mixture of older teenagers that have lots of different types of special needs. Including those that are disabled and those with emotional and behavioural problems. This School is in Burnley (Lancashire) and not in a particularly nice area.

    She’s also worked 1:1 with younger children in various schools and she’s always said that children with autism, etc would be better off in a “normal” school surrounded by “normal” children. I don’t like using the word “normal’ but I can’t think of a better one right now and hope it doesn’t offend anyone reading this. It’s important for them at a young age and as they grow older. Yes, they may need a little more support but that’s what mainstream schools should be able to provide and should do whatever then can to help that child

    I’m rambling a little but it must be such a battle for you and you must have so many different thoughts and opinion going round your head.

    If you need anyone to talk it through with, I’m here.

    Laura x