What help should a school offer?

hello I have a 8 year son who has been diagnosed 6 months ago with asd/Aspergers. His school seem to be very laid back in their approach to his educational needs. I have been told he won’t get a healthcare plan as his needs are social and emotional but he is struggling in class with the pace of the work and his teacher does not seem to acknowledge his need for sensory breaks and that lack of routine and structure is very upsetting for him. He also struggles with fine motor skills but I’m told that he has limited one to one as they have a lot of children needing attention. We have a meeting with the senco and teacher next week and we are trying to arm ourselves with as much information as possible before we go. Can anyone shed any light as to what they should be offering him and where we can go for help and support. He is at the point where his sensory overload is high and he doesn’t want to go to school because his teacher doesn’t ‘get him’. Sorry for the ramble but we at a loss as to what he is entitled to. Thank you 

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  • Hi NAS35438,

    A good place to start might be to begin to look carefully at whether there are any areas of whole school life, such as class work, homework, playtimes, lunchtimes, friendships etc. that you feel your son is not fully accessing or able to participate in directly due to barriers his Autism may be causing/presenting. And take this ‘list of concerns’ to your meeting as a starting place. The whole idea regarding ‘SEN provision in school’ is supposed to be that school actively put in place adjustments, offer different approaches, personalise strategies, and help find individualised solutions for SEN kids in order to remove or minimise barriers and to ‘level the playing field’ for them to that of all other enabled (NeuroTypical) kids.  This is the theory anyway…

    So, once you have identified any specific areas of concern you or the school have, the school should, in the first instance, offer to put in place an IEP (individual Education Plan) which clearly identifies (states) the barrier or difficulty, clearly states the approach they are going to use in order to remove or overcome each barrier, and it should contain some method of monitoring (s.m.a.r.t. targets) whether this adjustment/approach has a positive effect (works.) IEPs should be reviewed every six months or so and ‘targets’ on it kept up to date and changed according to your sons changing needs. And his needs will change throughout his school life as school work demands, subjects and expectations naturally change throughout school. There is a specific section for ‘social, communication and emotional’ difficulties on an IEP, so don’t let school fob you off that these are not ‘important’ or ‘relevant’ needs or difficulties. For most HF kids on the spectrum, most of their difficulties can be centred upon social and communication difficulties- and these difficulties can be far reaching and significantly negatively affect all areas of a child’s ability to access education, so there is no excuse whatsoever for school to not offer adjustment or additional support in these areas.

    Your sons need for regular sensory breaks, prior prepping about upcoming changes to school routine, additional time with which to complete class work, can all and should all be stated as ‘necessary actions’ on his IEP (and for the record, these are not 'just' social or emotional needs, these are cognitive/neurological 'needs' and are likely directly due to how your son may process information (cognitive and sensory) and are therefore not 'social or emotional' needs...)

    If the school are floundering (before, during or after an IEP is in place) and unable to effectively identify your son’s difficulties, nor understand exactly what they may do to better help him in school, or if the adjustments and approaches they put in place are not working, school can organise an Educational Psychologist Assessment which can really help to better understand your son’s individual needs. Your local LA may also have an Autism Specialist Team who can also advise schools on what they can put in place to help your son. Some schools are only too willing to positively initiate an EdPsych assessment and/or bring in other agencies and professionals for specialist advice. However, some schools fight very hard against these on very poor grounds such as that the child doesn’t need it (total denial of the child’s difficulties,) blame grounds (it’s the parents or child fault they are not ‘engaging’ with education,) ignorance grounds (staff don’t adequately understand autism and therefore are unable to appreciate and therefore acknowledge your sons needs or difficulties,) control/power grounds (school don’t want other professionals coming in and telling them what to do...) and on bare faced cost grounds too. It’s still total pot luck as to which of these attitudes (helpful or hindering) that each individual school (and indeed each individual teacher or Senco too) will choose to employ. 

    If your sons needs cannot be met by school staff within the ‘usual parameters’ (by this they mean a ‘reasonable’ range of varied teaching approaches which are allegedly on offer to all kids in the classroom) i.e. your son needs more support in school than school is ‘reasonably’ able to offer, this could be a good reason for school to begin the EHC Plan assessment process. If you and school don’t agree with your sons needs for an EHC Plan you can apply for one as a parent, however, with great sadness and immense frustration, this process can be much harder if school is not on board. In this respect it can be helpful to go through the IEP process with the school first as it can then provide evidence that schools ‘usual’ methods are not working or/if school is not addressing a specific issue (and this can therefore help to justify the possible need for an EHC Plan to be in place.) Also, it is worth noting that EHC Plans are not intended only for Educational purposes but are intended to address all areas of a child needs holistically (such as if there is a need for Speech & Language Therapy, specialist support in order to avoid social isolation, or allocated and possibly funded one to one time to help support motor skills development (this difficulty clearly isn’t ‘just’ a ‘social or emotional’ need either) …etc.) IPSEA has some great info pages about the whole EHC Plan process.

    Also, your son has legal rights to access an education and ‘whole school life’- NAS, IPSEA, Local Autism Charities, and Scope may all be able to help advise you further as to your son’s legal rights, including if a school is refusing to acknowledge, include or offer a critical ‘adjustment’  in an IEP and/or in school.

    Also, just as you mentioned, schools like to play the ‘we have a lot of children to look after/we can’t meet every child’s individual needs’ card… and in the face of that it may be wise to learn how to politely say ‘with respect, that is not my problem- that is your problem- and if you can’t meet my child needs then maybe you need to ‘own that’ and pull in other professionals and/or initiate an EHC Plan which can/might.’

    Hope this helps.

    Best of luck.

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