“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?
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.